MP wants federal protection for local waterways

If Richard Cannings gets his way, Lake Osoyoos and the Okanagan River would be afforded additional environmental protections.

Mr. Cannings, the MP for South Okanagan – West Kootenay, Wednesday introduced Bill C-360 — An Act to amend the Navigation Protection Act (certain lakes and rivers in British Columbia).

If passed, the bill would add a number of lakes and rivers in South Okanagan – West Kootenay to the navigable waters listed for protection under the federal Navigation Protection Act.

The change, he says, would fulfill a New Democrat campaign commitment and reverse changes made by the previous Conservative government in the last Parliament.

“One of the more damaging legacies of the Harper Conservative government was the gutting of the Navigable Waters Act” said Mr. Cannings.

“With this bill, I am proposing to place back under protection some of the most vital and important lakes and rivers in our region, waterways that have sustained our communities and rightfully hold a special place in our hearts.”

Lakes included for protection are Osoyoos, Skaha, Christina, Box, Summit, Tugulnuit, Vaseux and Slocan. Rivers to be added include the Okanagan, Granby, Christina, Kettle, Pend d’Orielle and Slocan.

Bill C-360 also represents a change for the Liberal government to follow through on their campaign promise to reverse the Conservative changes to the Navigable Waters Act.

“The Liberals were elected on many promises, including the changes that I am proposing here to the Navigable waters act,” said Mr. Cannings.

“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.

Common law protects the public right of navigation, which gives people free and unobstructed passage through navigable waters, a federal government website reports. The primary purpose of the Navigation Protection Act is to balance the public right to navigate with the need to construct works (e.g., bridges and dams).

Navigable waters can be added to the schedule of protected waters by regulatory amendment, if the government is satisfied adding the body is in the national or regional economic interest, is in the public interest or was requested by a local authority.

In B.C., Okanagan, Shuswap, Kootenay and several other larger lakes are protected under the Act, as are a number of larger rivers, including the Fraser, Skeena, Thompson and Kootenay.



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