Ontario basketball museum threatened under proposed provincial government cuts

WATCH ABOVE: A museum in Almonte is under the microscope after the provincial government introduced a bill that pushes conservation authorities to reconsider their mandates. Morganne Campbell explains.

A new bill introduced by the Ford government could see more than half of the funding to conservation authorities that have initiatives outside of the agencies’ core focus.

Bill 108 was passed in June and now the basketball museum in Almonte is concerned it’ll end up on the chopping block.

“This whimsical change from the government has put the museum in jeopardy, but we’re going to do our best to make sure that that collection stays put,” explained Jeff Atkinson, the chair of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority’s (MVCA) policy and priorities committee.

“It’s a trust that they’ve taken very seriously since 1972. It’s a trust they continue to take seriously, which is why we want to talk to the community to figure out next steps.”

READ MORE: Conservation authorities press province to better define the role they need to play

Atkinson is referring to the Mill of Kintail where a museum inside is dedicated to James Naismith, the man credited for inventing basketball in 1891, and Robert McKenzie, who influenced sports medicine. The town of about 5,000 shows deep pride in its historical role models and pays homage to the pair.

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The museum could be on the chopping block because of a new bill that forces the hands of conservation authorities to essentially abandon initiatives that don’t strictly follow their core focus.

“It’s really early to be talking about closures or anything like that at all, we’re having some discussions in response to what’s come out of Bill 108 which is a requirement that conservation authorities in all of Ontario are focused on their core mandates and they’re core responsibilities,” explained Mississippi Mills Mayor Christa Lowry.

“As you can imagine a museum on basketball and memorializing McKenzie don’t fall within that mandate, so really we’re at the point of having discussions of what does that then look like if it’s not part of the core mandate.”

READ MORE: Ontario’s big-city mayors concerned about province’s municipal funding cuts, Bill 108

A committee was struck to examine the issue and see how and if the museum can change its mandate as its operated by the local conservation authority and the museum doesn’t fit in with the mandate.

“This is a treasure asset in the community. They don’t like the change that’s being imposed on the conservation authority,” added Atkinson.

“They don’t want us to lose that asset. They want us to maintain it on the site as best we can and we’re going to work with them, and we’re going to work with them to figure out how to do that.”

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However, the museum has bought itself some time. Details of Bill 108 will be released later next month and changes won’t be put in place until 2021, which gives stakeholders an opportunity to come up with a way to save this piece of history in the Ottawa Valley.

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