Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
Issue 15, Evidence
OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 13, 2002
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural
Resources, to which was referred Bill S- 10, concerning personal watercraft in
navigable waters, met this day at 5:45 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Tommy Banks (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, we will hear first, as a panel,
witnesses from the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association, the Canadian
Yachting Association and the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council.
Mr. Barry Cameron, Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association: Honourable
senators, thank you for giving us the opportunity to say a few words to the
committee. You have already received our brief, in which we suggest there are
four key contexts in which this bill could be viewed.
The first is the enabling power of the bill itself, whose flexibility we find
extremely attractive in that it allows the federal government to retain
jurisdiction over our waterways. At the same time, it recognizes a need for
control and choice in local areas when there is a problem that warrants some
kind of intervention from local authorities.
The second context in which this bill could be looked at is the problematic
safety and health issues that are inherent in the design and purpose of personal
The third is the specific environmental impact of personal watercraft on our
waterways, our adjoining landscapes and, of course, our wildlife that live on
the edge of the water.
The fourth is the uncivil, aberrant behaviour of many personal watercraft
operators themselves, which is bred by these irreverent machines.
I will not go over everything we have included in our brief. I do wish to add
to it and provide you with a couple of examples that illustrate each of these
Bill S-10 is enabling legislation, that is, it allows the federal government
to transfer power to an authority while retaining its own constitutional powers.
I want to give two examples of something that is happening at this moment where
this bill could be useful.
The former cities of Halifax and Dartmouth are now a particular region called
the ``Halifax Regional Municipality.'' There were a number of laws regulating
the lakes in that area that have been rescinded because of the amalgamation.
They have since approached the Coast Guard to find a way to create some
legislation that might allow for regulation on the five lakes in the Halifax
At the moment, they are in limbo. There are no laws, except what already
exists in legislation governing transportation, oceans and fisheries. Thus,
there are no serious regulations to control speeds or any type of motorized
vehicle on those particular lakes.
This is an instance in which transferring power to the municipality of
Halifax and Dartmouth would be useful. They are knowledgeable about what is
happening on the five lakes. This would give them an opportunity to provide some
kind of jurisdiction, regulation and even enforcement on those lakes.
A short while ago, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where I live, there was a
proposal for a hovercraft pleasure operation on the river in late spring during
the ice breakup. The municipality had no control whatsoever over that
hovercraft, except for where it might land. The municipality could decide where
it could dock, but had no control over what that hovercraft could do on the
water itself. It was licensed by Transport Canada because it was carrying
Two weeks before it was to come to Fredericton it had an accident on the
Kennebecasis River during ice breakup. There was a big piece of ice in front of
it and the boat had to jam on it is brakes. There were a number of children on
the boat, several of whom were injured. Needless to say, they ended up not
coming to Fredericton because of what happened that day on the Kennebecasis
My point is we had no control over what that boat could do. This matter is
beyond personal watercraft. I am simply pointing out how the proposed
legislation could be useful in dealing with other kinds of problematic
watercraft on our waters.
There are two other things that are worrisome. At the moment, less than 10
per cent of motorized vehicles on our waterways are personal watercraft.
However, their numbers are growing. In fact, some people have suggested that in
five years, 30 per cent of the motorized vessels on our waterways will be
What will be the situation five years from now if there are more of these
machines on our waters and they are even more problematic? The personal
watercraft industry complains that personal watercraft are being singled out in
this proposed legislation. The truth is that far from being singled out
unfairly, personal watercraft, because of a lack of regulation, and enforcement
in particular, are in some sense the most protected and privileged vehicles on
our public waters. They are operating with what I would call ``tacit permits.''
They have a tacit permit to pollute, to make excessive and obnoxious noise in
violation of laws against disturbing the peace. They have a tacit permit to
operate outside the traditional rules of the road. Their sole function is as a
stunt machine. They are designed for high-speed thrills.
What is especially worrisome in this context is the increased horsepower we
are beginning to see in recently designed personal watercraft such as the
four-stroke 155-horsepower Bombardier machine. That is an exorbitant amount of
The personal watercraft industry would also like to place the blame for
problems with personal watercraft on our waterways solely on the bad behaviour
of operators and not on the design or the operating features of the vehicle
There can be little doubt that the combination of power, speed, shallow draft
and manoeuvrability built into the personal watercraft profoundly influence
operator behaviour. The machine encourages you to speed. It encourages you to
manoeuvre quickly. The truth is that the vast majority of personal watercraft
have no braking facility. You probably already know that if you turn the
throttle off, there is no way you can turn the machine. Some of the
manufacturers of new machines are working on ways to deal with that particular
issue, just as we are moving from two- stroke engines to four-stroke engines and
to fuel injection rather than a gasoline/oil mix. All these things are positive
steps. Obviously, the manufacturers have given in to some of the pressure from
the rest of us who are worried about these machines. That is a good thing.
The point is they cannot stop safely. Many accidents have taken place when
people have not been able to stop in time. In fact, in some of their brochures,
manufacturers point out how far in advance of wanting to stop you should turn
the throttle off. In most cases, it is around 375 feet. When you think about it,
that is an enormous stopping distance.
It should be no surprise that 70 per cent of personal watercraft accidents
are collisions, whether with other vessels, fixed objects or swimmers. What is
even more disturbing is that the number of accidents that involve collisions has
actually increased over the past five years. It should also be no surprise that
personal watercraft are the only vessels where the leading cause of fatalities
is not drowning, as in the case of canoes, but collision or blunt force trauma.
While other types of motorized watercraft also emit pollution, the
characteristics of the operational use of person watercraft, such as staying in
one area for long periods of time and the frequent acceleration and
deceleration, increase the impact of pollution. They play in one area for a long
time. That is their fun — the thrill, the stunt. However, that generates more
pollution. No matter whether it is a two-stroke or a four-stroke engine, they do
generate an enormous amount of pollution.
A typical personal watercraft discharges between 50 and 60 gallons of
unburned gasoline into the environment every year. That is a massive amount of
discharge that affects not only the quality of waters but also our wildlife.
I am suggesting this is the time to act. We need stronger regulation. We need
widespread enforcement of those regulations in an effort to keep our waterways
civil and available to all recreational users. People tend to leave particular
waterways when they see personal watercraft because it is uncomfortable sharing
the waters with them. Therefore, we need some kind of regulatory power. That is
why we support this bill. We think that transfer of authority to smaller groups,
such as regional municipalities and organizations, allows for more meaningful
regulation and broader enforcement.
In Fredericton, no one polices the waterways. No one polices between
municipality borders. Anything can happen in that water. Theoretically, the
local police go out about once a year. They check for licences on boats that are
already stationary. They do not look for anyone speeding. They do not look at
the mix between personal watercraft, motorboats and canoes.
I should also mention that we do not see this kind of offensive behaviour on
the water with ordinary motorboats, outboards or ordinary speedboats. It tends
to be just personal watercraft, which is why they are being singled out in this
proposed legislation as well. I am not blaming motorboats in general. I am
blaming a particular motorized vehicle and the particular behaviour that is bred
Mr. Randy Whaley, Chairman, Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council:
Honourable senators, I am a recreational boater. I do most of my cruising in
a powerboat in Georgian Bay. Although I see personal watercraft daily, I do not
own or drive one. I am past chair and president of the Ontario Boating Forum, a
group that was organized to protect the navigational rights of boaters.
As a volunteer, I currently serve as the Chair of the Ontario Region
Recreational Boating Advisory Council, to be referred to in the report as ORBAC.
This council is comprised of volunteers, all recreational boaters, who advise
Julian Goodyear, Regional Director of Central and Arctic Region of the Canadian
As chair of the Ontario council, I serve on the National Recreational Boating
Advisory Council, which advises John Adams, Commissioner of the Canadian Coast
The ORBAC advisers have been appointed by the regional director to provide
advice to the central and Arctic region of the Coast Guard on recreational
boating issues regarding safety and the environment. As advisers, they are
appointed based on their skills and knowledge in a particular area of
recreational boating, such as cruising, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, tourism,
cottage use, et cetera, but not for their affiliation with any organization,
association or commercial interest.
I tell you this today to demonstrate the balanced and sincere views that will
be brought forward in this report from the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory
Council. This council, which represents roughly half of the recreational boaters
in Canada, is well respected for its work by the Canadian Coast Guard and other
councils and organizations across Canada.
I want to tell you more about the development of ORBAC's recommendations on
Bill S-10. Bill S-10 was introduced as an agenda item on January 17, 2003 at
ORBAC's winter meeting in Toronto. It was evident during the meeting that there
were differing opinions, as well as considerable opposition to the bill, and
that further discussion would be required for the council to develop a clear
position. As a result, a subcommittee was established with the mandate to
present recommendations to the regional director and to the chair, myself. The
subcommittee met on February 12, 2003 and consisted of six members of ORBAC with
particular skills in law enforcement, regulations and legislation, and operator
The subcommittee members had interests or participated in powerboating and
sailing, or boated at the cottage. The members represented a broad spectrum of
different recreational vessel users. I give honourable senators this background
and information on the subcommittee members to further demonstrate that this
submission is based on a balance and the unbiased opinions of knowledgeable
individuals with no commercial interest in the passage or rejection of Bill
The subcommittee's report was returned to the regional director at our ORBAC
spring meeting, held on April 24, 2003. The following is a synopsis of the
What did the ORBAC determine? The subcommittee identified that a problem
exists; otherwise, Bill S-10 would not be before them. The characteristics of
personal watercraft, such as the ability to stop, turn or start quickly, to
travel close to shore or in shallow water and to jump waves contrast with most
other power-driven vessels.
As a result of these characteristics, cottage or landowners, in particular,
are concerned about safety, noise, environmental damage and reckless or careless
operation of a vessel.
The subcommittee recognized that alternative solutions are a more appropriate
method of addressing these concerns than Bill S-10. They stated that many of the
concerns raised in support of Bill S-10 ignore the fact that the issues and
actions described as needing to be curbed are already covered by existing
legislation and regulation and that Bill S-10 might short-circuit the process
that already exists under the boating restriction regulations.
This could lead to cottagers or local landowners being able to affect federal
legislation regarding navigation without providing equal and due input from
The committee determined that the primary root of the problem that initiated
Bill S-10 is the behaviour of the operator and not the vessel. The subcommittee
stated that some of the reasons for improper operation might include not being
an educated or trained boater, not being familiar with the operating and
handling characteristics of the personal watercraft and not being a courteous
boater and/or neighbour.
They also stated that in which areas PWCs are operating in proximity to other
shared users of the waterway might be one the biggest factors in this issue. The
subcommittee agreed that to adequately address these issues, the boating
restriction regulations needed to be updated and the process refined in order to
expedite new regulatory requests.
What did the ORBAC subcommittee recommend? In its simplest form, the Ontario
Recreational Boating Advisory Council, as a result of the subcommittee's report,
is proposing the following new initiatives. First, that a schedule be created
within the boating restriction regulations that would address specific types of
behavioural operation of all vessels. Such behaviours must be easily
identifiable for the purposes of enforcement. Some examples we propose are wake
jumping, driving in circular patterns, and proximity — the operation of a
power vessel too close to shore, or too close to other vessels, obstacles,
swimmers or swimming areas, each to be defined as the schedule is created.
Second, that we improve the current boating restriction regulation process,
which is too slow. We have recognized this for some time. One simple way of
speeding things up is to allow the process to be activated at a minimum of four
times per year rather than the current once a year. If people miss the
submission deadline by one day, they have to wait an entire year before the
process can begin again.
I am confident that a small committee of representatives from the
recreational boating community can come up with other means of improving the
Third, ban the nighttime operation of personal watercraft.
Since the issuance of this report, the committee has continued to research
restrictions in other countries. We are prepared to make specific
recommendations on that at a later date.
It is important to note that nowhere do the council's recommendations single
out PWCs, save for the proposed amendment to the small vessel regulations
regarding nighttime operation. This is critical, as we as boaters do not wish to
single out or discriminate against one type of vessel or boat.
If PWCs concern some people today, then kids water skiing all day long were
yesterday's concern, and there will certainly be some new type of boat that will
be tomorrow's problem.
To pass regulations or legislation that attempts to deal with the boat and
not the boater will not work. Our proposal focuses on the vessel operator, not
the vessel, and we believe it will serve the long-term interests of boaters far
better than Bill S-10.
In summary, the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council supports the
alternatives submitted in this report and recommends that improvements be made
in the existing legislation and regulations to address the concerns of Canadian
boaters regarding the unsafe or irresponsible operation of any vessel in our
I want to assure this committee that these simple recommendations have good
support from representative organizations such as the Canadian Yachting
Association; the Ontario Provincial Police; the Ontario Federation of Cottage
Associations; Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons; the Canadian Coast Guard,
Central and Arctic Region; the Ontario Sailing Association; the Ontario Boating
Forum; and the Ontario Marina Operators Association.
On behalf of the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council, I wish to
extend our thanks for the opportunity to speak to the standing Senate committee
Mr. Michael Vollmer, Vice-President, Recreation, Canadian Yachting
Association: Honourable senators, I too am a boater. The Canadian Yachting
Association is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1931. It acts as a
national authority for sailing in Canada and is recognized around the world for
excellence in both sail and power training programs for all boaters,
recreational boating activities, and competitive sailing.
The association represents the interests of 10 provincial associations, 258
clubs, 52 boating schools and 31 class associations.
Over 80,000 people are active members of these organizations. We promote the
sport of boating through collaboration with and support of our partners and
Canada has a unique, tremendous perspective in the world of recreational
boating. We have seacoasts on three oceans. We have, literally, inland seas and
a myriad of other waters from coast to coast. We own more boats per capita than
all but one or two other countries in the world. We draw on a boating heritage
that stretches back through our First Nations.
According to the Lifesaving Society, over half the population of Canada goes
out in a boat at least once a year. Canadians are boaters nonpareil, and their
interests cover every conceivable waterway in our country. The recreational
boating community is a vibrant, intrinsic part of the Canadian experience.
We want to ensure that any attempt to regulate this community follows the
well-established system of legislation and regulation already in place. This
body of law recognizes the place of boating in Canada. It has adequate, built-in
safety and environmental protections. More important, any restrictions on
boating activities are arrived at only after adequate consultation with the
The Canadian Yachting Association, as an active participant in the
recreational boating community, recognizes the need for some restrictions on
boating for safety or environmental reasons. The pursuit of a safe boating
environment is central to our reason for being, and without a clean marine
environment, the enjoyment of our sport would be greatly diminished.
Bill S-10 is based on the premise that personal watercraft have particular
safety and environmental problems. Furthermore, the existing boating regulations
apparently provide insufficient regulation of personal watercraft and more
regulation is required.
We believe that there are present regulations under the Canada Shipping Act,
the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Criminal Code and various acts under
the purview of the Department of Environment sufficient to protect the public's
interest in safety and the environment. Penalties for infractions can be severe,
though for the most part, the scale of fines levied under the Contraventions Act
is reasonable. All of these regulations apply equally to all vessels on all
waters in Canada, personal watercraft included. This is an important concept.
All vessels and their operators are treated equally.
The safety of PWCs raises a fundamental issue in this bill. The Canadian
Yachting Association is a member of a number of boating safety and educational
organizations. In our experience, none of the data that has been presented by
any of these groups suggest that personal watercraft have a particular safety
problem, and according to some studies, they appear to be safer than canoes,
kayaks and rowboats. Safety of personal watercraft does not appear to be a real
With respect to environmental issues, it is obvious even to the casual
observer that newer personal watercraft are far cleaner and quieter than models
from several years ago. Many of our members operate other types of vessels with
conventional carbureted two-stroke engines, the same engines that are found in
personal watercraft. These engines are not as clean as the newer,
direct-injected two-cycle engines, and certainly less clean than four-stroke
engines. If environmental issues are a central concern of this bill, then
literally hundreds of thousands of existing engines will need to be replaced, at
untold cost to our community. Environmental issues associated with PWCs are
shared by many other vessels on the water and are not unique to this one type.
With respect to the assertion that the boating restriction regulations are
ineffective, we would argue the opposite. The BRRs allow certain bans or
limitations to be placed on vessels that cover all the situations envisaged in
Bill S-10. There is a formal process requiring consultation with all affected
parties. A request for a restriction must be made by a ``designated authority''
or a ``designated provincial authority,'' implying some form of electoral
responsibility. There are adequate sections dealing with enforcement and
signage. These regulations have been found to be effective from coast to coast
on all types of water. The process is fair and open, with considerable
opportunity for public input at each step. We are pleased with the current
We believe that Bill S-10, however, will allow ill-defined ``local
authorities'' to place bans or other restrictions on a specific type of vessel
— in this case, personal watercraft. As defined in the bill, local authorities
may include un-elected and often unrepresentative groups such as cottage
associations, park authorities and others. Other authorities mentioned are
municipal in nature. Consultation is only required with local residents and law
enforcement agencies. Boaters are not worthy of a formal mention.
The fundamental inclusiveness of the boating restriction regulations is
apparently ignored over the supposed rights of the shore dweller. Also ignored
in this bill is the public right of navigation.
The Honourable Justice La Forest of the Supreme Court of Canada made it very
clear in Whitbread v. Whalley, and I assure you it is not this gentleman,
that the law of navigation in Canada has two fundamental dimensions: The ancient
common law public right of navigation, and constitutional authority over the
subject matter of navigation, both of which are necessarily interrelated by
virtue of section 91(10) of the Constitution Act of 1867, which assigns
exclusive legislative authority over navigation to Parliament.
This public right of navigation dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Roman
road system finally deteriorated to the point where it became impassable. Rivers
and streams became the highways of the era, and local authorities were not
permitted to restrict the public's right to use them. This right followed common
law to Canada, where federal control over it was enshrined in the Constitution
The waters of Canada are for the use of all, and they are not to be divided
piecemeal among local authorities, even municipal ones. Many of the local
authorities mentioned in Bill S-10 are municipalities, and as such, are
Justice La Forest also noted that the provinces are constitutionally
incapable of enacting legislation authorizing any interference with navigation.
Yet, that is what Bill S-10 sets out to do. The effect of Bill S-10 is such that
when a local authority makes a request for a restriction or ban, the minister is
left with no discretion. He or she shall act to impose this restriction. To all
intents and purposes, the federal control over navigation is ceded to these
local groups. We believe this is an unwarranted delegation of the federal powers
over navigation and would urge the committee to reject the bill on these grounds
Some might argue that clause 6 of the bill gives the minister discretion, in
that if, in his or her opinion, navigation will be restricted, impeded or
obstructed, then the minister may refuse to implement the restriction. Except on
the limited issue of whether navigation will be restricted, the public process
of consultation seems to be illusory at the ministerial level. It would be our
contention, in fact, that free navigation would be impaired in one way or
another under every application sought under this bill.
Bill S-10 sets out to split off one type of vessel from a broad
classification. Personal watercraft are powerboats by definition under the
Canada Shipping Act. Many of our members own powerboats and some of them even
own personal watercraft. These vessels are already governed by the boating
restriction regulations. To create a new category not only seems excessive, but
opens the door to other vessels being singled out for discrimination. We view
Bill S-10 as the thin edge of the wedge, in that other classes of vessels, or
vessels from another area, for instance, cruising vessels, will become subject
to discriminatory local restrictions. We have seen this in Georgian Bay. Cottage
associations have attempted to prohibit other vessels from coming into their
waters. The waters of Canada are held for the use of all, not of some. Bill S-10
seems to view the rights of the local landowner as more important than the
rights of all Canadians to use their waters freely.
We feel there are several other flaws with Bill S-10. There are no signage or
enforcement provisions laid out, as there are in the current boating restriction
regulations. This poses a question of how a boater would be aware of any
restriction, or indeed how they would be caught violating the proposed
legislation. These are not insignificant shortcomings.
As well, there are no provisions for the coming into force of this proposed
legislation. What will happen to the existing boating restriction regulations
that already govern personal watercraft? Will they be exempt, or will they
somehow be covered under these new regulations? When will the new schedules be
set up? At the very best, we suggest there may be confusion, at the worst,
We submit that this proposed legislation is both insufficient and
duplicative. The intent of the bill is unfair and seeks to discriminate against
one type of vessel. The existing rules we operate under provide for a safe,
environmentally friendly use of our waters. They recognize the rights of all
Canadians to use the waters of our country in a responsible manner. We urge you
to reject this bill as unnecessary and contrary to the spirit of the boaters who
founded this country. Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you.
The Chairman: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, I commend your
attention to the clock. In the interests of getting through in a civilized time,
I would like to move to the next set of witnesses at about a quarter to seven. I
invite questions of the witnesses.
Senator Milne: I will start with Mr. Cameron. Last week, we had a
witness before us who was quoting statistics, as you have in your brief. I asked
him to find the source of those statistics and send it to us. I assume he has
not yet done so.
In your brief, you are quoting something called ``Hostile Waters.'' Is that a
magazine or a publication, and is it American or Canadian?
Mr. Cameron: It is a research document produced by the American Canoe
Association. I had urged the committee to read that document because many of the
issues raised in it are equally applicable to Canadian waters. The statistics
obviously will not be the same. In fact, there are far more boats in the United
States than in Canada. It is difficult to get accurate figures in Canada, as
some of you on this committee probably know. For example, the data on boating
accidents are compiled from only 5 general hospitals and 10 children's
hospitals. How do you read it? Do you read it as an index of a larger issue? How
do you take the data?
It is like looking at fatalities. I have statistics from the local
organization that tracks deaths from drowning and exposure. They do not track
blunt-force trauma or other types of deaths. They do not mention any kind of
accidents that might occur from, say, a personal watercraft running into a dock
or another vessel.
I phoned the Coast Guard myself, as some of you may have, the Office of
Boating Safety. I have still to hear back from them. As far as I know, they do
not track these themselves. I know the RCMP tracks some of them. Some of the
data I have given in the brief are from the American Canoe Association. Some are
from the little I could find in a Canadian context.
Senator Milne: You say that PWCs are involved in 55 per cent of all
collisions between vessels, even though they account for less than 10 per cent
of vessels. Where does that statistic come from?
Mr. Cameron: That comes from ``Hostile Waters.''
Senator Milne: It comes from this American publication.
Mr. Cameron: Yes.
Senator Milne: Over 70 per cent of all PWC accidents are collisions of
Mr. Cameron: That combines what we know in Canada, from the statistics
we do have, with the statistics in the States. I tried to state whether it was
Canadian or American. If I indicated in Canada and the United States, I meant
the two combined.
Senator Milne: You did not say on this one.
Mr. Cameron: On that one I did not, but that does refer to combined
statistics between Canada and the United States. However, I am stressing how
problematic our Canadian statistics are. If anything should come out of this
committee, I would like to see an institution for tracking these kinds of
issues, because we do not have good, hard data in Canada. Distinguishing between
powerboat accidents and personal watercraft accidents sometimes is done and
sometimes not, so we definitely have to do something in that area, no matter
what we do with this bill.
Senator Milne: Where possible, we should have some documentation on
the source of these statistics and where you put them together, so that we know
we are looking at something factual and not just a ballpark figure.
Mr. Cameron: I believe I stated where they were from. The points I
made were elaborations of that document. I can make things clearer, if you wish,
in a subsequent submission of some sort.
The Chairman: It would help if you would send that information to the
Mr. Cameron: Yes.
Senator Spivak: In your briefs on this bill, many of the statistics
come from the United States Coast Guard, because our Coast Guard does not keep
Mr. Cameron: It would be a good idea if they did.
Senator Milne: I assume from your brief that you are in favour of the
bill that is before us.
Mr. Cameron: Absolutely.
Senator Milne: The other two gentlemen are not.
Mr. Cameron: That is correct.
Senator Milne: It may be a poor choice, putting them together as a
I am interested, Mr. Vollmer, in some of the points you made about
constitutional authority and whether this is in breach of the Constitution Act
of 1867. It might be worthwhile for the committee to hear from someone who knows
something about the Constitution Act of 1867 and get a proper opinion on that
The Chairman: That is as regards waterways.
Senator Milne: Yes. There is no point in us passing a bill if it is
thrown out of court as being unconstitutional.
The Chairman: We can certainly get an opinion on that subject.
In that connection, Mr. Vollmer, there are no absolute rights anywhere for
any kind of vehicle. Would you agree with that?
Mr. Vollmer: I will defer to the constitutional expert on that matter.
With respect to the constitutional authority of the federal government over
boating and navigation, probably the most recent case, and I would commend this
to your legal counsel, is R. v. Kupchanko, before the B.C. Supreme Court.
It found clearly that the province, which had attempted to enact a piece of
legislation restricting boating, had no role in that matter.
Senator Milne: That concerns the division of powers between federal
government and provincial government, which is a little different.
The Chairman: Talking off the top of my head here, if the power
resides in the Government of Canada, one assumes that the Government of Canada
can devolve that power if it wishes.
Mr. Vollmer: I would agree. My association represents boaters across
the country. We have a uniform set of rules, regulations and processes at the
present time. We do not have a piecemeal approach such as is found in the United
States, where each municipality creates its own boating rules. It becomes
impossible for boaters to obey the law because they have no idea what the law
is. We in Canada are blessed with a uniform set of regulations and legislation.
We would urge that that power not be devolved in any way, shape or form.
Senator Spivak: Mr. Vollmer, it is absolutely correct that the federal
government has complete jurisdiction over navigation in waters and the bill
absolutely accepts that. However, the truth is that we have at least 1,000
schedules all across Canada. In some places, where local people have used the
boating regulations, boats are not allowed. For example, in a little lake next
to mine, boats have been banned. That is on the books. In some areas, they only
allow electric-powered boats. In some areas, they do not allow waterskiing. Some
provinces have a regulation of 10 feet from the shore.
I do not know how you justify the suggestion that this is any different, when
we have different situations, based on the local authority, across the country.
That in no way treads upon the federal power, because the federal power over
navigation is paramount.
Mr. Vollmer: In the existing boating restriction regulations there are
four or five schedules with many different restrictions under them. The process
that a restriction goes through requires some form of local government to
support it, not a potentially un-elected or unrepresentative body. It is
forwarded, in some cases, to a provincial government, and in other cases,
directly to the Coast Guard. For instance, the Office of Boating Safety in B.C.
handles all of the applications for boating restrictions in British Columbia.
They ensure, as part of the process, that there has been adequate public
consultation at the local level. The Coast Guard does this in B.C. because the
government, which had previously been doing it, forwarded some applications
where there was no local consultation.
The process then goes to Ottawa. It is established that the restriction is
properly supported. It is federal legislation and regulation. Then it proceeds
on that basis.
Bill S-10 is oriented in such a manner that once the local authority, which
may or may not be an elected body, decides it wants a regulation, under section
5, the minister has no discretion. He or she ``shall'' proceed. Virtually every
other piece of federal regulation or legislation I have looked at says ``may.''
This is a big difference, and we as a boating organization have faced many
restrictions in other areas, as I mentioned in my speech.
We have had discussions with cottage associations on Georgian Bay, where they
sought to prohibit anyone else from using their waters. People have told me they
have had to ask boats to move at night because they were interfering with their
view. It is my view, too.
To create a potential for a local municipality to, in essence, impose its own
restrictions is a dangerous precedent.
Senator Spivak: That is impossible, however. In the only places where
it has been done, like in Saanich Bay, it would be lost if it were challenged.
All of the jurisdictions are not that way, but that is not what this bill
However, I do want to ask you this question: Are you saying that you are not
opposed to any more schedules being put before the minister, because there could
be 1,000 more?
Mr. Vollmer: You are confusing schedules and restrictions.
Senator Spivak: I am not. That is the way restrictions are put in,
Mr. Vollmer: Yes.
Senator Spivak: I want to ask a question of Mr. Cameron.
Senator Milne asked about the B.C. Yachting Association. When that
organization's representative was here he was opposed to the bill, and he also
left the impression that he represented the canoeists in British Columbia, whom
he said were also opposed to the bill. Can you clarify that? Is that accurate?
Mr. Cameron: That is not my understanding. We have regional
organizations within our national organization. As I recall, we have regional
organizations in every province except Prince Edward Island, and the B.C.
canoeing association is part of our organized constituency. I have no idea how
he could claim to represent canoeists officially.
Is that your reference?
Senator Spivak: Yes.
Mr. Cameron: Did he claim that he represented B.C. canoeists?
Senator Spivak: Yes.
Mr. Cameron: I do not think so.
Senator Spivak: Are there any other specific experiences that your
members have had in encountering personal watercraft drivers that you have not
had a chance to relate to this committee?
Mr. Cameron: There are a couple of things. I will call it ``a new and
dangerous trend.'' I expect you have heard of the reversing falls on the Saint
John River. We now have personal watercraft running the reversing falls in Saint
John, New Brunswick. I have seen personal watercraft running rapids on the
Ottawa River with whitewater boats and whitewater kayaks.
I have also seen personal watercraft on the ocean, as have some of our
members, surfing waves, trying to find the tidal pools, and I believe those are
incredibly dangerous activities. You can say they have the right to do it under
the current legislation. The regulations do not prohibit that kind of behaviour,
however, I see that as a particularly dangerous trend when coupled with the
increased horsepower of these new personal watercraft.
At some point, even if we stay with the federal regulations, as my colleague
here is suggesting — which I think are not enforced at all in countless
municipalities across the country and we support this bill because it might lead
to actual enforcement — this is a dangerous trend.
The Chairman: If the police do not enforce existing regulations, why
do you think they would enforce these?
Mr. Cameron: It would allow people with a concern about personal
watercraft in a particular area to politicize the issue. I could come before
council in Fredericton and talk the environmental committee into imposing some
kind of legislation on the Saint John River in the Municipality of Fredericton.
I do not have an opportunity to do that now. No one can control what happens on
those waters because there is no proper enforcement of the current regulations.
The Chairman: Is it a lack of enforcement or lack of regulations?
Mr. Cameron: The regulations exist within the current federal
legislation. Those regulations are not being properly enforced. I am also
suggesting that in the case of personal watercraft, some new regulations may
have to be introduced such as the one suggested by me colleague here, as many
American states have, about not using these boats at night. It is incredibly
dangerous to use them at night. There may be restrictions needed that do not
exist in the current legislation. Because of their unique capabilities, it is a
mistake to lump these craft in with other powerboats. They are more dangerous
than an ordinary powerboat. They can travel at higher speeds; they can affect
the environment and safety of others much more than any other powerboat.
The Chairman: Is it not the case that someone in a speedboat would be
able to negotiate the reversing falls?
Mr. Cameron: It would be a dangerous thing to do as well. Because the
personal watercraft is designed for ``fun,'' to be a thrill vehicle, I cannot
imagine anyone buying one except to go out and fool around in it — and I
understand that urge.
The Chairman: It is called ``messing about in boats.'' Everyone has a
boat in which to fool around.
Mr. Cameron: I do not have a problem with the ordinary motorboat that
does that because they are far more cognizant of the safety issues and other
people in the water. The personal watercraft operators are not always — in
fact, the vast majority of the time — cognizant of other people with whom they
share the water. The average age of users is 26.
Senator Buchanan: Was there not an article about how someone was going
to try to open some kind of tourist enterprise to take a hovercraft up through
Mr. Cameron: It is the same person, from St. George, New Brunswick,
who brought the hovercraft to Fredericton.
Senator Buchanan: Has he got a little screw loose?
Mr. Cameron: I have gone kayaking with his group, and when you go out
with an outfitter in a kayak you are usually provided with some kind of safety
instruction in case you flip out in the Bay of Fundy, for example. His group
does not do that. He has a kayak operation as well. He has covered everything.
He has a little hotel, too.
Senator Spivak: I wish to ask Mr. Whaley if he would give us more
detail on the specific schedule that he is proposing. How would the application
process change? What specific behaviours would it address?
Mr. Whaley: Are you talking about the boating restrictions?
Senator Spivak: I am talking about what you are proposing in your
Mr. Whaley: We are proposing that there be some consideration to going
back to the BRR. That is the alternative that we are looking for.
The subcommittee terminated their work after they made the initial report, on
which I have given you the information. They did not prescribe specific
schedules. We would be happy to look at specific schedules and go through the
process. That is not a problem. At this point, however, it is a little
presumptuous of me to say these are the schedules that they are proposing. There
are some good ideas out there.
Senator Spivak: I understand what you are saying. You will discuss
this further, and that is good.
In terms of the application process, I am familiar with some of the things
that have happened in our own area, and my information is that, when you look at
the Web site, it is a 20-step process. For example, in Falcon Lake, which is
right next to our lake, a group of people wanted to get involved in it and the
RCMP said, ``No, do not do it, it cannot be done.'' Also, my understanding is
that at any point in the process — you speak about un-elected and undemocratic
groups — some bureaucrat or whomever can say no.
That is my understanding of it, unless you can enlighten me further.
Mr. Whaley: I will give you my interpretation. There are many steps in
the process, no question.
The good part of the process is that it does allow for a fair amount of
public consultation. It is a long process and there is no question that the
boating restriction regulations could be improved.
Our objective within the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council,
regardless of what happens with Bill S-10, is to look at the boating restriction
process in a review of the regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The
review is scheduled to start in the fall of this year and continue into the new
year. Those things will happen, in my opinion.
That is a good thing from the simple standpoint of our example of missing the
cut-off day in September by one day and losing an entire year. That is
ludicrous. It should be streamlined and better managed.
It is my personal belief that the boating restriction regulations are a good
foundation for addressing all questions about recreational boating. They are a
good set of regulations.
The Chairman: Mr. Cameron, a few minutes ago, you referred to the
``operator'' a number of times. I am assuming that it is possible to operate a
personal watercraft safely. You can go crazy with an outboard motor on a
rowboat, but it is possible to operate one of these things safely.
Mr. Cameron: It is.
The Chairman: You said that the nature of the machine draws one into
being an irresponsible operator. Would you speak about that for a few seconds?
Mr. Cameron: I was trying to counteract an argument that I have heard
from manufacturers in which no blame is assigned to the design and purpose of
the personal watercraft itself. The blame is assigned totally to the operator. I
was trying to suggest a cause-effect relationship between design and operator
The machines are designed to be fast. They are speedy, manoeuvrable and meant
to be thrill machines. They are designed to have fun to the extreme on the
water. That design encourages, in a cause-effect way, a certain kind of
This is not to say that people do not use them responsibly, because I have
seen plenty of people who do. That does not solve the pollution problems, and it
does not solve the environmental issues that are also part of this causal
Therefore, it is not a chicken-and-egg thing. The design of the machines
encourages you to behave in a certain way on the water.
The Chairman: I have a Chevrolet Caprice that will go 130 miles an
hour. I do not drive at 130 miles an hour.
Mr. Cameron: That is because you are a responsible driver.
The Chairman: It is not the machines. It is, in fact, the operator, is
Mr. Cameron: Ultimately, the operators' behaviour is the cause of the
problem. However, I am trying to suggest that they are encouraged by the design
of the machine. It is designed to go fast. It is not designed to putt-putt along
like a 5- or 10-horsepower motor.
It is designed to be a thrill machine. People would not buy one if they were
not thinking of going fast on it.
You can go very fast on it, and that makes that throttle-rudder issue a
serious one. If you turn the throttle off, you can no longer steer. That is a
serious potential safety issue, which is the reason that I am suggesting further
regulation, even if we decide not to transfer power to the local jurisdiction,
which is the best way to go.
People will have a vested interest. All kinds of consultation can take place
on that level, too.
It is an enforcement issue. It is a regulation issue. It is a design and
operator issue. It is not just one issue.
The Chairman: You cannot steer a sailboat either when it is making no
Senator Spivak: It does not go 70 miles an hour.
Senator Kenny: Your question reminded me of Charlton Heston commenting
that guns do not kill people.
The Chairman: Thank you. We appreciate your testimony. It has been
We are joined by a panel of representatives from the Canadian Coalition of
Provincial Cottage Associations, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers'
Associations, and RAPPEL, which is the Waterfront Property Owners. Welcome,
ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. Art Lamoureux, President, Canadian Coalition of Provincial Cottage
Associations: On behalf of the Canadian Coalition of Provincial Cottage
Associations, CCPCA, I appreciate this opportunity to present our response to
Bill S- 10, concerning personal watercraft, PWCs, in navigable waters. The CCPCA
has submitted a detailed brief to the committee that outlines our position. I
wish to acknowledge the work of Ms. Wendy Moore, First Vice-President, and Mr.
Lester Hunt, Executive Director. My remarks will be confined to a summary of our
position so that we may answer your questions.
In 1995, representatives from provincial cottage associations in Alberta,
Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba met in Saskatoon to explore issues and
opportunities common to the Canadian cottage owner. It was agreed that a
coalition be formally established. In 2000, the national coalition convention
was held in Saskatoon and was joined by representatives from the Federation of
British Columbia Cottage Owners and Associations, while communications continue
with cottage groups in Quebec and the Maritime provinces.
How important is the cottage industry? The economic impact of more than 2
million cottages in Canada is estimated at in excess of several billion dollars
annually to local, provincial and federal economies. Economic studies in Ontario
and Saskatchewan indicate that expenditures for taxes, consumable items, capital
and recreational equipment is in excess of $7,000 per annum per cottage. The
cottage industry is growing in Canada and will continue to be influential both
politically and economically.
Thirteen per cent of Canadians own or rent waterfront property, or properties
with water running through them. Of these, more than 44 per cent live on their
property year round and 50 per cent occupy the property seasonally. This means
that over 3 million Canadians, 18 and over, are living by the water. A large
number use the waterways for recreation. A central problem, as expressed by
cottage owners across Canada, concerns the rapid appearance of personal
watercraft on Canadian waterways. Problems associated with the use of PWCs are
as follows: Safety, noise, pollution and crowded waterways. There are also
environmental concerns for fish and wildlife habitat. The CCPCA supports
legislation to give people a measure of choice and local control over the use of
Three important research questions were studied by the CCPCA and the results
can be summarized in terms of the questions put forth. One of the concerns of
cottage owners, and others, in respect of the rapid increase in personal
watercraft is their use and abuse. The rapid appearance of personal watercraft
in the 1990s distressed cottage owners across Canada. Thousands wrote to the
Canadian Coast Guard looking for ways to protect swimmers, to stop wake jumping
or to ban personal watercraft from small lakes. The majority of complaints
involve reckless driving, speed and a proximity to others when drivers indulge
in wake jumping. PWCs are often driven close to shore, where they become
hazardous to swimmers and others.
The amount of pollution created by existing PWCs that discharge unburned fuel
into the waters is of concern, as is the harm done to wildlife. By entering
sheltered coves or other such areas, PWCs present a threat to breeding loon
populations, nesting birds and spawning salmon. The mounting evidence of safety
problems, the unbiased reports of recalls on steering problems and other flaws,
could be the catalyst for more concentrated action by personal watercraft owners
Under what conditions and regulations should recreational personal watercraft
be restricted, as outlined in Bill S- 10? Bill S-10 proposes to give elected
local authorities an effective means to place reasonable restrictions on the use
of PWCs on lakes, rivers or portions of coastal waters, while respecting the
Personal watercraft could be banned from certain waters or their speeds and
times of operation restricted. Those waters where restrictions or bans apply
would be determined at the request of local governments. The federal government
would be required to add those waters to the schedule of waterways where the
prohibition applies. The federal government would have the discretion not to
list the waterway where a ban or restriction would impair important navigational
The proposed Personal Watercraft Act would not usurp federal authority in the
regulation of navigation and watercraft, but it would allow communities an
avenue to address the concerns of their citizens. The proposed legislation has
the advantage that local governments would not make the request without public
consultation, and that the federal government would be assured that it was
responding to the wishes of the local public.
What were the perceived benefits and associated problems within the context
of sub-problems 1 and 2? The membership of the Canadian Coalition of Provincial
Cottage Associations has reviewed Bill S-10 and endorses it in principle and in
spirit. The CCPCA believes that the intent of Bill S-10 meets our objectives,
which include safety, environmental responsibility, courtesy and respect. It is
the obligation of each of our member associations to promote a safe boating and
swimming environment; and to promote fish and wildlife habitat for the benefit
of all Canadians, including cottagers. The protection of the environment should
mean limiting activities that introduce any form of pollution, including noise,
air and water pollution. We note that the success of this bill is dependent on
education, public acceptance and the passing of enforceable laws.
Concerns expressed by the Federation of British Columbia Cottage Owners and
Associations support any measure that would help to control the use and safety
of PWCs. Enforcement is a concern because cottage owners ask if there is not
something they can do to control or limit the use of PWCs on waters near their
cabins. President Barry Harman stated: ``We as cottage owners in the West share
the concern of our fellow cottagers in other parts of the country...this is a
The Provincial Association of Resort Communities of Saskatchewan, PARCS, has
indicated strong support for Bill S-10. President Dale McLeod stated:
It is PARCS' contention that our support for this bill is not support for
just another law. We find too many laws in democracy are stifling to an
individual's freedom. We are adamant that an individual's right to their
freedom not interfere with the rights to peace and contentment of the
majority. PARCS asks for support of this bill. Along with support, PARCS
encourages an educational component that stresses the need to show
consideration for the rights of others.
The Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations, FOCA, has endorsed the
proposed personal watercraft act in principle and in spirit. Support from FOCA,
and other CCPCA members, is critical to the success of Bill S-10. This bill
would give cottage associations the choice to determine where PWCs are welcome
and where they pose too great a threat to safety, the environment and everyone's
The Canadian Coast Guard, CCG, and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Robert Thibault, could provide new wording in federal legislation that might
include ``noise'' among the environmental problems that allow communities to
request boating restrictions. The minister could make Bill S-10 redundant by
allowing communities to set specific restrictions on personal watercraft.
The fisheries minister has the authority to allow boating restrictions
specific to personal watercraft. Bill S-10 is patterned on regulations published
in June 1994. Government policy, not the law, stands in the way of restrictions.
Changing the policy requires full consultation with Canadians. Communities
across the country could hold consultations and bring forward new evidence of
PWC safety problems. Where it could be demonstrated that a certain boating
activity poses a danger to the public or is harmful to the environment, a
boating restriction should be imposed for the purpose of controlling or
On the basis of the study, the following conclusions seem to be justified:
There is growing concern with the rapid appearance of personal watercraft across
Canada. Cottage owners and municipalities are looking for ways to protect
swimmers, to stop wake jumping or to ban personal watercraft from small lakes.
It is a quality of life issue. Noise pollution, environmental concerns and
safety become issues when reckless drivers show little concern for others.
Under the current legislation, all vessels are classified the same. Industry
lobbyists squelched draft legislation that would have classed PWCs separately in
1994. This is the crux of the PWC issue: If a local group applies for a boating
restriction regulation to control the use of personal watercraft, if approved,
it would apply to all vessels, not just to PWCs. Under the current legislation,
only the following can be done in respect of the PWC issue: Operator education;
self-policing to deal with the irresponsible riders; or contact police to
provide documentation so that charges can be laid.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans could make one regulatory change and
direct officials to help Canadian cottage associations and municipalities
through the regulatory red tape.
What is needed is a legal means that communities can use to restrict personal
watercraft, in the same way that boating restriction regulations can be used to
set speed limits on the water or to restrict waterskiing. This would have the
same force and effect as Bill S-10. The Coast Guard proposed regulations in
1994, but the government did not approve them.
Many municipal council members associated with cottage owners would like to
see personal watercraft banned on their respective lakes. However, the major
concern is one of enforcement. RCMP staff and resources appear to be at a very
limited level, especially in the Prairie Provinces. The mounting evidence of
safety concerns, including steering defects, fuel system defects and other
problems, suggests that the industry move rapidly to correct problems.
Manufacturers, notably Bombardier, have responded by designing quieter machines,
but that does nothing for all the old machines still on the water.
The federal government could reconsider requests for personal watercraft
restrictions. Communities across the country could hold consultations and bring
forward new evidence of personal watercraft safety problems. Local consultations
are required under Bill S-10, and under federal boating restriction regulations
under the Canada Shipping Act.
The present regulatory status is inadequate. Cottage owners need Bill S-10 to
address concerns with use and abuse of personal watercraft. The status quo is
not the best solution to the outlined problems. Federal inaction has created a
climate in which provinces and municipalities are taking constitutional law into
their own hands. They are listening to the concerns of cottagers. The Cottage
Life magazine-FOCA poster, RIDE WITH RESPECT, has been well received across
Canada and shows the level of concern.
The Canadian Coalition of Provincial Cottage Associations supports Bill S-10,
in that it gives elected local authorities an effective means to place
reasonable restrictions on the use of personal watercraft on lakes, rivers or
portions of coastal waters while respecting the Constitution. Other bodies, such
as cottage associations, that the minister deems to be local authorities, can
act. They will follow the same procedure as the Coast Guard's current process
for boating restriction regulations, which allows cottage associations to
initiate a boating restriction.
The CCPCA welcomes the authority for associations to act, tempered by the
requirements of proof of public consultations to prevent a few individuals on a
lake from overriding the wishes of the majority.
Bill S-10 is virtually identical to its predecessor, Bill S-16. The only
difference is a new clause that sets a lower maximum penalty. PWC drivers would
face the same $500 maximum fine that boaters must pay when they drive powerboats
or tow skiers in areas where those activities are banned through schedules of
federal boating restriction regulations.
The government has an opportunity to help cottagers find local solutions.
Ontario boating groups are presently trying to devise an alternative to Bill
S-10. A new federal schedule on the Australian model, which bans irregular
driving of personal watercraft within 200 metres of much of the shoreline, may
save Canadian cottagers from another summer of personal watercraft disasters.
Most would be willing to support a schedule to ban wake jumping or driving in
circles in designated areas. Action must be taken quickly before more lives are
What is needed is a sense of balance. CCPCA has pointed out the positive
things in Bill S-10 that the Senate committee should look at carefully, with a
view to doing something good for the Canadian public. It would be in the public
interest to pick the good things in this bill and implement them. Cottagers
across Canada have requested a quieter enjoyment of natural resources.
Personal watercraft are loud and annoying to others. They are highly powered,
accelerate quickly and run at high speed, resulting in severe negative effects
— most of which are exacerbated by irresponsible operation. People who operate
too close to shore or swimmers need to be restricted from these areas by some
form of law enforcement. Bill S- 10 is designed to do just that. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you. I gather, Mr. Lamoureux, that you were
speaking for Mr. Hunt and Ms. Moore.
Mr. Lamoureux: Yes.
Mr. Jean-Guy Dépôt, RAPPEL (Waterfront Property Owners): I have been
a resident on the shoreline of Bowker Lake since 1941. In fact, I was born in
1941. Now you know my age.
I represent Regroupement des associations pour la protection de
l'environnement des lacs et des cours d'eau de l'Estrie et du haut bassin de la
rivière Saint-François, or RAPPEL. I have been working on this kind of problem
for more than 25 years. I have here a document produced by RAPPEL, dated January
1978. Because the majority here speak English, I decided to practice and I will
now summarize it.
The Chairman: You are perfectly free to speak in whichever language
you wish. Be comfortable.
Mr. Dépôt: I have an English copy and I can use it.
The Chairman: As you choose.
Mr. Dépôt: We thank the members of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources for graciously inviting us to file
a brief and testify before you. This provides us the opportunity to make a
modest contribution to the work of your committee.
We would like to offer our congratulations and warm thanks to Senator Spivak
for having the political courage to introduce Bill S-10 for better regulation of
the use of personal watercraft in Canada. The existing statutory framework under
the Canadian Shipping Act is not adequate to regulate PWCs. For the vast
majority of waterside residents like me, and people who live within our
waterways, PWCs are a huge nuisance.
At the public hearing held in 1994 by the Canadian Coast Guard, the
representations made by the personal watercraft industry were successful in
overcoming a similar approach. Its main argument was that public awareness and
education, through programs to train PWC users, would be sufficient to solve the
problem. Eight years later, we find that this has been a complete failure.
Complaints from waterside residents continue summer after summer. Since the
objective has not been achieved, the time has come to move to more coercive but
democratic methods to regulate these small but powerful, polluting and dangerous
motorized vehicles, which have caused many, sometimes even fatal, accidents.
This is why, together with Senator Spivak, we are asking that you move quickly
to pass Bill S-10.
Regarding water and air pollution, we would like to point out that all oil
and gas mixtures that power two-stroke motors are persistent pollutants that do
not degrade. A single litre of oil can contaminate up to 2 million litres of
fresh water. Two-stroke motors discharge from three to four litres of oil and
gas mixture into the water for every hour of use. The two-stroke motor, which is
what powers nearly 100 per cent of the 80,000 PWCs in Canada and 75 per cent of
all motorized craft in general, dates from the previous century and is an
According to Peter Barton, an engineer with Environment Canada, those
emissions of unburned gasoline are as high as 50 per cent in some cases for the
old motors. Two-stroke motors discharge 1.1 billion litres of hydrocarbons into
our American neighbours' water every year. That is undoubtedly why
gasoline-powered watercraft, including PWCs, are completely banned on lakes that
are drinking water reservoirs in five states — Connecticut, Delaware, Montana,
Rhode Island and Vermont.
Personal watercraft are a special kind of craft. Monita Fontaine, Executive
Director of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association in the United States,
acknowledged that these craft are used more intensively than other types of
According to California's Bluewater Network, PWCs are used for twice as many
hours as traditional motorized craft, an average of 77.3 hours per year versus
34.8 hours per year for an outboard motorboat.
We note that on waterways in Vermont that are narrower than one half-mile,
PWCs are banned. As well, we estimate that out of 281 lakes, ponds and
reservoirs in that state, PWCs have been outright banned on 102 of them, or some
36.3 per cent. They are permitted only in 32 listed waterways.
In the neighbouring State of New Hampshire, we estimate that out of 253
ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rivers, PWCs have been outright banned on 897 of
them, or 34.4 per cent. They are totally prohibited in that state on small
bodies of water less than 75 acres in area. This means that PWCs are completely
banned, as they are in Norway, on 62 of the waterways in that state.
Concerning noise pollution, PWC riders often rise out of the water, the
effect being the exposure of the exhaust and the turbine to the open air,
increasing noise, which is already 85 decibels on the water, a level that is
hard to tolerate. The intensity of noise doubles with each additional 10
decibels. By comparison, we note that the policy on road traffic noise published
by the Quebec Minister of Transport recommends a noise level of only 55
decibels, which is generally recognized as an acceptable level for sensitive
zones such as recreational areas.
We say in our submission that it is plain that in a democratic country like
Canada the silent majority does not have to put up with the noise made by such a
disruptive minority and not be able to do anything about it. We hope that our
representatives here in Ottawa will hear our voice, in the winds of change, as a
government that welcomes change with open arms, as Mr. Paul Martin said last
We are asking for a democratic public consultation process to be conducted by
mail. I ask you to vote to protect Canada's fragile watershed, avert potential
damage to shores and avoid jeopardizing our drinking water reserves. We
recognize that since 1867, the federal government has had jurisdiction over
navigation. However, we believe that the Government of Quebec, like other
provincial governments, has jurisdiction over ``nuisance,'' by which we mean
noise, and the environment, which includes protecting the watersheds of drinking
To summarize, we hope that the enactment of Bill S-10 will enable us to be
consulted, thereby achieving democratic management of our waterways throughout
Canada, as our neighbours to the south in the United States have done.
Senator Merchant: Mr. Dépôt, with the implementation of the Kyoto
accord, one might assume that newer technologies will deal with some of the
problems with which you are concerned vis-à-vis noise pollution and emissions.
I know that there are older watercraft which will take some time to become
obsolete. How long will these restrictions last, if they are put in place, and
if the day comes that personal watercraft owners want some changes, to whom
would they be able to go? How would they be able to make changes, assuming that
the machines themselves improve dramatically because of Kyoto?
Mr. Dépôt: As I mentioned, there are already about 80,000 PWCs in
Canada. The majority of those machines are two-stroke motors and very polluting.
When there is a problem with the automobile industry, there is a recall. They
take action. Now that four-stroke engines are available, manufacturers should do
the same thing.
Today, we know that some countries have problems with their drinking water.
We are lucky in Canada. We have lots of water. Canada has 7 per cent of all the
water in the world, while Quebec has 3 per cent of that water. However, we have
to take care of that reserve, which is why I have been an environmentalist for
39 years. We have to do something.
As I said in the brief, we are a little angry with the Coast Guard and the
Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They should have done much more before. It
is now time to do something.
The Chairman: Mr. Lamoureux, are they called ``cottages'' in Alberta?
Everyone I know calls them ``cabins.''
Senator Milne: In Northern Ontario they are called ``camps.''
Mr. Lamoureux: There are 50 summer villages in Alberta that form the
Association of Summer Villages of Alberta. Some people call them ``cabins,''
while others call them ``cottages.'' However, a PWC is still a PWC.
Senator Buchanan: There is one place in Canada that is unique as far
as cottages are concerned. The only place in Canada where cottages are not
called ``cottages'' is in Cape Breton Island, where they are called
The Chairman: Do not some of your cottage owners have PWCs? Do they
subscribe to your association's support of this bill?
Mr. Lamoureux: Many cottage owners own PWCs. You will find, especially
in Alberta, with our unique summer villages, that we have elected councils. They
are elected in the same year as the provincial politicians. The people who do
not own the PWCs, who are trying to enjoy quiet weekends, are approaching
volunteer councils. In many cases, the administrator of the village is a
volunteer. There are people who want something done, but they are asking
volunteers to take care of the problem for them. They do not want to upset their
neighbours, because next Saturday they might want to have a beer with them.
However, this Saturday, the noise is really upsetting them.
This bill would allow those volunteer organizations to get together with all
the other communities on their lake, such as Pigeon Lake, where there are 10
summer villages, the town, and, I believe, two or threw counties. They could all
get together and make rules for the whole lake. One summer village on Pigeon
Lake just wanted a five-mile-an-hour speed limit for approximately 200 feet
along the village. They were very fortunate to have a lawyer helping them. It
still took them two and a half years to get the speed limit restricted for 200
feet on their little piece of water. This bill would allow that to happen
quickly and allow the local people to do what they need to do.
The Chairman: Who would enforce that?
Mr. Lamoureux: If there is a law, 99 per cent of the time, people will
obey it. Peer pressure, hopefully, will get the other 1 per cent. If you are
lucky, the RCMP will come around once in a while. I am told that in Alberta,
there are two boats and one spare part.
The Chairman: There are also some big lakes.
Mr. Lamoureux: Yes, some big lakes.
Senator Finnerty: Have you any statistics, Mr. Lamoureux, on the
number of deaths that have been caused by these personal watercraft, and how
Ms. Wendy Moore, Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Cottagers'
Associations: Honourable senators, it is very difficult to count the number
of deaths because they are recorded differently. They are often recorded as a
drowning death. It could be recorded as a canoeing fatality, if it is a
collision between a canoe and a PWC.
I know that Senator Spivak's office has tried hard to get statistics on PWC
deaths, but we have not been able to get anything definitive because of the way
they are recorded.
Senator Finnerty: Not even a ballpark figure?
Ms. Moore: Not even that. There are many more than are known.
Senator Spivak: The hospital association, whatever it is called, has
figures. We have that information.
Senator Finnerty: I would like to see that, as well as the accidents
Senator Spivak: The hospitals and children's hospitals are keeping
records of that.
The Chairman: This is a purely hypothetical question, but if we waited
a long time for all the machines that now have two-stroke engines to just wear
out and for the parts to go away, and all PWCs were four-stroke engines that are
quieter, do not put out the same level of pollution and have a means of steering
after the motor is turned off, would that solve the problem?
Mr. Dépôt: I will be dead before that happens. I would like to have
more success before I die. I still have about 15 years to live.
Mr. Lamoureux: The issue of the two-cycle engine will take years to go
away. There are some great mechanics who can keep those things running for a
long time. Bill S-10 helps us to govern the people who cannot run their PWCs
unless everyone on the beach can see and hear them. The lake might be five miles
long, but they want to operate five feet from shore. They want to buzz the
little kids playing in the sand. Mr. Cameron from the canoeing association was
saying this morning that for some reason, no one wants to run one of those
things unless there is someone there to watch. These are magnets; if no one can
watch them, they do not want to be on them. If we could get them out to the
middle of the lake, where the noise would not be so disturbing, that would be
fine, but you will not achieve that if you are waiting for the Canadian Coast
Guard to help you out. It will be years and years. Local government can make
Senator Spivak: The issue here is the size of the lake and
differentiated areas. Would you agree that we do not want the dirt bike racers
or the drag cars running on roads or playgrounds? Is that the general feeling?
There might be some big lakes where it would not hurt to use these things,
because they are far away. For example, they wanted to rent them on the Red
River in Winnipeg. That caused an uproar and they were banned. No one took them
to court. They had no right to ban them, but they did.
Mr. Lamoureux: Everyone is playing by the rules, probably. This bill
would let us do that at the lake. Senator Banks would be familiar with Sylvan
Lake. There are probably many of these machines out there, but you do not hear
complaints because that is the type of area it is, for fast toys. However, there
are many lakes in Alberta where they do not want them.
Senator Spivak: To be clear on your view of what the cottagers want,
you are saying, first, that the procedure is too cumbersome. It could take years
to get through that boating schedule. Apart from the bill, we could shorten the
procedure. Second, in this bill, the minister has 90 days to hold public
consultations. Otherwise, we might get a repeat of 1994, when British Columbia,
Quebec, Ontario and the Coast Guard wanted to put in a schedule, not to ban
PWCs, but to restrict their operations. It was approved and gazetted. Suddenly,
it was gone, because pressure was put on the minister. That is what happened.
Are you in favour of having the minister, unless there is sufficient reason,
go with the wishes of the people? The minister would have to recognize the
authority, and it is in his power to recognize it or not. Is that what you would
I am trying to get a feeling for all the different things that the cottagers
might like to see enacted, whether through this bill or some other means.
Mr. Lamoureux: Both in regard to what the cottagers are telling us, as
the Canadian association representing them, and as a person who spent 10 years
as one of those volunteer councillors, we would like to be able to do something
to move them out. Once they are 200 or 300 yards out in the lake, if the lake is
big enough to handle that, it would be great. However, we do not have a means of
Volunteer councils only last three years in Alberta. That is probably not
enough time, unless you have lawyers who can really pound the pavement for you.
Usually, that only happens when they are also cottage owners.
Senator Spivak: I will ask another leading question. Do you think this
is a public interest issue? I have heard opposition that says this is just for a
small elite. Do you think this is an issue in the public interest?
Mr. Lamoureux: Yes, I believe it is.
Ms. Moore: In response to your previous question on the boating
restriction regulation process, FOCA is a very large federation. We represent
500 cottagers' associations and I receive a large number of complaints about
personal watercraft. From time to time, particularly before we started with Bill
S-10, I would get a call from an association. They would say, ``We have
circulated a petition and we want to know what to do with it now so that we can
get the personal watercraft off our waterway.'' Then I have to explain that,
first of all, this is federal legislation, not local, municipal or provincial.
The Chairman: It is not their waterway; it is everyone's waterway.
Ms. Moore: Then I have to explain the complicated 23-step process of
the boating restriction regulations. They usually throw up their hands in
despair. I also tell them that if they do go through the process and request a
restriction or a ban on the use of personal watercraft, they would have to ban
all boats, including their own. You cannot just pick out one kind of vessel for
control. The BRR process desperately needs to be overhauled and simplified to
give people access to that tool.
Senator Spivak: It is interesting that there are other vessels such as
boats with electric motors that appear separately in the schedules. Also, in the
memorandum between the Minister of the Environment and the marine manufacturers,
personal watercraft are designated as entirely different from all other boats.
I do not know whether you have seen that memorandum, but it describes them as
a separate entity. I do not know what the problem is with that.
Mr. Dépôt: We searched the Internet and found that on lakes in
Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, they consult with the people
concerned and there are different possibilities. In some places, on some lakes,
they will accept everything. On other lakes, they ban two-stroke engines. On
others, they will accept only electric motors. On others, they will accept
canoes, kayaks and so on.
Why are we not able to do the same thing in Canada? This is a democratic
possibility. We would like the people of Canada to vote, as did our neighbours
in the States, and make their choice.
The Chairman: The answer to that question is about three and a half
Senator Kenny: The answer is we ask the questions.
The Chairman: You cannot put moose horns on a beaver. It does not
Senator Spivak: The issue in the United States has to do with size —
so many feet from shore or whatever. In some places, where there is a huge
amount of space, it is not as much of an issue. Is that correct?
Mr. Dépôt: You are speaking about size, Senator Spivak. My lake is
small, only two or three square kilometres. It is long, but very narrow. We are
between mountains. There are about 150 motorboats and 12 PWCs. Can you imagine
the noise on Saturday and Sunday on a small lake like that? It is impossible.
I have been on that lake for 62 years now. My property has a valuation of
$300,000. Suppose I am obliged to sell my property. If a buyer came on Saturday
or Sunday, he would offer me only a few bucks.
The Chairman: The secret is to take the buyer there on a Monday
The main objection, I gather, is an aesthetic one. It is a safety issue, in
terms of kids and swimmers close to shore, and then noise, but pollution is less
of an issue. You are saying, if I understand you correctly, that it is okay to
put the gas and oil mixture into the middle of the lake, as long as you do so
slowly. If you are in the middle of the lakes, you can do what you like. Am I
Mr. Dépôt: I do not agree with that.
The Chairman: In a big lake.
Mr. Dépôt: In France, they permit the use of PWCs at one kilometre
from the shore. At that distance, you can do what you want.
Suppose that in the middle of a small lake there is a 15-inch pipe for the
drinking water of a network of five municipalities. Would you have PWCs or other
boats circulating over that? That is nonsense. They are banned because it is not
The Chairman: Do they also ban a two-stroke outboard engine?
Mr. Dépôt: Yes. In the five states I mentioned, they banned
two-strokes, four-strokes and PWCs.
Senator Merchant: I think Mr. Lamoureux said that boats could go 300
kilometres or something out on the lake and do whatever they wanted.
You have to decide what it is that you are trying to accomplish. If you want
to get rid of the noise pollution and allow the cottage owners to sit out and
enjoy their cottages, do not throw in comments about the oil emissions in the
water and all the other things. A minute ago, you said they could go out and do
everything they wanted as long as they are far away from the cottages. When you
present a case, do not throw everything in there to try to impress upon us how
bad these things are. I think they are bad, but I was also confused.
Ms. Moore: You are right; they are two separate issues. The first we
referred to as marine engine issues, and FOCA has done a lot of work on that and
is trying to come up with some programs to address it. Then there is the
separate issue of personal watercraft use and abuse.
Senator Buchanan: Mr. Dépôt, I am not familiar with Maine, but I
think they do have some good restrictions on the lakes. However, New Hampshire
is interesting. On one of the largest lakes in the New England states the
restrictions are interesting, because you are permitted to use personal
watercraft, but are restricted as to where on the lake, which is very long and
wide. I have a cousin who is on a small lake in New Hampshire, where they are
banned completely. In fact, you are only allowed to use canoes and kayaks on
that particular lake. In New Hampshire, most of the lakes have been designated
as to the kind of watercraft that can be used, and on the larger lakes, the
restrictions concern where they can be used. It might not be a bad idea to get a
copy of those.
Senator Spivak: Do you have anything further to add, Ms. Moore?
Ms. Moore: I love having the last word. This is the last word on
behalf of other people. On July 15 last year, this ran in the Toronto Globe
and Mail, in memoriam. There is a picture of a beautiful teenager. ``Tamara
Goldman. November 15, 1979 to July 15, 1994. Death lies upon her like an
untimely frost upon the sweetest flower of all the fields. Deeply loved, sadly
missed. Mom, Dad, Elisa. In memory of Tamara, we urge all parents to become more
aware of the dangers of personal watercraft.''
Last week, I spoke to the mother of one of two victims in what is probably
one of the better-known personal watercraft accidents. On August 4, 1991, a
personal watercraft went over the top of a canoe, injuring a girl in the bow and
killing the other two. They died horrible deaths. FOCA receives copies of the
coroner's reports when there is a directive to advise cottagers of certain
things. I keep them hidden in my office. I do not want anyone to see such
information and such gruesome details.
I talked to the mother of one of the victims. She was going to write a
message for me to present to the Senate but became too upset, even though it
happened 12 years ago. She told me, for an hour and a half on the phone, every
memory she has of that day, and then she said, ``I often wonder, if I were my
daughter today, what I would do to make sure this never happens again.'' I would
hope, if she were still alive, that she would be doing the same thing as Senator
Spivak, which is trying to convince the government to fix the problem.
How many more people have to die before this is dealt with? It has been on
the back burner far too long.
With regard to that accident, the operator of the personal watercraft was
charged with three counts of dangerous driving and was found not guilty on all
counts. It was found to be the fault of the vessel. It was vessel-specific. That
is what killed those girls. It was not the operator; it was the vessel.
The Chairman: That is irrational. Could you fill us in on that? Was it
the machine's fault?
Ms. Moore: When a personal watercraft is out of the water, you cannot
steer it. In this particular case, the operator was coming straight at the
girls. He meant to zoom in and splash them. He never made the turn. He was
coming in at 32 miles an hour. He did attempt to turn, but the machine came out
of the water. He had, I think, one-twentieth of a second in order to turn that
machine. It did not respond and it killed them.
They said at the time that seaweed clogged the intake. That is nonsense. You
cannot steer a PWC that is in the air. The owner's manual indicated that there
would be difficulties. That is why it was found to be the fault of the vessel,
because the driver did attempt to steer.
Senator Buchanan: Where did that happen?
Ms. Moore: It was on the Severn River.
The Chairman: Just to remind us, it would be like the brakes or the
steering failing on a car; in such a case, the driver would not be at fault.
Witnesses, thank you very much. You have been most informative. I am sorry to
have kept you waiting. I appreciate your staying so long, as I do members of the
The committee adjourned.