Canadian Conservative govt guts protections for 99+% of waterways, spare handful of lakes with high-cost cottages

David says, "Canada used to have 2.5 million protected lakes and other bodies of water. After recent Conservative Omnibus bills, we're down to 97. 87 of which are located in Conservative ridings (rich cottage country). More info."


  1. Sad to see that the Bloodvein River – one of the only attractions in my province of Manitoba that has a chance of getting Unesco World Heritage status is no longer protected. When it comes to protecting history of the original inhabitants of this land (from Manitoba to Minnesota) I consistently see the people around me turn a blind eye. They would rather like to imagine that nothing was here before them.

    1. It happens because conservative voters seem more enthralled with what the Harper Government says than what they do. They campaign on accountability and democracy while jamming through massive measures in giant omnibus bills that can not be properly debated. The lack of a decent debate in the House combined with the sheer volume of legislation being passed in one bill means the public doesn’t have time to opposed anything before it’s passed.

    2. It’s very macho to ruin the environment for temporary human pleasures.  It’s a neoconservative thing, you wouldn’t understand.

  2. The problem is the SOB is Prime Minister with a majority in parliament which gives him the legal right (despite the fact that he got only about 38% of the popular vote) to do just about any fucking dumb/amoral thing he wants to do.

    The next time you wonder how Canada got so fucked up, and why we voted him in – the simple answer is that most of us didn’t.

    1. “simple answer is that most of us didn’t.” – yes, I know. It’s insane. I’m in Calgary. Hometown of Harper and Tar Sands HQ. But this… this is way, way, way brash and over the top. Harper & Crew just lined up the lifeblood of this amazing landscape in front of a firing squad. Shame.

      1.  Gotta say, as a Calgarian I feel it should be pointed out that, as with Rob Ford, Stephen Harper’s hometown is actually Etobicoke, Toronto (he’s an alumni of the ‘Richview’ Collegiate Institute — fitting) . The shifty Li’l ‘Lord Fauntleroy’ holds his Calgary riding to keep a veneer of authenticity on his projected persona. Like using the term ‘conservative’, this southern Ontario Reformer knows that his aging, fear-based demographic can only see so far…

    2. Thank you for explaining something that’s baffled me. Of course as an American I should have a much better understanding of the Canadian parliamentary system and how someone can become Prime Minister without the popular vote. Y’all are one of our two closest neighbors, after all, even if we can’t agree on how to spell “neighbours”.

      But I’ve always wondered how Cameron became PM since most Canadians seem to hate him. Admittedly a majority of voters in the U.S. have chosen some pretty awful presidents, but I thought Canadians were mostly brighter than us.

      Edit: Don’t know why I said “Cameron” when I meant Harper. Obviously a case of Britain on the brain.

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t at least some of the 99% of waterways that are no longer protected be attached in some way to the ones that are? If the unprotected waterways feed into the protected ones that means any runoff, waste, sewage, or other toxic material that gets dumped will eventually find its way into the protected ones–significantly diminishing the value not only of the waterways but the surrounding property.

    It’s hard to understand how anyone could be this short-sighted, although it’s no longer surprising. 

  4. The groundwork for this actually happened about 4 years ago when they stripped the power of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. At the time if a river could be navigated by any boat (canoe or ship) than it was automatically protected.

    When the rules changed the ministers in power had the ability to choose which rivers would be protected or not so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they are finally choosing which rivers are still on the list.

    The goal to change the Act in the first place was to allow quicker approval of small power dams which can be quickly set-up on small rivers with little or no oversight.

    1. Another effect of changing the Navigable Waters Protection Act is how it interacts with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

      Basically the CEAA kicks in and triggers an environmental assessment when ever the federal government has to issue a permit.

      The NWPA requires a permit be issued anytime a river or body of water that is navigable is interacted with. The fewer bodies of water covered, the fewer permits required, and less environmental oversight.

      The changes to the NWPA and the Fisheries Act (the other big trigger for an environmental assessment) are calculated to basically gut environmental oversight by the federal government.

      There are some arguments to be made for simplifying / speeding up the environmental assessment process – a dual provincial / federal assessment process to prevent doing the same work twice, getting the average length of an assessment down from 4 years, getting a full time department that specializes in assessments instead of each department ad-hocing it etc…

      But to just stop doing assessments and try to pass the buck to the provinces is irresponsible.

      1. The link between the CEAA and the NWPA doesn’t exist anymore. While what you say used to be true, the CEAA was repealed in the spring, and a new act, the CEAA 2012 was put in place. It removed these “triggers”, and replaced them with a list of actions which require assessments.

  5. The “protections” being removed relate to marine navigation. Under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, any structure that could impede boat traffic (including canoes) required federal inspection & approval. So if you wanted to build a foot bridge over the creek in your back yard, you needed federal approval.

    The changes remove this requirement for most bodies of water, except those with substantial amounts of boat traffic. These changes do not affect environmental regulation – any project that would have required an environmental assessment before will require one now. The approvals under the Navigable Waters Protection Act did not assess environmental impact, only impact on boat traffic. Removing these protections does not allow toxic dumping into rivers, etc. 

    While it’s true that most of the remaining protected lakes & rivers are in Conservative held ridings, it’s also true that most of the lakes & rivers that used to be protected but aren’t anymore are also in Conservative held ridings. That’s a result of the fact that the Conservatives hold most of the rural areas in the country, and the Liberals and NDP hold mostly urban ridings.

    While I have many concerns about this government’s agenda, it frustrates me that so many people are willing to condemn and conflate their actions without learning the facts. Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t mean that their every action is part of a grand, evil conspiracy.

    1. Thanks David. But how on earth can we trust this and them? I’m frustrated at this absurd “benefit” – small bridges in your backyard will be easy to build now!”… Seriously.

      “… you can expect that some will find it easier to get a dock built, but it will also be easier for your neighbours to get their dock built, and for the municipality to build whatever structures (bridges, dams, etc.) that it deems necessary, and those structures may affect your waterway. And resource-extraction and development companies will benefit from the change as well. As critics have pointed out, what the government is effectively doing is externalizing the costs of regulation onto “unsuspecting taxpayers.” A project that may have been delayed by red tape before it was started, or cancelled outright because of the harm it would do, will now most likely be delayed by lawsuits filed by private citizens. And, of course, some lawsuits won’t get filed, because lawyers don’t come cheap and fundraising and organizing to protest a ill-conceived project are tiring and time-consuming jobs.

        1. Well, the problem is (one of them anyway) is that they hide the laws in larger omnibus bills. If these were legit changes, they’d be more open about them rather than trying to sneak them through stuffed in between other larger issues. 

          When they govern like this (don’t forget things like silencing of scientists and  minimum sentencing.) it fosters distrust that they have the best interests of all canadians in mind. Instead it seems like they’re really more interested in opening up our resources to industry American style, for a quick buck. 

          All we have to do is look south to see how that turns out – they’ve poisoned their water, removed their mountain tops and imprisoned their population. All for the almighty dollar.

          We all need to make a living but we don’t have to sacrifice our environment to do it. It’s not like the tar-sands will turn in to vinegar.

  6. Further:

    “”We’ve always had a system in which those who are disinterested in the outcome should be the ones who make the decisions,” Bennett said.
    “By taking away protections of water, we’re opening the way for privatizing water in Canada,” he said. “Those rivers that aren’t protected, there will be no defences now to those governments that want to privatize them, export our water, or sell us our own water in the future.

    “It’s being pretended that this is somehow an efficiency. It’s a big lie. They’re out to steal our resources and give them to other people. That’s why Canadians should be concerned,” Bennett concluded.”

    The Harper government says the act was never intended to protect the environment but was designed to make sure waterways were safe for navigation.

    But Labistour (CEO of Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada’s largest recreational and outdoor supply company) told senators that the act has been around for so long it’s become the backbone of other environmental laws and narrowing it down affects the health of water too.”

    Most of us who spend time in the outdoors know that protecting navigation cannot be achieved without protecting the medium in which we navigate –namely, waterways.”-

    “This attack, in the name of ‘eliminating red tape,’ is actually about eliminating concerned Canadians from the discussion around the health and safety of their waterways, of their communities,” –  Gordon Downie

  7. I don’t mean to toot my own horn.  But I’ve been working on a project where I scan the newspapers and then put together a post about all the bad things that the Conservatives have done every week.  There’s a pretty shocking amount of stuff here.

    1. My favourite from last week…A Conservative MP from Saskatchewan decided to give Queen’s Jubilee Medals to two ladies who continually get arrested for illegal abortion prtotests.

  8. In Canada Feds pass the buck to your Provinces allowing them to regulate environmental impacts?  In the USA Feds pass laws prohibiting States from protecting the environment.

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