Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue 9 - Evidence, May 7, 2008


OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, to which was referred Bill S-221, An Act concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters, met this day at 6:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Donald H. Oliver (Deputy Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Deputy Chair: Honourable senators, I call the meeting to order. Today, we are studying Bill S-221, An Act concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters, sponsored by the Honourable Mira Spivak. This bill has been considered by the Senate on five previous occasions. However, this is the first time that Bill S-221 will be examined by the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. On four previous occasions, the bill was examined by the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. Senator Spivak noted during her most recent speech at second reading debate that ``nothing of substance in this bill has been changed, nor has anything changed in the way personal watercraft are used.''

Senator Spivak, it is a pleasure to have you with us here today. I invite you to make your presentation following which I am sure honourable senators would like to pose questions.

Hon. Mira Spivak, sponsor of the bill: I thank the committee for devoting its time to this bill. I want to point out that one of its previous incarnations was before this committee for study in 2001.

The minister changed the vessel operations restrictive regulations and those changes were published in Part II of the Canada Gazette last Wednesday. Of course, that happened after I reintroduced the bill. The point I want to make is that this change in the regulations goes part way toward the goals of the bill. Therefore, I congratulate the minister on that. I will explain that a little later.

Allow me to paint the big picture for you. In 1994, some 14 years ago, the Canadian Coast Guard, which oversees boating safety in Canada, proposed a small housekeeping amendment to regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, known as the Vessel Operating Restrictions Regulations. These regulations give communities a way to restrict boating on nearby lakes or rivers when restrictions are needed to protect safety, the environment or the public interest. That is in one of the sections of the Canada Shipping Act. For decades, communities have used this mechanism for example to restrict water skiing or to ban power boats on a specific lake. There are some 2,000 such restrictions across the country.

The amendment proposed by the Coast Guard in 1994 would have added a new schedule to these regulations such that permits would have restrictions specifically on personal watercraft, also known as Jet Skis or Sea-Doos or PWCs. The Coast Guard's proposed amendment was backed by the RCMP, the OPP, Parks Canada and many others who were aware of the new hazards posed by PWCs that sometimes led to serious injuries and death. The amendment appeared for comment in Part I of the Canada Gazette in June 1994. Later that summer, a special meeting was held in Ottawa.

PWC manufacturers had been lobbying long and hard against any restrictions. At issue was a policy question on whether PWCs would be regulated in the same way as power boats are regulated. PWC manufacturers argued strongly that there should be no special restrictions on where they could be used. However, they agreed to an age limit of 16 years for PWC drivers. Despite a good deal of evidence that other special restrictions were needed, the government-of- the-day accepted the manufacturer's position. The old local authorities guide to boating restrictions regulations said: «Note that restrictions cannot be targeted against any one type of power vessel.» This is not the position taken by many other countries.

Australia banned PWCs but not other boats from Sydney Harbour. It set offshore limits on PWC use to keep them a safe distance from surfers and swimmers. In the U.S, where boating is a state matter, most states impose some form of special restrictions. Some allow, as this bill would do, local communities decide where it is safe to use PWCs and where they pose too great a threat to the safety of people or the environment.

PWC manufacturers in the U.S. went so far as to propose a model bill that states could adopt. It contained special restrictions on PWCs that we do not have in Canada. The Coast Guard's amendment of 1994 was delayed by at least 14 years, and this bill is an attempt to end that delay.

I have been trying to do that for 10 years after a young man died on West Hawk Lake in Manitoba. Five young men had taken over the lake with a powerboat and two PWCs. The young men were speeding to create wakes and wake jumping. My neighbours had called the RCMP and the park's officials. Officers were onshore taking statements when a PWC collided with the powerboat and a 20-year old man died from the injuries.

My research has unveiled all kinds of problems with these recreational vehicles, not just an unusually high rate of death, including dreadful injuries resulting falling off the backs of these machines. Included in the problems are air and water pollution, disturbance of shorelines, nesting bird habitation sites and PWC riders who chase loons or swans for sport.

Almost every year, the engines grow more powerful. When I began this crusade, the common engine size was 50 hp to 60 hp. Now, they exceed 300 hp. That is as large as the engine in a powerful pickup truck. Years ago, one opponent of PWCs said, ``We do not allow motorcycles to zoom around playgrounds. Why should we allow these machines to zoom near the beaches or floating docks or behind boats at anchor where children swim?''

To digress for one minute, in Quebec five municipalities on Lake Massawippi banned wake boats and turbine boats, motor marine vehicles, which include PWCs, to protect their drinking water against toxic algae and to reduce shoreline erosion.

Studies show that if you have a power boat with a 100-horsepower motor, it will stir sediment as far as 18 feet below the surface. What does that do? It increases the sediment, releases phosphorus and nitrogen, nutrients that promote blue-green algae, cynobacteria, which is one of the reasons why the lakes in the Eastern Townships had to close a number of times. This is not a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.

I introduced the bill because it was the only means available. I prefer change in the regulations, but that is something only the minister can do. As parliamentarians, we have no direct say in regulations, which is something that should be changed.

This bill follows as closely as I considered reasonable the method of restricting boating in Canada. It allows a local authority to apply to the minister for a restriction. It requires that any proposed restriction be published in Part I of the Canada Gazette for comment. It allows for changes to that restriction based on comments. It allows the minister to refuse the restriction if it would unreasonably impede navigation.

With the change of government, there was a very encouraging sign that a policy change had occurred. Coast Guard officials, after appearing before our Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, had asked officials from Justice Canada for a legal opinion on whether an existing schedule of regulations could be used with a note to accomplish the same ends as this bill.

The legal opinion received in November 2005 was indeed, it could be used to restrict only personal watercraft, to restrict wake boats, or to restrict personal watercraft during certain months of the year. In the summer of 2006, a few communities began to try to use that means, all without success, in part because provincial officials who administer these regulations in some provinces were uninformed of, or unsupportive of, a policy change that would allow restrictions specific to PWCs.

According to information from the minister's office, no community has successfully used these means to restrict PWCs. None have applied, although a number of communities have expressed interest. I think we will have a de facto change in the law that will make this bill redundant only when the first community successfully sets that precedent.

When this bill was introduced seven years ago, it was met with enormous enthusiasm. Some 78 organizations throughout the country were behind it: municipalities, cottagers' associations, public interest groups and conservationists. A poll in the fall of 2001 showed only 18 per cent of Canadians opposed it. To be honest, I can no longer tell you to what extent it would be used should this bill be passed. Eight years ago, thousands of people sent petitions; hundreds sent letters. I received some letters from people who said their faith in the Senate was restored by this bill.

The Rules of the Senate, as you well know, permitted adjournment after adjournment, delay after delay. Senator Comeau in his remarks on second reading said that in his area PWCs are called Terry Mercer crafts. Other senators have been just as effective in delaying the passage of the bill until it was patently obvious that there was not sufficient time for the House of Commons to deal with it before an election call or prorogation. It was twice introduced in the other place and received considerable support there, but died very soon thereafter on the Order Paper.

Passage has been strategically delayed time and time again. We have been fortunate because we have had so many prorogations and elections in this particular time. Former ardent supporters have quietly lost hope in this institution acting wisely, and in this bill. It is a tragedy that our rules can be manipulated and the result every summer has been the failure to prevent preventable deaths.

If you choose to pass this bill, there is no question that it will not ban PWCs everywhere. It would be useful to the few communities who have expressed interest to the Coast Guard in using the means of a note in an existing schedule. I will go on to tell you how the minister's change could help. You could choose, however, to delay it while you look more closely at the regulatory solution the minister proposed almost two years ago. He or his officials could tell you precisely what was meant when he confirmed the policy shift in a December 2006 letter to me. I think you have a copy of the letter. It said, in part, ``Where it has been determined that a particular type or types of craft are the cause of a problem, these craft can be made the subject of a boating restriction using the existing boating restriction regulations.'' As of last month, these are named vessel operating restrictions regulations.

The same wording was used in a letter to deputy ministers of transportation in the provinces. You may want to determine how far down the line the word has spread by posing questions to some of the provincial officials who administer the regulations on the ground. You would also want to know what sort of effort has been made by the Coast Guard to let communities know this option is available. This information is really buried in a bureaucratic piece. Only newspapers in Quebec paid much attention to it, two summers ago, and then only for a day or two.

I also have a copy of the legal opinion that was given to us, although the department then asked for it back, because that has been one of the things — this could not be legal. You can ask the minister or his officials what was meant by the apparent policy shift and the willingness to reinterpret an existing regulation to get the job done.

You can determine why, in almost three years since the legal opinion was delivered, the regulatory alternative has not been implemented. You can answer for yourselves the real question about whether still more ways have been found to delay what the Coast Guard proposed 14 years ago or whether the minister's solution is the way to end that 14-year delay.

I just want point out the difference the minister's change has made.

Under the former system it was possible for a cottage association to start the process of applying for a boating regulations restriction, although on many occasions they had to go through the provincial authority. The new system defines local authority only as government entities, municipal, provincial or federal. This bill defines a local authority as a cottage association or a park authority that the minister determines to be a local authority for the purposes of this act.

Critics may call this unelected officials, et cetera, but, after all, it was an attempt in the bill to allow local communities, who know their lakes better than some official, to be able, after proper consultation to get what they want to happen on their lake.

The old local authorities guide was chummy and aimed at cottage associations and other ordinary folks. It talked about you, your neighbours and the community. That is what has been lost through this regulation, namely, any opportunity for a little organization to come to transport. They must first woo a municipality or a department.

However, what has been gained can also be found in the guide. It says, ``Submissions for a boating restriction under the BRRs can target a particular type or types of craft that are the cause of the problem.'' The minister's press release specifically includes personal watercraft. The minister has made that change.

Will this work. The fact that this bill has been around and that lobbyists have been hired, just for me — I actually thought that was a compliment; they followed me around. It is called putting the feet to the fire. I leave it to your choice as to how you want to proceed. I did want to point out that since this bill was re-tabled and came here, the minister has taken some action.

I am now open to questions. I could go through the bill if you want, but that is tedious. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, Senator Spivak. We will leave it to questioning. I already have four senators on the list who want to pose questions to you.

Senator Spivak: I want to point out to you that the acoustics are very poor in this room. I can understand English very well. I understand French in normal conversation, but through translation, I may have a little problem.

The Deputy Chair: Just put the earpiece on, because it is translated.

Senator Dawson: No one has a better reputation of being nice than I, so I will be very nice.

Senator Spivak: Well, I do have a hearing problem.

The Deputy Chair: Before we start the questioning with Senator Dawson, I have a copy of the regulations and I would like to take a minute to explain this to the committee. This 172-page copy is entitled Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations and is dated April 30, 2008. It says:

Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, pursuant to sections 136 and 207 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, hereby makes the annexed Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations.

This is a lengthy document, which defines such things as personal watercraft and others. I would like to read clause 6 of the regulations, which states:

(6) No person shall operate a power-driven vessel or a vessel driven by electrical propulsion in the waters described in Schedule 7 for the purpose of towing a person on water skis, a surf board or any other similar equipment, except during the permitted hours set out in that Schedule, if any.

(7) No person shall operate a power-driven vessel at a speed in excess of 10 km/h within 30 m of the shore in the following waters:

(a) the waters of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta;

(b) the rivers and lakes in British Columbia;

Have you read these 172 pages?

Senator Spivak: Of course not. The one line that pertains to me is buried deep in there. I found the minister's press release, which states:

Our government is committed to the safety and security of all commercial and recreational users of Canadian waterways while protecting the environment, said Minister Cannon. To address the increase in traffic on our waterways, the regulations provide new national river rafting safety standards, and updated mechanisms to restrict the use of any type of vessel, including personal watercraft, on designated waters.

Who can apply for a schedule? Only a government authority can make the application.

The Deputy Chair: Would the minister's regulations, which none of us have read, satisfy you if they included such entities as you have outlined in your remarks today such as cottage associations, park authorities, and so on, so that they would have some authority in addition to the government?

Senator Spivak: That would be a very good addition. I would love that. The other thing is that the bureaucracy is tough. At any stage — and I have lived through this in a neighbouring lake to mine — if you are applying for something, not personal watercraft but for something else, any bureaucrat can say to you: ``That is it. It is finished. You cannot proceed.'' There is that problem, too, which is why, in this bill; I thought it would be great if people could communicate with the minister without 17 levels becoming involved. They could only do that if everyone in the community or if a majority in their local authority concurred. The minister has the power to define that. You cannot call yourself a ``local authority'' according to this bill. The minister must define that term.

I thought, being a true conservative, that local control was important — not that I am pandering.

Senator Dawson: There are probably 20 pages of rules and 150 pages of the names of the lakes and the numbers of the lakes. It is really about 25 pages that are of interest. It is not that constraining.

Senator Spivak: I forgot to mention that I have a wonderful research assistant who has read every word.

Senator Dawson: It could be interesting. For the sake of practicality, we could exclude the schedule of lakes, but the regulations in English and in French could be distributed to us eventually. I do not think the finding of the lakes in Saskatchewan and in Quebec would be of interest, but it is interesting.

I was reading the minister's letter to you, dated December 2006. He says, ``I understand that the pace of processing proposed amendments is expected to accelerate in 2007.'' Would that be the result of that process? You do not know?

Senator Spivak: I do not know what the minister is referring to.

Senator Dawson: I guess the minister or someone from the department will appeal here. This letter seems to be saying that we agree with her objectives and we are moving in the right direction.

I live on a lake. I do not have a personal watercraft; I have a boat. I think it is probably as noisy and probably does as much trouble as the watercraft — not that I do not want to use my boat.

How do you make the distinction between watercraft and boat?

Senator Spivak: First, this is not targeted for noise. I think that is a municipal decision. This bill does not talk about noise. I wish it would, however.

A personal watercraft can go very close to the shore. There are many of them. I know the new ones are four-stroke, but many of them are still two-stroke. Do you know how polluting a two-stroke motor is? It is unbelievable. About 40 per cent of gas and oil goes right into the lake.

Also, descriptions of how the steering mechanism works is contained in some of the background material that I provided. There have been horrific accidents. I am not an expert in this. Due to the way the machine is constructed — without a rudder or whatever — you cannot stop it the same way. That information is in the background material.

If you surf the net you will see that PWCs, are used for extreme sports; they are built for speed and thrills. That is great in places where you do not have loons, people fishing and children swimming. Boats are boats. In very narrow circumstances, if you have a high-horsepower boat, you are looking for trouble. That is what happened in the Eastern Townships and Lake Massawippi. They did not consult with the federals. They thought they had an exemption for drinking water; a protected water area. In Nova Scotia or New Brunswick or whatever, it can be a provincial thing.

The federal government has never challenged a place like Whistler — that banned it — and other places. If they would challenge it, the courts would have to find that the federal government has sole authority over all navigable waters in this country.

Senator Dawson: Lake Massawippi, if I understand correctly, succeeded in controlling them.

Senator Spivak: They have so far, although the federal representative there said, ``You cannot do this.'' Apparently, if they want to eliminate it, they would have to go to court. So far, the federal government has not gone to court anywhere. Municipalities have taken the reins into their own hands and decided they have to ban these watercraft, whether it is for water or small lakes.

It is one thing when you have a little lake with people who have lived there for years and there are these watercraft zooming around and creating havoc; on a huge body of water it is quite another.

Senator Dawson: I will be the Conservative saying «less is better» in the sense that if there are regulations and the situation seems to be getting under control, passing a bill, when we do not really need it, to extend power to a group of people to decide they are the local authority on a lake —

Senator Spivak: They cannot make that decision; that is a decision for the minister.

Senator Dawson: Letting the minister decide who will control my lake is not something I like much better.

Senator Spivak: Someone has to make the decision.

Senator Dawson: Yes, but most of these lakes are under some kind of governance of one kind or another. At minimum, they fall under provincial jurisdiction.

I do believe some controls have to be established. However, if I am told by the minister, the department and the rules and regulations that the situation is getting under control, I would rather put pressure so that people take control of their lakes rather than pass another piece of legislation that might be detrimental to the rules and regulations that seem to be headed in the right direction.

Senator Spivak: I cannot disagree with you. I have to point out one thing, however. Thus far, not a single schedule exists for prohibitions for PWCs.

Senator Dawson: That is what I want to see. I did not get to read all the regulations. It seemed clear.

Again, I am still looking at the evolution. A good example would be the former Sea-Doo from Bombardier. That watercraft began as a one-person watercraft and evolved into a two-person watercraft. Now you can sit four people on a Sea-Doo. When does it stop being a PWC and become a boat? They are awkward vehicles, but I would like to know how we could regulate when it changes its nature.

Senator Spivak: I think you have to look at the statistics. You have to see that personal watercraft have a much higher rate of injuries and deaths than normal boats, considering the amount. Those statistics come from hospital associations and, I believe, the Red Cross of Canada. It is your choice. I do not think this is a problem that does not exist; it does exist.

Senator Dawson: I recognize it, too, and I agree with you. However, I am saying that if there is a solution that has evolved because of the pressure being put on it the last six or seven years, I first of all congratulate you if you have succeeded in convincing the Department of Transport.

My questions probably will be applying to the department more than to Senator Spivak.

The Chair: They will be coming next week.

Senator Massicotte: Thank you for being with us. I share your concerns. I live near a river and I appreciate there is a problem. I have tried to do something with the river I live on to try to diminish the presence of PWCs. Our problem was not PWCs; it was what I call the ``cigarette boats,'' the fast-moving longboats. I share Senator Dawson's point of view, saying, ``Why only PWCs, why not all watercraft?'' I appreciate your opinion on the guidance system. Both are the same thing. They are equally a danger.

I will also raise another issue. From what I read of your bill, if a local order, after consulting with the population and so on, makes a recommendation to the minister, with rare exception, the minister has no choice but to add that waterway to its schedule. Am I correct in saying that?

Senator Spivak: No, I do not think so. The minister has to make a decision that it does not impede navigation.

Senator Massicotte: I read that. It is specific as to when he can object. He cannot say ``unreasonable demand.'' He has to say ``it impedes navigation or increases the danger'' and so on. There is not much discretion there.

The concern I would then have is a bit like Senator Dawson's: A bunch of cottagers form an association. They are not elected; they are not a city or a municipality. They decide this is their lake, whereas the lake actually belongs to the greater population. Does that not concern you a little bit?

Senator Spivak: It seems to me that the same procedures in the bill exist for the other 2,000 applications. In other words, you have to consult, you have to ensure that everyone knows and it has to be a majority kind of rule.

This is a democracy. Why do you think that the cottagers, homeowners on that lake, should not have the same say as everyone else? If a majority of them come together, can they not attempt to enforce something in a democratic way? Here is the other thing: Many of them have tried to do this. As I mentioned to you before, because of the process, they are cut off. That is not fair, either.

I think the provisions here are as fair, as equitable and as reasonably constrained as any kind of situation in which you have a number of people, perhaps with conflicting views, but with a majority rule.

Senator Massicotte: Under your definition, what is a cottage association? Many lakes are serviced by maybe thousands of people who come up to the lake, dock their boat and go to the beach. Therefore it is accessible to many people.

However, a cottage association is usually, from what I have seen up North, comprised of the people on the lake. You may have 20, 30 or 40 cottages. They form an association. Your definition is ``cottage association.'' They say: ``No, I want to prohibit the use of PWCs'' despite the fact that you may have 20,000 people using that lake. It is a very small auto-proclaimed association saying ``no.''

Senator Spivak: First, the minister has to decide what local authority is and whether that cottage association is a local authority. I doubt very much your example of a little lake with 30 cottages and 40,000 visitors. That is a hypothetical example.

There is enough built into it. It seems to me that a lake has many uses. There are cottagers, canoers, fishers, swimmers and, around my cottage, divers. There are many different uses. It is like a forest. A forest has many different uses.

It is not always easy to come to a decision, but I am of the view that extreme sports vehicles belong where it is suitable. It is not my decision, but they do not always belong on a little lake with all these other activities going on.

Perhaps you have a different view.

Senator Massicotte: There are many people on the river that I am on. In fact, there are probably 20 or 30 of us on that little piece of land. They were picketing this past week. They do not want any other waterway, yet it services thousands of people who come to this river. Why would the 30 people decide? That is the debate the city is having.

Senator Spivak: Maybe they would not. Maybe the minister would be of your view and suggest that is not a legitimate local authority.

The Deputy Chair: Senator Massicotte spoke about the high-powered long and fast cigarette boats. Do you not think something should be done to permit the people who have the cottages along that place to do something about those because of safety?

Senator Spivak: They can, particularly now with this regulation. I agree with you. I have had many people talk to me about those boats. Frankly, one of the major problems in Canada, especially in Ontario, which are heavily used, is enforcement of the rules and the ability to ensure that these waterways are safe.

I still go back to that. If you look at the statistics and the history, there is a much higher ratio of injuries and deaths to the number of PWCs compared to the number of boats. Those injuries are often not from drowning but from blunt trauma. You are shaking your head because you know that. That is the case.

I chose this small area because of this personal experience where this poor young guy was beheaded by a boat. I did not realize it would be a lifetime's work, nor did I understand how many other things went wrong. In the course of it, I have learned a great deal.

Obviously, this minister is looking at what can be done. I am just saying to you that it is not the whole story, and it is up to you to decide.

I have to say that throughout this whole process, I would have been very much happier if the regulations had been changed properly, and they were not, until yesterday. Even so, in my opinion, they did not go far enough. Maybe they will.

Senator Massicotte: Senator Spivak, you said that for the cigarette boats, there is something they can do. What can they do to resolve it that they cannot do for PWCs?

Senator Spivak: Up until now, lobbyists saw PWCs, as not the same type of boat, so they were not included in the regulations. The minister now says, ``Any type of vessel, including personal watercraft.'' That was not the case before.

Senator Massicotte: That seems to suggest that cigarette boats are no problem; you can do something about them. However, if you can do something about it for PWCs, it comes back to this question: What is the problem, if we can do something about it?

Senator Spivak: As I indicated to you before the first problem is that only a government body can do that, not a local authority, such as a cottage association or whatever. Second, at any point in the process, a bureaucrat can say something. Third, it can take up to four years to get anything done. It is bureaucracy, like everything else.

I appreciate that the minister is trying to do this. I think that is great. Hopefully, we will see better times. I do not know.

Senator Merchant: I am probably the only person here who is not speaking from personal experience. When we were first married and had one child, we tried a cottage and we could not get anyone to do the work. My husband did not want to do the work, so we quickly sold our cottage. I have only been to cottages when people invite us over.

When I first was appointed to the Senate, cottage owners told me that Senator Spivak was doing some very good work. That was only five years ago, so you have been working at this for a while. They mentioned that you were working on this personal watercraft issue.

I contacted those people just yesterday, the same people who had spoken to me before. I told them this bill was before us again. They commented that there have been some improvements made to the watercraft and that their local municipality had taken action. They did not seem to want to push the proposed legislation.

You mentioned that in the U.S. there have been improvements. You said there were all these petitions over time. Does the same company make that watercraft in Canada?

Senator Spivak: Yes.

Senator Merchant: If there has been regulation there, why have they not caught on in Canada that they should do the same?

Senator Spivak: There is excellent lobbying here, as I pointed out to you, even in 1994. It is like everything else. California has certain standards for cars; we still do not have them although I think Quebec is coming up with those standards.

Senator Merchant: Will there be any problem with enforcement? How do you enforce? Who is the overseer?

Senator Spivak: It is a big problem. That is definitely a government responsibility, perhaps it is municipal.

Senator Merchant: They have the bodies in little lakes. Is there someone out there who will be able to do this?

Senator Spivak: There is the RCMP, and how many of them are there? In my own city of Winnipeg, with two rivers, they wanted to put in PWCs. The city council would not allow it. PWCs are not allowed on the rivers. The rivers are narrow, and in Winnipeg, there is huge erosion of the riverbanks, so city council does not allow this type of personal watercraft on the river.

As I explained to you before, in some areas, municipalities have stepped up to the plate. The federal government has not challenged that but they could challenge it. I believe that Winnipeg used the noise issue. Yes, municipalities are taking on the burden and that is fine, but there are still many areas where the federal government could step in.

Senator Merchant: There still has to be enforcement.

Senator Spivak: That is a government issue, but I do not know what can be done. Certainly, they would have to hire more people and create stiffer fines. Getting a boating license is a joke; anyone can get such a license.

Senator Johnson: I am thrilled that this bill is before us today, senator. As you know, I have been supportive for seven years. The trip is getting to be a long one but we will persevere.

I am concerned about Lake Winnipeg where you cannot enjoy a summer afternoon without being disturbed by these watercraft. It is not only that they are on the lake but where they go on the lake given their size and speed. On our beach, I have not noticed that people who drive them are licensed. They are supposed to have a driver's licence, but this does not happen. We see kids driving these watercraft.

In an area like Lake Winnipeg, it would be necessary to have several different applications from the various areas, such as Victoria Beach and Winnipeg Beach. Would it be possible to do just one for the entire lake or would each association have to make an application?

Senator Spivak: That would be possible if there were consultation between the minister and the boating authorities. At the moment, it is in the hands of the government. Around Lake Winnipeg, we have Gimli Beach, Winnipeg Beach and others.

Senator Johnson: Wherever there are cottages around that big lake you would have to do individual applications or one big association application.

Senator Spivak: You cannot do them individually. You need a petition from all of them to go for one application.

Senator Johnson: You would need to have a petition from each cottage association in each region of the lake.

Senator Spivak: Are you asking in reference to this bill?

Senator Johnson: Yes.

Senator Spivak: You would have to have a number of cottage associations, but I am not sure.

Senator Johnson: It is a problem on these bigger lakes that are also used for recreation.

Senator Spivak: There again, it would be at the discretion of the minister, and rightly so because the minister has to make some of the decisions.

Senator Johnson: Is there anything being done on another level, such as licensing? There is no enforcement of that either.

Senator Spivak: Yes, I know, but I do not know whether anything else is being done.

Senator Johnson: Keep on going.

Senator Eyton: Senator Spivak, out of interest, does your family own a personal watercraft.

Senator Spivak: No.

Senator Eyton: Just testing.

Senator Spivak: Thank goodness.

Senator Eyton: I understand from your comments that the government is against your bill because, in general, the government does not feel it is necessary. Is that your understanding?

Senator Spivak: That was indicated by Senator Comeau in his remarks. I have had that indication before. Perhaps they might change their minds, who knows? However, Senator Comeau said in his remarks at the time that we do not need this bill.

Senator Johnson: Yes, that is what he said.

Senator Eyton: In the meantime, they have developed with new regulations that go part of the way.

Senator Spivak: That is true.

Senator Eyton: My understanding through it all is that the area where you still have a difference is in the definition of ``local authority.'' Your bill allows cottage associations to organize and make a representation.

Senator Spivak: Yes and my other concern is that there has not been much effort to promote this. In fact, it has been the opposite. As I mentioned in my remarks, it would be worth pursuing for the committee to see how far it is being pursued.

Senator Eyton: I admire and support the general principle behind the bill. However, I have trouble with the bill in part because of the uncertainty in the terms used therein. It says that the local authority includes a cottage association. You and I know that people on Bear Point in six cottages could get together, form an association and make a representation.

You have a great deal of faith in the minister but the minister will never see this. It will be a deputy of a deputy minister who will finally see it. There can be considerable pressure brought by more affluent or more important cottage owners who decide that they want a particular regime in their neighbourhood.

Senator Spivak: We are a country of many small lakes. I live on a small with probably 200 cottages, next door, is Lake of the Woods.

Senator Eyton: Do you have a sense that a cottage association covers a lake whereas it does not? Most associations in Ontario would be part of a lake or a point or a bay. There would be many small associations on a lake and the bill might prompt a group of 10-12 cottagers to get together, form an association and ask for this kind of restriction?

Senator Spivak: The bill was strongly supported by the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations until it was torpedoed from within. They went through these issues carefully.

Senator Eyton: I see two problems. One problem is the uncertainty of definitions such as ``cottage association'' and ``personal watercraft.'' If I put a cockpit in my vehicle of whatever size, it would no longer be a personal watercraft. The term ``interested persons who make representations to the minister,'' could mean persons from anywhere — Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto. The second problem is the complexity of having another government process looking after something that is substantially the same kind of activity. It seems that it is much better to do it by regulation.

Senator Spivak: You are quite right in saying that it is much better to do it by regulation; I have never disputed that. I presented this bill because I could not amend the regulations. If the regulations would go a step further, it would be better. What is the damage and what is the benefit?

My view is that Canada is the land of cottages; people love their cottage life. They are not interested in extreme sports vehicles in their areas. People who use extreme sports vehicles are not so concerned because they are not on their own lakes. In every case you and I cannot sit here and say that this will not work because 10 people will go to the minister and say that it is no good. It is a point of view. What is the greater good?

Senator Eyton: You are putting a lot of faith in the minister and his or her involvement. Of course in a practical sense it probably will not occur.

The Deputy Chair: Senator Merchant asked a good question about enforcement. With all of the regulations that the government is bringing through and the things you would like to see in relation to safety and so on, who will enforce it and how will it be enforced?

I will read to you a few of them from page 10. The enforcers can be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; a member of any harbour or river police force; a member of any provincial, county or municipal police force; a marine safety inspector, a pleasure craft safety inspector; a person employed as a park warden by Parks Canada et cetera.

It goes on and it is a whole page of them. This is the way that it would be enforced and so they often contract this out to some of these forces and agencies.

Senator Spivak: Absolutely, but here is the real story: If you look at Canada today there is very little enforcement; not a lot. Again, it will need an act of will by all the governments involved to make sure that this is a priority.

There was a terrible accident in Quebec not long ago where a grandfather and his little kids were all killed. Somehow in Quebec I guess that made a big impact, but I think it is just good housekeeping. For good enforcement to occur you need the government to step up, fund it, organize it, whatever level of government, and then it will happen, but right now it is not.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you. As you know, these regulations were only gazetted on April 30 and this is only May 7.

Senator Spivak: Exactly. That is what I am saying. They just happened.

The Deputy Chair: Are there further question, honourable senators?

If not, Senator Spivak, I want to say on behalf of the committee thank you very much for coming. You certainly know your subject matter very well and I suppose after seven years you ought to. You were able to answer the questions with a lot of detail and knowledge and we thank you for that.

Honourable senators, this study will continue. At the next meeting, we will hear from officials from the department and following that, we will be hearing from the National Marine Manufacturers Association. There are more witnesses to be heard on this subject; however, next week when the department comes, we can certainly ask them about these new regulations.

Senator Spivak: I want to tell you but I am sure you know; there is a lot of testimony that I am sure if you wish you could get from previous committees, which is why I myself am not interested in calling any witnesses because it has been done. I just point that out for your information.

Thank you for having me.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much.

The committee adjourned.


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