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Liberals add Nottawasaga River & Nass River to the Navigation Protection Act, only 2.25 million more rivers to go

Nottawasaga River

The federal Liberal government has relisted two of the 2.25 million rivers that were delisted from the Navigable Waters Protection Act by the former Harper government.

The Wasaga Sun reports, “In October, the federal government added the Nottawasaga River to the list of rivers and lakes protected under the Navigation Protection Act. Several area municipalities, as well as the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and Simcoe County, had called on Ottawa to add the river to the list, after the Conservative government replaced the Navigable Waters Protection Act in 2012. More than 600 signatures were also collected through a petition requesting the addition of the Nottawasaga River to the schedule.”

The Nottawasaga River flows from Orangeville which is located about 80 kilometres northwest of Toronto) through the Niagara Escarpment and empties into Nottawasaga Bay, an inlet of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron.

The article adds, “In a letter to Clearview Township council in November, Transport Canada minister Marc Garneau announced the river had been added to the list of protected waters. The minister also wrote to the council in the summer, advising the ministry reviewed the request and supported adding the river ‘as it is an economic driver for tourism, fishing, boating, recreational activity, and hospitality in the region’.”

The Nass River (K’alii Aksim Lisims) in northern British Columbia was also added to the Act this past October at the request of the Nisga’a Lisims government.

That means that 64 rivers now have some form of “protection” under the Act. There is no word yet on when or how many more rivers the Liberal government might relist.

During the October 2015 federal election, the Liberals criticized the Harper government’s “elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act” and promised to “review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards”.

Now Transport minister Marc Garneau says, “Some of the changes that were made we may end up saying they’re reasonable, but some of them we definitely will change.” This equivocation may be because, as The Globe and Mail reports, “The Liberal government is feeling pressure from industry over a campaign pledge to restore regulations surrounding project permits and environmental assessments.”

The Saint John chapter (Mispec River), Ottawa chapter (Gatineau River), Kamloops chapter (Peterson Creek), and the Quinte chapter collected jars of water from their local waterways to deliver to their Member of Parliament to demand lost protections be restored and modern safeguards be incorporated in a strengthened Navigable Waters Protection Act. In our submission to the House of Commons Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities this month, water campaigner Emma Lui also called on them to recommend protections be put back on all lakes, rivers and waterways. The Northwest Territories chapter made the same demand in its written submission to the committee.

The committee is expected to submit its recommendations to the Minister of Transport in early 2017 and the minister is then expected to implement changes based on that report later in the year.