Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton has made his bid to keep the SS Keewatin in Port McNicoll.
The longtime MP presented an e-petition in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon. The petition was signed by 1,585 residents with most living in Simcoe County.
In his presentation, Stanton first outlined how the Keewatin was built in 1907 and is now the world’s last remaining passenger steamship of the Edwardian era – “that is the same ilk of another famous vessel you’ll know,” the RMS Titanic.
Stanton noted that the Keewatin is a beautifully restored museum ship moored in the same port from which she sailed as a CPR ship from 1912 to 1965, and gave passage to tens of thousands of residents and new Canadians making their way to Canada’s west.
“Keewatin is a touchstone of our region’s marine history, a major tourist attraction and a community treasure of national significance, but the petitioners point out that she is at risk of being moved away from Port McNicoll, on a technicality,” Stanton said.
“The signatories are calling on the Government of Canada to work with the community and the Friends of Keewatin Foundation to ensure the SS Keewatin remains in the port to which her service and history are most known and celebrated," he added.
Wayne Coombes, who’s president of Friends of Keewatin which operates the ship, said he’s happy with response to the Commons petition that was initiated by local resident and history professor Dan Travers.
“MP Bruce Stanton’s presentation of the petition was brilliant,” said Coombes, pointing out the government now has 45 days to respond to the petition, which asks the Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault to intercede.
At the moment, the ship's owner Skyline Investments is looking to remove the Keewatin from its home berth and donate it as a Canadian cultural property to a museum in Kingston – something that requires Guilbeault's concurrence.
“This is a significant, potentially pivotal step, and one of several initiatives,” Coombes said, referring to Stanton's petition. “Popular support is critical, and the growing response to the Keep Keewatin Home campaign… currently with over 12,500 signatures…is heartening.”
Coombes said the move to keep the ship in Port McNicoll continues to gain momentum.
“Lawn and window signs are appearing everywhere, not only in north Simcoe but also in adjacent communities,” he said.
The sign campaign evolved from the work of a public-action group that’s also created a twitter feed and website, which was spurred on in part by a MidlandToday story in November that outlined how the ship’s owner, Skyline Investments, had given its approval to a project headed by a Kingston museum to move the vessel there.
“Hopefully, the story will be told outside the region as well. Like SS Keewatin herself, it deserves national, if not international, attention," Coombes added.
That said, Coombes pointed out he’d much rather be spending his time telling the “amazing” story of the Keewatin and the CPR Upper Lakes service in Port McNicoll.
“Instead, I’m dealing with the consequences of the ship’s owner deciding, inexplicably, to abandon its commitments,” he said.
“We intend the ship stay right here, in Port McNicoll… where her history lives."