After federal changes to waterways rules, 90 per cent of protected lakes lap on Conservative shores, Almost one third contained in Ontario cottage country ridings held by Tories Clement and Devolin by Glen McGregor, October 29, 2012, Ottawa Citizen
The vast majority of lakes that retain federal protection under the government’s proposed changes to waterway rules lap up against ridings held by Conservative MPs. While revisions to the Navigable Waters Protection Act has stripped federal oversight from thousands of Canadian waterways, 90 per cent of the lakes that will still be designated as protected are in Tory territory, a Citizen analysis shows.
By contrast, only 20 per cent of the designated lakes, itemized in the second omnibus budget bill, are in ridings held by New Democrats. Only six per cent splash on Liberal shores.
The list of lakes includes those surrounded by wealthy cottagers north of Toronto, in the Muskoka district of the riding held by Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
The Conservatives’ budget bill introduced earlier this month overhauls the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which currently requires federal approval for development on the thousands of bodies of water across the country that are big enough to float a canoe. Under the new legislation, this protection will be limited to only 97 lakes and 62 creeks, rivers and canals, as well as Canada’s three oceans. The Conservatives contend that the changes have no relation to environmental protection and are intended only to slice through the bureaucratic red tape that delays even small, inconsequential projects, such as modifications to bridges or wharves. Critics claim the rewritten law, in concert with revisions of other regulations, further strips away environmental protection once provided by the mandatory federal review.
But the small number of lakes itemized will still enjoy scrutiny from federal law, and most of these — 87 of 97 — are within or next to ridings won by Conservatives in 2011.
In Clement’s riding of Parry Sound–Muskoka, for example, a dozen lakes retain the protection that government has lifted from thousands of other bodies of water across the country. Among them is Lake Rosseau, where Hollywood celebrities, business moguls and NHL stars perch on its banks. Empty lots on Lake Rosseau and its equally affluent neighbours, Lake Muskoka and Joseph Lake, start around $1 million. “Cottages” on their winding shores — typically luxury homes — routinely sell for between $2.5 million and $5 million. Actress Goldie Hawn has a place there. So does former Detroit Red Wing Steve Yzerman and the family of late cable baron Ted Rogers. Actor Tom Hanks, director Steven Spielberg and many Toronto Maple Leafs players are regular visitors to three lakes, according to the New York Times.
As Conservative MPs tend to hold a greater share of rural seats, it’s natural that their ridings will contain more designated lakes than those represented by New Democrats or Liberals, whose seats are more often urban or suburban and less often near water. But the specific designation of certain lakes in cottage country under the government’s omnibus budget implementation bill will ensure Clement doesn’t face angry Muskoka cottagers.
Sixty-eight protected lakes are in Ontario and 15 are in B.C. Only four of the designated 97 lakes have shoreline in Quebec, slighting ridings held by the NDP, with a majority of its caucus from Quebec.
Transport Canada says it chose the designated waterways by looking at Statistics Canada’s freight movement data and other sources to determine which were the busiest. To qualify, protected bodies of water must be “accessible by ports and marinas in proximity to heavily populated areas,” and support “heavy commercial and/or recreational navigation activity,” the department says. But the department also said it did a further “qualitative analysis” that considered the historical importance of each waterway, its proximity to heavily-populated areas and other factors. The department did not say who made the final determination or why so few lakes in Quebec cottage country were included.
The number of lakes abutting NDP or Liberal ridings would be even lower were it not for the inclusion of the massive Great Lakes on the protected list. Lake Ontario alone borders 22 electoral districts, including six urban seats in Toronto and Hamilton held by the NDP.
Many of Ontario’s protected lakes are clustered in Clement’s riding and the adjacent Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes–Brock, represented by Conservative MP Barry Devolin. Between them, their ridings contain 29 protected lakes.
Another 27 designated lakes are split between the Eastern Ontario ridings of Leeds–Grenville, held by Conservative Gord Brown, and Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington, represented by Conservative Scott Reid. In British Columbia, most of the designated lakes are in the interior, in the Okanagan valley or the Kootenays.
The Citizen used mapping software called ArcGIS to determine which federal electoral district the shoreline of each lake named in the budget bill overlaps. This data was combined with election results from 2011 to calculate breakdowns by MPs’ parties. [Emphasis added]
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