Federal budget bill guts water protections in Canada
On January 27, 2009, the federal government introduced its Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-10. The budget includes an amendment to one of Canada’s oldest laws, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA).
European and Aboriginal history considers navigation of the water a public right; waterways belong to all people and only held in trust by the government. The amendments to the NWPA abandon this principle.
Several of the proposed amendments raise concern, including:
The new Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) eliminates environmental assessments for development projects on Canadian waterways, with very few exceptions.
The new NWPA means decisions about Canada’s waterways will be based on politics and financial clout rather than science or long-term socio-economic needs.
The new NWPA divides Canada’s rivers into those worth protecting and those not worth protecting.
The “class” lists may be drafted by the Cabinet in secrecy, with no public consultation, scientific basis, or opportunity for appeal.
In order to preserve the long-standing protections enshrined in the NWPA and uphold the traditions of science, transparency and fairness in government decision-making, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper recommends the following:
Decouple the new NWPA from the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 so that there can be proper, thorough, and transparent consultation with the public.
Restore the environmental assessment trigger.
Remove the Minister’s discretion when it comes to major projects, such as the four named works in the existing legislation: bridge, boom, dam or causeway.
Eliminate the system for dividing up Canada’s rivers or classifying different types of “works”. In the alternative, create these classes only after significant public consultation and scientific review, allow for exemptions in special cases, and explicitly maintain the existing common law and traditional right to use navigable waters.
Our concerns are shared by other Canadian members of the Waterkeeper Alliance including Fraser Riverkeeper, Georgian Baykeeper, Ottawa Riverkeeper, Fundy Baykeeper, Petitcodiac Riverkeeper and Grand Riverkeeper.
For more information, please visit www.waterkeeper.ca/NWPA