This week, Living at the Barricades explores the Canada Marine Act. Lynda Lukasik of Environment Hamilton joins the show to discuss the barriers to establishing local control and decision making for harbours across the country.
- Learn more about key issues facing the Hamilton Harbour.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008, President and Waterkeeper for Lake Ontario Waterkeeper Mark Mattson was scheduled to act as a witness for the the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities regarding Bill C-23 An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence. Stormy weather kept Mattson's flight grounded in Toronto. It was a disappointing scenario. So much of Waterkeeper's work relates to the governance structure set up by the Canada Marine Act. As such, despite the stormy weather, Waterkeeper worked urgently to get a written brief sent to the committee via messenger. The brief, a shortened and bilingual verion of our recommendations, was eventually read in Ottawa late on Tuesday.
The Canada Marina Act is crucial for understanding the way in which primarily urban communities are becoming more and more disconnected from their waterfronts. The Act was implemented in 1998 to "make the system of Canadian ports competitive, efficient and commercially oriented. To facilitate this system, the Act assigns federally operated port authorities in various cities to control transport, shipping, and other industrial interests.
It is clear from a reading of the legislation that port authorities are not obliged to incorporate the public interest into decision making processes. Section 5 of the Act defines, "user" as: "...a person that makes commercial use of, or provides services at, the port." This definition envisions harbours only as transportation hubs, primarily for shipping and railways. It ignores the environmental , touristic, recreational, residential, and commercial importance of harbours. This definition remains unchanged in Bill C-23.
Excluding a public interest mandate from port authority responsibility is an enormous barrier to ensuring the public's right to safely swim, drink, and fish in every waterway. Across Lake Ontario, port authorities help industrial interests monopolize waterfronts at the expense of other, local stakeholders and waterfront users. As a result, we see one less beach and one more airport; one less wetland and one more shipping terminal; less fishable waters and more harmful emissions and invasive species.
Recent developments in the Hamilton Harbour bring to light some of the key concerns with the Canada Marine Act. In December 2007, the Hamilton Port Authority initiated its plan to develop Pier 22 â€“ a 103 acre parcel of land that the Port Authority acquired in 2006. The land in question is also known as Harris Inlet - home to beaver, coyote, turltle, bird, fish, and other wildlife populations. Community members in Hamilton highlight the importance of preserving Harris Inlet's natural assets and presenting land-use plans for the harbour that are not exclusively industrial. Without a public interest mandate, the Port Authority lacks the mechanism for incorporating such alternatives into development plans.
While Waterkeeper did not have an opportunity to appear before the Committee last week, we have published our commentary and list of recommendations. These recommendations come from years of experience studying port authorities and the Canada Marine Act. Grassroots efforts in Hamilton, Toronto, and Oshawa also inform our vision of an improved system for managing Canadian ports.
Waterkeeper's central recommendations are:
- Engage in thorough consultation with a variety of stakeholders in port communities.
- The Canada Marine Act should ensure ports are managed first and foremost for the public interest.
- The definition of "user" should be broadened to enumerate a realistic group of stakeholders.
- Amend Section 25(b)(ii) of the amended Canada Marine Act to read, "is a contribution in respect of the capital costs of an infrastructure project that has been endorsed by the municipal council."