No skating around it, Parliament Hill rink is a boondoggle

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 5, 2017 - 5:01am Updated: December 5, 2017 - 11:30am

KAMLOOPS — If you’re planning to hop a plane to Ottawa and go for a skate on the brand new $5.6-million outdoor rink on Parliament Hill, better get moving.

Tickets to skate on the rink are available online as of today, and you’ll have to reserve two days in advance. They’re free, but you’ll only be allowed 45 minutes of skating time, along with 199 other people.

Don’t bring a hockey stick or a puck — they’re not allowed, unless you’re part of one of the special tournaments or exhibitions planned for the rink.

No food, no speed skating.

No smartphones or iPads, either, so don’t think you’ll be taking any selfies and sending them home. As Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said in Parliament last week, about the only thing people are allowed to do is to skate “around, around and around.”

At which point Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly invited McLeod to lace up and go for a skate with her. I doubt that will happen.

The NHL-sized rink is part of the closing out of Canada’s 150th birthday party, but it’s been almost unanimously trashed as an extravagant waste of money. Critics point out there’s already a permanent — as opposed to temporary — outdoor rink at Ottawa City Hall, and the unrefrigerated world-famous Rideau Canal a short distance away.

Whatever, the only people likely to use the new temporary Parliament Hill rink are those who live around there, so this boondoggle would seem to be the result of typical Ontario-centric thinking.

By the way, Sun Peaks opened a new refrigerated open-air skating rink last winter that cost $850,000, a far cry from $5.6 million. And it will be there for a very long time.

The heritage minister has to carry the can for this one. Put that together with the trials and tribulations of Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and it might be time for Justin Trudeau to shuffle his cabinet again.

There’s just no skating around it.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.