I read, with interest, our honorable MP Colin Mayes’ musings on how Bill C-45’s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) protects our waterways. He presents these changes as having been necessary to reduce the ‘red tape’ around simple projects such as putting a culvert under a road. However, he did not elaborate on how it protects our waterways. So, In an effort to fully understand how they are now protected, I read the Act and found that most of the amendments to the Act do indeed seem reasonable. However, I do have a problem with a couple of them.
Firstly, the definition of what is Navigable Waters seems entirely arbitrary. Mayes states “Data from the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s nautical charts, and Statistics Canada data on freight movement and historical data from Navigable Waters Protection Program was used to create a list of waterways that will be exempted from the application of the Act.” As an aside, this is not quite correct or as they say on Parliament Hill, this is an untruth. Schedule 2 of the Act, list the 100 Oceans & Lakes and the 62 Rivers that are covered by the Act, not those that are exempt. All other bodies of water in Canada by default are not covered by the Act.
More importantly, the Act fails to provide the rule or rationale by which one lake or river was included and another excluded. For example Little Shuswap Lake is included but Kalamalka Lake is not. Perhaps the honorable Colin Mayes could explain the rationale that led his party to include one lake and exclude thousands of other similar lakes.
Secondly, the definition of ‘Work’ that may impede navigation expressly excludes Pipelines “111. Despite the definition “work” in section 2 of the Navigation Protection Act, a pipeline is not a work to which that Act applies”. Consequently, a pipeline stretched across a river and obstructing navigation, would be quite acceptable under the Act.
Lastly section 24 of the Act states “The Governor in Council may, by order, exempt from any of sections 21 to 23, any rivers, streams or waters, in whole or in part, if it is shown to the satisfaction of the Governor in Council that the exemption would be in the public interest.”
Personally, I can’t think of a single reason why dewatering a (navigable) waterway would be in the public interest. Yes I did say dewatering, that is what section 23 is intended to prohibit. Could Mr. Mayes enlighten us as to why his government felt it needed an escape clause? Do they perceive a need to drain one of our navigable waterways?
Canadian Power and Sail Squadron