As a Kelowna city councillor for nine years, I know some of you are interested in proposed changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
These changes have been a long time coming and are welcomed by local governments across the country, lessening their frustrations due to delays and cost overruns.Â
The changesÂ are based not only on recommendations from local governments, but also on recommendations from a 2008 report by the all-party Standing Committee on Transport, which held consultations with the public to determine how best to proceed with the modernization of the act. It took into consideration
economic and environmental concerns by the public, local and provincial governments.
In 2009, changes were made to the Act, introducing the the Minor Works, and Waters Order.Â The order enabled low risk works, such as foot bridges across streams and culverts in ditches, to be pre-approved.Â
The Navigable Waters Protection Act is one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation, dating from 1882, at a time when our waterways were Canada's primary transportation routes.Â
The act's main purpose was, and is still, to facilitate trade and commerce by balancing the
efficient movement of maritime traffic with the need to construct works (e.g., bridges) that might obstruct navigation.
Over time, the scope and application of the Act has expanded, and today the Act applies to all waters in Canada that can float a canoe
ncluding ditches, brooks, streams and fields temporarily flooded in spring.Â
The volume of applications is so large that there are backlogs, delaying essential infrastructure projects by months and even years.
In line with the government's commitment to streamlining the regulatory process and encouraging long-term economic growth and job creation, the proposed amendments seek to create a modern and flexible legislative scheme that responds to the needs of Canada.Â
They re-focus the scope and application of the legislation to better balance the efficient movement of marine traffic with the need to construct works, such as bridges, wharfs and transmission lines.
The proposed amendments to the act will:
â€¢Â Clearly define the major waterways upon which regulatory approval is required prior to the placement or construction of a work and relies on the common law to protect navigation in non-listed waterways;
â€¢Â Expand the minor works first introduced in 2009, allowing even more low risk works (such as docks and boathouses) to be pre-approved because they pose little impact on safe navigation;
â€¢Â Allow proponents of works in unlisted waters (such as municipalities, provinces and other builders) to opt-in and seek approval of their proposed work to give them additional legal certainty.
The list of major water waterways is focused. Those placed on the list support busy commercial or recreational activity, are accessible by ports and marinas, and are often close to heavily populated areas.
Under our common law tradition, we have consistently protected navigation in Canada's waterways, and we will continue to do so in both listed and unlisted waters.
I can assure constituents that under this modernized legislation, Canadian waters will continue to be protected by Transport Canada's marine safety laws, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and various provincial statutes.Â
Should you have any questions regarding this issue or any other federally related matter, please contact my office at
or by calling 250 470-5075.
Ron Cannan is the member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country.