South Okanagan-West Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings has introduced a bill that would return protections for navigable waters that were stripped under the Stephen Harper Conservative government. File photo

Cannings bill would return protections for navigable waters

Those protections were stripped from most waterways under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government

A private member’s bill in the federal House of Commons by the local member of Parliament would, if passed, return protections of navigable waters that were stripped under Stephen Harper’s government.

South Okanagan-West Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings introduced Bill C-360, An Act to amend the Navigation Protection Act on Wednesday, which he said would return protections to several Okanagan and Kootenay lakes and rivers.

“Formerly all waterways in Canada were protected under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Navigation Protection Act that was brought in stripped that protection from 99 per cent of the waterways in Canada,” Cannings said. “The Liberals had promised to repeal that, but now they have said that they’re not going to.”

Under previous protections, developers would have to jump through some permitting hoops with the Ministry of Transport to build anything that could impede navigation of rivers or lakes, including bridges or docks.

“There are other protections for those rivers, but this was a level that added some extra oversight into what you could do on rivers and lakes,” Cannings said. “And this is … one of the few federal acts that protected habitat, and things like that, and rivers and lakes. So, I think it’s important to keep those.”

On that note, while it’s largely intended as protecting navigation in lakes and rivers, Cannings adds that it also adds some level of environmental protections.

“There are other bits of legislation that speak to this, but this is just another important layer that I think increases oversight that we had to projects that might impact our lakes and rivers.”

Cannings points to Skaha Lake, Osoyoos Lake, Vaseux Lake and the Okanagan River among more than a dozen local lakes and rivers that would be affected by the passing of his bill.

“One of the more damaging legacies of the Harper Conservative government was the gutting of the Navigable Waters Act,” Cannings said in a news release.

Reversing those changes were also among Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promises, but the Trudeaumetre has ranked that item as not being started, yet. Cannings says Bill C-360 is intended to hold Trudeau and the Liberals to their promises.

“It is my sincere hope that the government will remain true to their word, act on the measures proposed in this bill and not include their promises to protect Canada’s waterways to the pile of other broken promises that has been growing for the past year.”

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