The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) was passed in Parliament in 1880, yes, 132 years ago. At that time, the purpose of the act was to ensure unobstructed watercraft access on Canada’s waterways. Of course, when this act was passed, people travelled by canoe, barge or sternwheeler. Commerce also relied on these waterways to move goods to market. Times have changed.
The act regulated things on the water, not in the water or along the water course. Today this act has caused unnecessary red tape, and for years provinces and municipalities have asked our government to cut the red tape associated with the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This act has created a black hole, holding up simple projects that do not impede navigation.
Data from the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s nautical charts, Statistics Canada data on freight movement, and historical data from the Navigable Waters Protection Program was used to create a list of waterways that will be exempted from the application of the act.
The installation of a simple culvert under a road previously triggered the need for an application for approval under the NWPA, which was time consuming and unnecessary. The amendments proposed to the act in no way compromise the need for an environmental assessment of works that take place around and in water. Regulation to protect the environment related to watercourses is covered in the Environmental Protection Act, which provides guidelines for works in and around watercourses.
The Opposition has used our proposed amendments to the act as a wedge, accusing our government of compromising the protection of the environment.
This is completely false, and I can tell you we are committed to protecting our natural environment. Your government in Ottawa will continue to protect the environment in a logical and effective way that balances the interests of all stakeholders in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Finally, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated: “The changes announced today will allow local government to spend less time processing paperwork for small, low-risk public works projects by removing redundancies, red tape and project delays that result in higher costs for property tax payers.”
I totally agree.