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Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapter demands restoration of the Navigable Waters Protection Act

Federal transport minister Marc Garneau will be overseeing the review of the Navigation Protection Act.

The Council of Canadians (Wynyard) chapter is taking the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) to task for its stance against restoring the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

In 2012, the Harper government gutted the former Navigable Waters Protection Act in omnibus bills C-38 and C-45. C-38 removed pipelines and power lines from provisions of the Navigable Waters Protect Act while C-45 significantly reduced the Act’s scope over Canada’s waters. The word “water” was even removed from the Act when it became the Navigation Protection Act. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, “The Harper government killed the Navigable Waters Protection Act, stripping protections from 99 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada. Major pipelines and inter-provincial power lines now have the green light to cross over and under more than 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers without federal scrutiny.”

During the October 2015 federal election, the Liberals promised to “review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards.”

The Council of Canadians has argued that: The protections that were cut from the Navigable Waters Protection Act by the Harper government must be fully restored; All lakes, rivers and waterways must be protected by this Act; Strict safeguards for waterways must be implemented within the framework of the United Nations-recognized human right to water; Water sustainability and water justice at the heart of all policy and practice, water can no longer take the back seat to other interests and priorities, such as ‘free trade’ agreements, mining and pipelines; and that Water must be recognized as a public trust, a common heritage to be protected for all people and future generations.

But the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities doesn’t want to see those changes made.

The Hill Times reports, “A group representing rural municipalities in Saskatchewan is sending representatives to Ottawa next month to lobby against expanding federal authority over local waterways, as advocates jostle for influence on the future of Harper-era changes to environmental regulations. Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), said members of the organization will travel to the nation’s capital in October to address, among other pressing issues, potential changes to the Navigation Protection Act, which regulates developments on traversable water bodies in Canada. ‘The federal government, we understand, is looking at possibly making changes’, he said. ‘We hope the government listens to an organization like ours and maybe just leaves things as is.'”

Quill Plains (Wynyard), Saskatchewan chapter activist Elaine Hughes has written Dwight Hagen, the councillor for the Rural Municipality of Barrier Valley, about this.

Hughes says, “I’m wondering if you can tell me how SARM could approve/support such a resolution (or idea) to follow thru with this insane lobby? …This is a national embarrassment – how long do they/we think we can continue to assault, abuse and contaminate our drinking water?! This is a blatant example of short-sightedness, ignorance and total lack of understanding our precious waterways and the absolute necessity of protecting them – at all costs. This has nothing – repeat – nothing –  to do with ‘installing culverts’ or ‘building roads’ … it’s about corporate greed and irresponsibility.”

Her email also went to Regina MP Ralph Goodale (who is the federal minister of public safety), the minister of the environment Catherine McKenna, and health minister Jane Philipott.

In June, The Globe and Mail reported, “Companies or industry groups, among scores registered to lobby on the review of environmental assessments, include Shell Canada, the Canadian Electricity Association, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Ontario Power Generation Inc., and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.” And The Hill Times tells us the groups opposing changes to the Navigation Protection Act could include the Canadian Construction Association, Cameco Corporation (the Saskatchewan-based uranium giant), the Canadian Electricity Association (the advocacy arm for electricity utilities), oil giant Shell Canada, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (which includes Kinder Morgan Canada, TransCanada Pipelines Limited, Enbridge Pipelines Inc., FortisBC Inc., and other oil and gas corporations).

In terms of a timeline on the review and a decision on the Act, The Hill Times reports:

  • June – the federal government announced it would launch a comprehensive review of environmental agencies and regulations, including of the Navigation Protection Act

  • This fall – the House of Commons Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will start reviewing the Act

  • This fall until early next year – the federal government will hold expansive consultations with Indigenous groups, provinces and territories, stakeholders and the public on the regulations

  • Early 2017 – the Committee is expected to submit its report and recommendations to Parliament

  • 2017 – Transport minister March Garneau will study the report produced by the Committee and decide whether to proceed with whatever recommendations are proposed

Liberal MP Kate Young, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, suggests the focus of the review will be on the listed waterways and whether or not more “should be added”.

For more on our “Every lake, every river” campaign, please click here.