Calypso to remain closed this summer; water park seeking compensation for lost revenue from province
OTTAWA -- Calypso's summer is now over.
The president and CEO of the popular water park east of Ottawa says the park will not reopen in 2020.
"We can't at this point in time," said Sylvain Lauzon on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron. "It's not even a financial question. Our employees, I totally understand, they've found other jobs. We don't have enough for us to be able to open."
Lauzon says he will be seeking compensation from the Ontario government for a summer of lost revenue after the provincial tourism minister said the park must remain closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The water park in Limoges, Ont., just outside of Ottawa, submitted detailed plans to the government on how to keep customers safe, but was still not allowed to reopen in Stage 3. Water parks have been open in nearby Quebec since early July.
In a press conference Wednesday, Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Tourism and Sport, told reporters that Ontario's top doctor does not believe it is safe to reopen theme parks and water parks yet.
"The chief medical officer of health has advised our government, and we have accepted his science, that theme parks and water parks of those nature still pose a significant threat as a result of COVID-19 and therefore will not be able to open at this time," MacLeod said.
Theme parks and water parks were not included in Stage 3 of Ontario's reopening plan. Just before eastern Ontario entered Stage 3 on July 17, Calypso told CTV News it had submitted a plan to the government that included physical distancing measures throughout the park, sanitization stations, mandatory masks in indoor areas, as well as comprehensive sanitization of items like tubes and mats used on water slides.
The medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, told CTV News that he felt Calypso was ready to reopen safely in Stage 3.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, MacLeod said the fact that not all of Ontario has moved ahead to Stage 3 of the province's reopening framework yet is part of what is holding back theme parks and water parks.
"We recognize the seasonal nature," she said. "That is why, when all of Ontario does move in to Stage 3, we will continually reassess this."
Windsor-Essex remains the last public health region in Ontario in Stage 2.
"At this time, we are not confident, given the circulation of people coming from different parts of Ontario and different parts of Canada at this point in time to open those theme parks until all of Ontario is in Stage 3," MacLeod said.
'Very disappointed with the government's decision'
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa Wednesday, Sandra Nadeau said Calypso management do not understand the province's decision and they're seeking compensation.
"The impact on Calypso water park is immense. No other sector has been asked to forfeit a year’s revenue with high fixed costs and assets to support," Nadeau said. "We have requested a dialogue with the government to discuss the financial and economic impacts following their revised stage 3 reopening plan. Therefore, we will be seeking compensation for losses incurred by those decisions."
Speaking on 580 CFRA, Lauzon says he feels deceived by the province's decision.
"We were told to get ready and be open in Stage 3 way back months ago and, therefore, we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the park ready and today's decision is just a killer for us," he said. "We were all ready to open in Stage 3. Our staff was trained, the water was in the pool, it was chlorinated. Everything was ready. There's a cost to that."
Lauzon says he still has questions and will be seeking more answers from the government.
"Other businesses were allowed to reopen. This is very defamatory to our business, being classified as a high risk. We were the leaders in creating a comprehensive reopening plan. Dr. Roumelioitis used our plan to help other sectors and said it was a very comprehensive and safe plan," he said. "It's total deception for us. We need answers."
Lauzon says he feels for the employees who waited all summer only to learn that they would not have a job before school starts back up.
"It's very sad for them, about 650 of them, they didn't get to earn any money this summer," he said. "A lot of local young workers from the villages around Calypso and Ottawa. We're their summer job, paying for their tuition. They're good workers and they waited for us to be open and now they don't have a job, so there was a deception for them as well, today."