Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's Presentation to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
The entire submission is available for download here.
Presentation to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Regarding Bill C-23 An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, â€¨the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and â€¨other Acts in consequence Tuesday, February 5, 2008 11:00 to 12:00 in Room 269 of the West Block Building
Introduction My name is Mark Mattson. I am an environmental lawyer and the Waterkeeper & President for Lake Ontario Waterkepeer, a Canadian charity based in Toronto, Ontario. Our goal is to win back the public's rights to safely swim, drink and fish from every waterway around Lake Ontario. We also help to promote and support the growing Waterkeeper movement in Canada.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has studied port authorities and the Canada Marine Act. We have offered comments during previous port-related consultations, including those led by Mr. Roger Tasse and the Hon. David Crombie.
Importance of ports I come before the committee today to inform you that the issue of Port Authorities and harbour governance is one of the most controversial, high-stakes issues facing many Canadian communities. The clash between federal and municipal interests, competition for funding, disagreement over wise land use, and the dramatic deterioration of the nation's waterways are all signs that Canada needs a better system for managing its ports. In the view of our communities, this system must be environmentally and economically sustainable and responsive to local needs.
Every port attracts a wide variety of users: shipping, industry, air, rail, recreational access, residential and commercial development, tourism, parks to name just a few. In Waterkeeper's experience, the Canada Marine Act limits stakeholders' abilities to work together in the best interests of the harbour. In most cases, the Canada Marine Act actually elevates shipping, air, and rail interests above all others, regardless of their contributions to the economy or the number of stakeholders they represent. As a result, there is entrenched conflict between the interest and activities of federal Port Authorities and local governments. All too often, conflict results in law suits or mediation efforts that are costly to citizens, impede progress, and institutionalize conflict between different waterfront agencies.
Most ports are located in urban areas, and for most Canadian cities, waterfront is everything. The waterfront is the heart and soul of the community, often the reason for a city's very existence. The Canada Marine Act must recognize this if it is to succeed; any failure to recognize the needs of the local communities will result only in further tension, funding crises, and litigation.
Waterkeeper respectfully submits that consultation with a broader variety of stakeholders in these port communities would provide the committee with the best possible perspective on the issue.
For a full summary of Waterkeeper's recommendations, see the entire submission, available for download here.