So here’s the thing:
Just this past Friday afternoon (Feb.6/09), under the guise of the 2009 Budget Implementation Act, the federal government has introduced harmful amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) that will have negative impacts on both navigation and the environment.
The NWPA mandates that, if someone wants to build something in, on, around, under, over, or through a navigable waterway, an assessment of the impacts on navigation (ability to canoe, kayak, go rafting, etc) and an environmental assessment need to be done first. Thus, these amendments will have environmental repercussions for our waterways as well.
The NWPA was originally enacted in 1882. It is one of Canada’s oldest pieces of legislation, and there is no doubt that it needs to be modernized—however, in the name of “cutting red tape” to speed up the building of infrastructure projects and stimulate the economy, the government is introducing severe changes that were recommended in a report by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which didn’t even bother to consult Canada’s paddling, environmental, or First Nations communities. These changes include:
- The removal of the four named works (bridges, causeways, dams, and booms) as obstructions to navigation
- Giving the Minister the power to create “classes of works” and “classes of navigable waters” – ie: separating them into “major” and “minor” categories
- Whether something constitutes a “significant interference with navigation” is now up to the Minister’s sole discretion
I know legislative changes can sound dry, but THIS IS HUGE. The NWPA already --by nature-- only deals with waters that are navigable, and with works that are a significant interference to navigation (ie: bridges, causeways, dams and booms!), so WHY change these things, and give the Minister sole power to decide what’s “significant”? This isn’t transparent or accountable to the Canadian public, and there are better, less harmful ways to expedite infrastructure projects (ie: hire more assessment staff –the environmental and navigation assessments will take less time AND create jobs. How’s that for economic stimulus?)
Pierre Burton once said, “A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe”. Canada was discovered, explored and developed through navigation of our waterways. These rivers are Canada’s veins. They belong to all of us, and we weren’t consulted about this at all!
The heritage right of navigation predates confederation, and Canadians consistently rank the environment as one of their top issues of concern. These changes to the NWPA are simply unacceptable.
There is something you can do—raise your voice!
1) Spread the word – copy & paste this message into an email or a facebook message to your friends and encourage them to take action. There is power in numbers! Every letter and every phone call add to the movement!
2) Tell the government you care about Canada’s waterways and don’t agree with these amendments to the NWPA. Send an email to the folks listed below and express your distaste at this unfair use of the Budget Implementation Act; the modernization of the NWPA needs to be dropped from the Budget Implementation Act and introduced as a separate piece of legislation, allowing for transparency and adequate public consultation!
National Manager of the Navigable Waters Protection Program, David Osbaldeston: OSBALDD@tc.gc.ca
Minister of Transportation, John Baird: email@example.com
Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice: Prentice.J@parl.gc.ca
Opposition transportation critics: Volpej@parl.gc.ca, Bevington.D@parl.gc.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Opposition environment critics: McGuintyD@parl.gc.ca, Duncan.L@parl.gc.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Opposition water critics: firstname.lastname@example.org, Hyer.B@parl.gc.ca,
--And don’t forget YOUR MP (who may need your vote to be re-elected!) Find your MP at this...