Boating Bill Passes

Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MP Gord Brown made that quip on Tuesday after taking the helm of two boating-related business items on Parliament Hill.

On Monday, a bill that allows American boaters to cruise into Canadian waters without having to check in with Customs passed by a voice vote in the House of Commons.

Bill S-233, which originated in the Senate with Senator Bob Runciman, returned to the Red Chamber Tuesday for yet another vote, this time a minor amendment addressing a typo. It passed later that afternoon and is expected to receive Royal Assent and become law next week.

Also on Monday, Brown introduced a motion to the House of Commons requesting that the transport committee review the need for flares on pleasure craft.

Brown is asking the committee to consider following the United States’s lead and permit alternatives to flares on pleasure boats.

The MP argued flares are dangerous and require special handling for storage and use, which could take a boater’s mind away from other tasks in an emergency.

Flares are also hazardous waste once they expire and therefore disposal is more difficult.   Meanwhile, noted Brown, the electronic flare approved last year by the U.S. Coast Guard is battery operated and lasts for at least six hours.

“You can actually buy them in the U.S., but they’re not actually legal for use in Canada,” the MP added Tuesday.

Rather than a private member’s bill that would require a vote at some distant date, Brown said he hoped his motion would simply be taken up for discussion by the transport committee.

“This is really to draw attention to the issue,” added Brown.

He said a boaters’ group approached him on the flare issue and it is coincidental that he is dealing with two boating-related matters at the same time.

The Conservative MP said he got some “trades” to get S-233 slotted for a vote before the start of boating season.

That legislation aims to allow boaters who are merely transiting through Canadian waters with no intention to stop, to do so without reporting to Canadian Customs. It amends the Customs Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Boaters on a direct route from one place outside Canada to another place outside Canada currently do not have to report to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) when they cross into Canadian waters. However, someone fishing or pleasure cruising who crosses into Canadian waters does face an obligation to report.

Runciman took up the matter after an incident in 2011, when CBSA officers charged an American fisherman who strayed into Canadian waters near Gananoque for failing to report. His boat was seized until he paid a $1,000 fine, which was later reduced to $1 after complaints on both sides of the border.

Brown thanked colleagues of all parties for giving the measure their support.

The assent to the border bill is welcome news to Gary DeYoung, tourism director at the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, who was one of the American witnesses during the bill’s Senate committee hearings.

“It’s something we’ve been hoping would get through from the start,” said DeYoung.

“We can start changing our instructions to our boaters to something less confusing.”

In February, DeYoung told Senators that, “fairly or not, Americans take the current policy as an affront and an indication that they are not welcome in Canada.”

On Tuesday, he was relieved that the border irritant is being removed just as the tourism industry is coping with higher than usual water levels.

“It’ll be good news that this is one less issue that they have to deal with,” said DeYoung.