Senator Bob Runciman - Ontario - Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes

In the Senate

Speeches, statements in the Senate Chamber


The Senate of Canada, Tuesday, November 15, 2016, in Senators statements

Hon. Bob Runciman:  Honourable senators, as some of you may know, my designation is Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.  Today I'd like to talk about a project in the heart of the Rideau Lakes to restore an iconic property to its former glory and build the local economy.  I'm referring to the restoration of the Opinicon Resort in Chaffey's Lock. 

A classic Adirondack?style fishing lodge, the Opinicon has been an essential part of the fabric of this small tourist community for a century.  It's a symbol of the glory days of the Rideau, a rambling wooden lodge with guest rooms and a dining hall surrounded by small cottages, a general store and ice cream parlour on a stunning 16?acre property on the banks of Opinicon Lake. 

At its peak, dozens of fishing guides, bellhops and others made their living at the Opinicon, which was operated by the same family for more than 90 years.  But times changed, tastes changed, the rich American fishermen stopped coming and government regulations made it even harder to make a living.  The Opinicon closed at the end of the 2012 season, a blow to the local and regional economy and a shock to area residents who imagined the grand old lodge would always be there. 

It was put up for auction in December 2014, and the successful bidders were Fiona McKean and her husband, Tobi Lutke, who you may know as the CEO of one of Canada's hottest technology companies, Shopify. 

I'm sure they could have found more lucrative opportunities for investment, but McKean has fond memories of the Opinicon from her childhood and of daily visits for ice cream while staying at a nearby cottage.  This place means something to her. 

The restoration of this legendary property under her direction is surely a labour of love, as her videos on the Opinicon's Facebook page so clearly demonstrate.  The Opinicon has been open for the last two years, but the revitalization project is ongoing with a new dining room, pub and pool facility in the works. In the meantime, the new owners are embracing the local community, sponsoring free concerts, movie nights and other community and charitable events.

The community is embracing them back.  As local businessman Dave Brown of the Chaffey's Lock and Area Heritage Society says, the new owners fit right in with the “can?do attitude” of local residents.  To quote Mr. Brown, “they are the very thick icing on the cake.”

I'd like to salute Fiona McKean and Tobi Lutke for entering into this marriage of old economy and new economy, and I mean that literally since this 19th-century lodge now has a Tesla charging station. It is truly a match made in heaven.

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