The changed nature of ‘protection’ for navigable waters

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, it was one of my great fears when the first draft consultation paper was put out about repairing the damage and restoring the original Navigable Waters Protection Act that it looked as though we might just hold to a schedule only.

I was very gratified to find the definition had changed to say that navigable waters means “a body of water…that is used or where there is a reasonable likelihood that it will be used by vessels, in full or in part, for any part of the year as a means of transport…”. This is a much broader definition, so it does not go back to the one we had from 1881. Under Bill C-45, in fall of 2012, we lost protection on over 98 point something per cent of the interior waterways of Canada.

My question for the hon. parliamentary secretary is this. This is a good definition. We probably got protection back on something like 89% of all the interior waters in Canada, but the nature of the protection is different, because the impact assessment legislation in part 1 of this omnibus bill did not restore the requirement that the minister of transportation would have to have an impact evaluation, an environmental assessment, and impact assessment before granting a permit to interfere with navigation on these waters. What is the nature of the protection, given that that gap was not replaced?

Karen McCrimmon,/strong> – Member for Kanata-Carleton

Mr. Speaker, what was behind this was that we saw a need as well to increase the number of navigable waters that were protected. We found that if all we did was protect what was on the schedule that was not near enough. I think the number I have seen is almost 100,000 named waterways in Canada, and to expand that protection to those waterways is so very critical.

There are some minor works we felt could move ahead, that would not have to be so controlled as in the past. That is what we have tried to do, allow perhaps a cottage dock, or some small repair to a seawall to be done without triggering a full environmental assessment. We tried to find that balance.