Monday, 9 September 2013

The Coalition: A Pan-Canadian Coalition on Problematic Boats, Environmental Protection and a New Legislative Framework

If you care about our lakes and rivers, some of Canada's most valued treasures, then this article is likely to be of interest of you.

All across Canada, Canadian communities, mostly small, face great difficulties in trying to establish regulations regarding the protection of navigable waters environments, that is, waters which fall under federal regulatory jurisdiction - The Canadian Shipping Act, in particular.   Not only are these communities paralysed in efforts to address the growing numbers of motorized boats on waterways, but they also find themselves helpless to deal with the proliferation of "Hummer" type boats, or wake boats, with their 330HP to 550 HP and their destructive and high and powerful waves that generate shoreline erosion, damage docks,  make non-motorized boating unpleasant and disturb shoreline enjoyment.
Unfortunately, The Canadian Shipping Act is an inefficient tool to address the aforementioned challenges because the Act, which dates back to the early years of Canada, was not conceived to protect the environment.  More precisely, the prime purpose of the Act is to protect the rights of navigators, and minimize the barriers to navigation. 

But the worst part about this Act is that it makes it exceptionally difficult for a local government to obtain federal approval for a new regulatory proposal -- up to 5 years from the time a request is made to the moment when a proposal may be approved -- and the guidelines on the Act make it abundantly clear that the federal government seeks non-regulatory solutions by way of voluntary codes of conduct. 
The aforementioned latter point is the source of eternal conflicts within communities in that a community must reach nearly 100% voluntary adherence to a proposed code of conduct.  Surveys and referendums are not regarded by Transport Canada as a basis for a community to formulate a new regulatory proposal.

Consequently, most communities are not able to follow through to achieve federal regulatory approval.  
It is against this legislative backdrop that the matter of the proliferation of wake boats on Canadian waterways has contributed to community dialogues of the deaf over unresolvable conflicts. 

As alluded to in the introduction to this article, wake boats are not at all like conventional motor boats. The combination of 1) horsepower ranges similar to those offered for Volvo tractor-trailer trucks and 2) ballasts ranging from 1500 to 2000 lbs, produce high and powerful waves, even at modest speeds.  As if this is not enough, the turbidity caused by wake boats can go down to a depth of 9 metres and suspend churned up sediments for up to 24 hours after the wake boat has passed.  In turn, the cocktails of floating sediments stemming from shoreline erosion and turbidity contribute to green and blue algae.
As for fuel consumption, there aren't any third independent party ratings available.  However, comments posted on the Net offer figures ranging from 20 litres to 70 litres for one hour's use.  So much for climate change!!!!!

To address the increasing environmental challenges posed by powerful boats, the Canadian Coalition on problematic boats, otherwise known as The Coalition, was officially created on September 1st in a small Quebec community, St-Faustin-Lac-Carré, Québec.
In effect, the Coalition wishes to see modifications of two pieces of legislation, the Canadian Fisheries Act and the Canadian Shipping Act. 

With regard to The Fisheries Act, prior to the Harper administration's changes to this Act, the Act was a very effective tool to protect marine life habitats.  But in response to a request from the pipeline industry, the Conservatives considerably weakened the protection of the marine habitat.
Accordingly, The Coalition objectives entail the modification of both the Canadian Shipping Act and the Canadian Fisheries Act, plus the linking of the two Acts, in order to make it possible to impose restrictions on certain types of boats based on impacts on the marine environment and community decisions.  Clear national environmental criteria and local government authorities would be the pillars of the new legislative framework and the concept of voluntary codes of conduct would be abolished.

Of course, to be politically realistic, The Coalition does not have any hopes with the current government. In this regard, it proposes an interregional and interprovincial Coalition to formulate innovative legislative recommendations for the next federal government, in 2015.
As for the rationale for the interregional and interprovincial approach, it is a reflection of the fact that a small community acting on its own cannot hope to have sufficient influence to request a change to two Acts and the linking of the two.  By contrast, a pan-Canadian Coalition would be hard for any future government to ignore.

In brief, a pan-Canadian Coalition with a two year time line is both politically and logistically sound.
An online signature document and a website to provide Coalition info and updates will be set up shortly.

In the interim, I invite citizens' associations, individuals, municipal councillors, regional governments and others to write to me about their interest at

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