The discussion of the privatization of Highlands Links continues, this time with an op-ed in the Chronicle-Herald written by Mark Anderson, who I think doesn’t really have much of a handle on the golf business. The op-ed is full of gems, including this one from Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking:
(Prime Minister Stephen) Harper should understand better the importance of outlying areas, but instead he portrays seasonal workers as a part of what he calls a culture of defeatism in Atlantic Canada. “This move with the golf course is only the latest in his plan of forced depopulation, his plan to privatize rural Canada. The Conservatives wanted big companies to own the fisheries, and they ruined it. And now it’s the golf course.” Eyking laughed again when I mentioned that the park might offer other jobs to the 22 workers who have become “surplus.” “There are no jobs with Parks Canada. They are making massive cuts all over Canada. And at the same time Harper creates a new park in the Northwest Territories (Naats’ihch’oh). Why not look after existing parks. They have to rob all the other parks to pay for it. … It seems like northern Cape Breton is being punished for not voting Conservative.”
Eyking also says the fees for the course will likely double under a private operator. Guess what? He’s right — and maybe they should. Anyone know what a full season membership at Highlands Links — a Top 100 course in the world — costs? $790. Yep. That’s right. With taxes it is still less than $900. Even city memberships in London — where the courses don’t rival Highlands — are $1550 plus tax. So I’d suggest doubling isn’t a bad concept — and in fact would bring much needed revenue to the course. The story also talks to Ken Donovan, a former Parks Canada historian who is now retired and who has written about Highlands regularly since he was born in the region and maintains a residence there:
Local historian Ken Donovan has written on the subject of the original expropriations of farmland for the Highlands Links, one involving his father: “When Stanley Thompson came in to build the course, he looked at the farmlands they wanted to expropriate for the course and he said: ‘Let’s get these people on the payroll.’ And locals have been employed there since 1941. And all of a sudden that’s over.… These are people who went to war for the people that took their farms.” Donovan also struck a similar chord with Eyking, speaking about the negative impact the Conservative government is having on rural Canada.
It is an interesting point — but I’d suggest the course has benefited those who have lived there for many years. If it is going to continue to do so, things have to change. Harping about something that happened before the second World War doesn’t really make much sense — or really add to the debate of what should be done with Highlands. But the biggest fallacy of Anderson’s article comes early on:
This has been a major cause of concern to many in the area, as 22 full-time and many part-time jobs will be deemed “surplus.” The “Jewel of the Highlands” is a major draw to this economically depressed region; with private management it will not be subject to the same high standards that brought it to the ranking of Canada’s best golf course (2002).