OUR MISSION: To be a leading voice in promoting safe, quiet waterways and respectful boating practices through education, advocacy and legislative change.

December 2023 Newsletter

Chair’s Message

Happy December!

We are sure that you are busy preparing for the holiday season. It’s a wonderful time of year where we spend time with family and friends. Before we get too close to the holidays, we wanted to share some of our fall projects.

Transport Canada’s Recreational Boating Advisory Council (RBAC) held their fall meeting, which I attended. They reviewed and asked for input on many proposed changes including a few that are currently in public consultation. An overview of these regulatory and procedural proposed changes and a link to the consultation is provided below.

We held our Annual Stakeholder Meeting a few weeks ago. Every year we look forward to bringing together leaders in our community to discuss important lake issues. This year again we had participation from lake associations, local governments and businesses. We also had an amazing group of subject matter experts who took us through various topics. If you are interested in more details, you can read the overview and link to the meeting recording.

We have had some changes in our board of directors. One of our long-time directors, Karen Dalton, will be retiring at the end of December. We want to thank her for the many years that she has volunteered her time to pursue our goals! We would also like to welcome Val Hamilton who has just joined our board. 

We are always looking for people who are passionate about our lakes to join our committees or board of directors. If you are interested, please contact me at chair@safequiet.ca.

Wishing you warm and happy holidays!

Diana Piquette

Chair, Safe Quiet Lakes

Stakeholder Highlights

New wake research, startling details on boating fatalities and upcoming changes to Transport Canada regulations were among the highlights of our 11th annual stakeholder meeting held Nov. 22, where Safe Quiet Lakes brings together industry experts and stakeholder partners to discuss topical lake issues.

Boat wakes on the lakes

Dr. Chris Houser, dean of science at the University of Waterloo, is a renowned researcher of boat wakes, having studied wave energy for years in Georgia, Texas and Florida. Originally from Huntsville, Ont., for the past three years he has concentrated his research on Ontario’s lakes, looking at recreational boat wakes and the perceived impacts of wakes. 

Over the past two summers, Dr. Houser and his student researchers put wave measurement sensors in a variety of lakes in Ontario – more than 30 different locations – and conducted a survey of public perceptions on changes to the lakes. 

Across all study sites, the researchers found boat wakes represented the vast majority -- more than 60% -- of the total wave energy. That means boat wakes plus naturally occurring waves from wind. In the Muskoka lakes studied, almost 70% of wave energy is associated with boat wakes. “That is an exceptionally high number,” the professor said. In busy lakes, such as Lake Muskoka or Lake Joseph, the sensors detected as many as 120 to 130 waves per hour. 

An attitudinal survey was also conducted this summer by the researchers, garnering close to 650 responses from across Ontario. Interestingly, although the perceived effects of boat wakes include such impacts as shore erosion, damage to infrastructure and safety concerns, there were few clear examples of this provided by respondents to the survey. Instead, boat operation, noise, courtesy and conflict were cited of greater concern.

Dr. Houser’s research is continuing and next summer will look at the direct impact of wakes on water quality.

‘Wear your life jackets, please’

The data is clear: Over the past 13 years on Ontario’s lakes, 80% of fatalities were people not wearing a life jacket or PFD. The biggest cause of boating deaths is not collisions or even impaired boating – it’s accidentally falling overboard, Sgt. Dave Moffatt, Provincial Marine Coordinator for the OPP, told stakeholders. It can happen on any type of vessel, human-powered or motorized.

In 2023, the number of boating fatalities in Ontario was actually down compared to the three previous years, with 23 deaths. Sgt. Moffatt highlighted a few tragic incidents: A man went out fishing on his canoe but never returned. He was found deceased with his arm through his PFD, indicating he wasn’t wearing it. A father and his young daughter both fell off their PWC; she was wearing a PFD and survived, he was not and drowned. A man, described as a strong swimmer, fell off his SUP without a life jacket and died.

“Wear your life jackets, please,” said Sgt. Moffatt. “It can mean the difference between life and death.”

Currently, it is the law for vessels (including SUPs, kayaks, canoes) to have life jackets or PFDs for occupants, but not mandatory to wear them. That may soon change. This past summer, Ontario announced pending legislation to make it mandatory for children 12 and under to wear a life jacket or PFD on a boat underway. Parents or guardians could be subject to fines if they do not.

Transport Canada will also be launching public consultations on mandatory wearing of life jackets and PFDs in early spring 2024. 

More changes from Transport Canada 

Dawn Colquhoun, manager of recreational boating safety for Transport Canada in Ontario, outlined a number of other upcoming regulatory consultations and changes. Among them:

Transport Canada acknowledges it needs to speed up the lengthy VORR (Vessel Operation Restriction Regulation) process and provide municipalities with a quicker path to managing their waterways. Currently, it can take two years to apply for a speed limit change, for example. A public consultation process is now underway on modernizing and simplifying the application process. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 11.

The 10-year boat licence may be coming to an end. Transport Canada is proposing a five-year licence for a fee of $24. A boat licence is required for operation of all motorized vessels above 10 HP, as well as wind-powered vessels. The new licence requirements will go to public consultations next fall.

On the subject of decibels, or boat motor noise, Colquhoun expects new regulations to be in force by fall 2025. This marks six years since the start of the Decibel Coalition’s work to advocate for limits on boat motor noise be applied to boat manufacturers and operators. Rob Bosomworth, co-chair of the Decibel Coalition, said it remains to be seen what the limits will be and how they will be enforced, but is hopeful Transport Canada is listening to the group.

Float Homes not Vessels

Stakeholders also heard from the Float Homes not Vessels Coalition, which is advocating that the controversial shipping-container homes that have popped up in the Trent-Severn waterway and elsewhere in Ontario not be classified as vessels by Transport Canada. As a vessel, they are governed under the Canada Shipping Act 2001 and not subject to any ministries, agencies or municipality rules and regulations. That means they can avoid all building codes, permitting, standards and approvals, taxes and even environment controls.

The coalition’s Stephen Sprague said Transport Canada has recognized similar structures in B.C. as homes, and they are lobbying for the same designation in Ontario. “We’re not there yet,” he said, and appealed for stakeholders to participate in a public consultation process currently underway by Transport Canada. The deadline for comments is Dec. 11.

Watch the Stakeholder meeting video here

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