City to pay for operation of Big Ben this winter

Nick Seebruch
City to pay for operation of Big Ben this winter
The sign at Big Ben Ski Centre.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council narrowly voted to provide money to a private company to operate Big Ben Ski Centre this winter at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 24.

Over the summer, City administration met with Paris Holdings, the owner of the Big Ben Ski site and offered to find a new operator for the centre after Leader Sports, the former operator decided that they would no longer continue.

Paris Holdings raised concerns about the City finding a new operator due to liability issues. Instead, Paris Holdings will be operating the site in consultation with Leader Sports this winter.

Paris Holdings had asked for $80,000 from the City of Cornwall to help with the operation of the site. Big Ben Ski Centre was operated with a similar subsidization pair to Leader Sports in previous years.

“This was kept in the budget for this year only because of the threat there will be no recreational activities at Big Ben this winter,” said Councillor Bernadette Clement. “The families still want the operation of Big Ben Ski Centre.”

Clement did say that she wanted to hear about Paris Holdings’ intentions for the site going forward without a subsidy from the City.

Councillor Maurice Dupelle had previously put forth a motion to end the subsidy for the operation of Big Ben.

“The motion last year was not to close Big Ben,” said Dupelle. “For all of the emails I got from families, I got just as many from residents saying that they didn’t want to subsidize a private business. We’re being told that if we don’t fund Paris Holdings, then its over.”

Councillor Andre Rivette took issue with subsidizing a private business without a direct financial return.

“You don’t run a business with somebody and keep all the profits,” said Rivette. “If it passes this way, I’ll be asking for an audit of the operations of the City of Cornwall. It has to be public and it has to be done by a public auditor.”

The meeting became contentious when Rivette accused administration of ignoring the will of Council to issue a request for proposal to find a new operator for the ski hill.

“They’re not calling the shots here,” Rivette said.

“They are calling the shots councillor, they own the land,” the Mayor said.

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy and Councillor Rivette shouted over each other with Rivette telling the Mayor to hold his mouth and to let him speak.

Council passed the motion to pay $80,000 to Paris Holdings to operate Big Ben this season 6-5 with councillors Rivette, Mark MacDonald, Denis Carr, Maurice Dupelle and David Murphy voting against.

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