POLITICS

NDP tables second wave of legislation to protect lakes and rivers

06/04/2013 02:24 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - The NDP is introducing another round of private member's bills aimed at restoring environmental protections to lakes and rivers.

A first batch of bills introduced in April dealt with protections to what are known as Heritage Rivers, but the second group deals with lakes and rivers in Conservative-held ridings.

The New Democrats say changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act contained in a pair of Conservative omnibus bills last year left most lakes and rivers without legal protection against unfettered development.

They say their bills will restore those protections and require environmental assessments before development is allowed.

But Transport Minister Denis Lebel accused New Democrats of playing "silly games" and said their private members' bills likely won't even get brought forward for debate in the Commons.

The NDP says it is acting on complaints its MPs have heard from people in Conservative ridings about the lack of protection.

Without these protections, communities and environmental groups will have to foot the bill for court suits against wealthy developers, says Megan Leslie, the NDP environment critic.

"The Conservatives last year stripped navigable waters protection ... from 98 per cent of Canada's lakes and rivers despite the fact that navigation is directly related to environmental conditions, ecosystem protection, water levels and the commercial and recreational use of the water."

The NDP bills aim to reverse that, although private member's bills from the opposition rarely receive passage in the House of Commons.

Lebel said in an email that the government is "proud of the changes to the Navigation Protection Act which fixed an outdated law to reflect its historic intent: to protect navigation."