Federal Government moves toward modernizing Navigable Waters Protection Act

    OTTAWA, May 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's Transport Minister, John Baird,
today announced another step forward in the modernization of one of Canada's
oldest laws. Minister Baird released a Ministerial Order outlining criteria
for determining classes of minor works and minor waterways under the Navigable
Waters Protection Act (NWPA).
    "Our government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is cutting red
tape to address today's economic needs and reflect current realities," said
Minister Baird. "The current rules treat a nearly dry stream the same way as
the Northumberland Strait. That just doesn't make sense."
    The federal government continues its commitment to protect the
environment and the public's right to navigate. The amendments to the NWPA
will provide inspectors with more time to spend on waterways and projects of
greater concern and importance to Canadians and navigational safety.
    Defining classes of minor works and waters that have no significant
impact to navigation, such as irrigation and drainage ditches, will enable the
government to streamline the approval process for infrastructure and natural
resource projects.
    "By fixing outdated rules, we can eliminate duplication and get on with
improving public transit, upgrading clean water facilities and repairing roads
and bridges," Minister Baird added.
    Recent changes to the NWPA were made to ensure that the Act is applied
only to infrastructure development projects and activities that actually pose
a risk to navigation safety.
    The amended Act includes provisions for enforcement, the creation of a
continuing offence provision and the addition of inspection powers. It also
provides the authority to establish fines from $5,000 to $50,000.

    The order will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on May 9, 2009.

    A backgrounder with further information about the Navigable Waters
Protection Act is attached.


                              AMENDMENTS TO THE

    Written in 1882, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) is one of the
oldest pieces of legislation in Canada and, until March 12, 2009, had remained
largely unchanged. The government's amendments modernize one of Canada's
oldest pieces of legislation, while protecting the waterways that many
Canadians have valued for generations.
    In consultations Minister Baird held in advance of the First Ministers'
Meeting in January 2009, provincial and territorial leaders repeatedly cited
the Act as an impediment to economic growth and to the swift development of
critical infrastructure. Over the years, industry and municipal governments
have also requested changes to the NWPA to better respond to the increased
volume of traffic on, and the variety of uses of, Canada's waterways.
    The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities had
undertaken hearings and public consultations on amending or replacing the
current NWPA in February 2008. A report, entitled Consideration of Proposed
Amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, was supported by members of
the committee and released on June 12, 2008. The amendments to the NWPA are
based on the committee's work.
    The modernized NWPA promotes safe navigation and environmental protection,
along with streamlined approvals. Amendments to the Act focused on
establishing clearly defined classes of waters. Some classes, such as
irrigation and drainage ditches, would be considered not suitable for
navigation, and other classes of works would be defined as posing no concern
to ongoing navigational safety (certain buried pipelines, aerial cables and
small docks, for example) and thus considered to be minor works. Establishing
these classes allows for more focus on important projects affecting the safety
of navigation. The Act also includes the concept of temporary work to further
simplify the approval process.
    Approvals processes will now focus on projects that can pose real issues
for boating and navigation. Inspectors will be able to spend more time on
projects that could impact boaters as opposed to reviewing minor projects
which, when constructed, pose no threat to the safety of navigation. There
will also be new enforcement provisions, including fines of up to $50,000 per
infraction per day.
    Raising the fines provide the government with enhanced risk-management
capability to address potential non-compliance issues. The addition of
investigation/inspection powers in the NWPA provides the government with the
authority to undertake these activities in a lawful and consistent manner.

                                                                   May 2009

For further information:

For further information: Chris Day, Press Secretary, Office of Transport
Minister John Baird, Ottawa, (613) 991-0700; Media Relations, Transport
Canada, Ottawa, (613) 993-0055; Transport Canada is online at www.tc.gc.ca;
Subscribe to news releases and speeches at www.tc.gc.ca/e-news and keep up to
date on the latest from Transport Canada; This news release may be made
available in alternative formats for persons with visual disabilities.

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