Boaters’ Voices Matter

In October of last year, Transport Canada (TC) began a public solicitation process seeking input from recreational boaters into updating the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations (VORR) under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

TC stated that “we recognize that we need to modernize the process for requesting and implementing restrictions under the VORR. We need to simplify the process for proposing a restriction and shorten the time it takes to implement it. Transport Canada wants to modernize the VORR to make it faster, easier, and more effective for local authorities to implement restrictions.”

According to TC, the proposed amendments would allow the Minister of Transport to use “Incorporation by Reference” to modify the VORR schedules more quickly and issue Ministerial Orders for implementing restrictions on pleasure craft activities not currently listed in the VORR, before going through the full regulatory process.

However, numerous recreational boating industry organizations, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Canadian Marine Retailers Association (CMRA), have cautioned that such legislative changes “could lead to a patchwork of restrictive regulations across the country that would interfere with the right of Canadians to access waterways.”

In other words, the rights and voices of recreational boaters need to be heard before any legislative changes are made that might negatively impact this activity we all love — from one corner of the country to the other.

The NMMA and CMRA reached out to boaters across the country and initiated a letter-writing campaign to TC on the proposed legislative changes.

As a result, the organizations complied the following recommendations to Transport Canada:

Ensure there is an obligation to consult boat owners, boating and tourism industry associations. Local authorities must retain their current obligation to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to seek expedient, cost-effective, and practical solutions before proposing regulatory restrictions. As such, boat owners and boating and tourism industry associations need to be consulted. This requirement should be preserved and reinforced through additional resources to facilitate standardized local consultations.

Respect the rules governing Ministerial Orders. The adoption of a ministerial order should be an exceptional measure, necessitating rigorous analysis and objective criteria that align with the intent of the Cabinet Directive on Regulation and its four fundamental principles.

Review the duration of Ministerial Orders. The two-year validity period granted to Ministerial Orders should be restricted to one year, with the option for a single one-year renewal for a specific area affected by one or a series of restrictions.

Set free and equitable access to waterways targets. Transport Canada should establish concrete, measurable objectives concerning the promotion of free and equitable access to waterways.

This is just another example where the voices and opinions of recreational boaters not only matter, but are crucial in mapping the future of the industry and activity for the next generation.

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