Transportation 2030: Waterways, Coasts and the North

"Waterways, Coasts and the North" is one theme under Transportation 2030, the Government of Canada's strategic plan for a safe, secure, green, innovative and integrated transportation system.

On this page

Our goal for this theme

  • Build world class marine corridors that are competitive, safe and environmentally sustainable
  • Enhance Northern transportation infrastructure
  • Improve Canadians’ lives by reducing environmental impacts, including air pollution, and embracing new technologies

What Canadians told us

In 2016, we consulted Canadians about our transportation system. Here is what they told us about waterways, coasts and the North:

  • We need to make marine transportation safer and more competitive
  • We should use existing port capacity and short-sea shipping
  • Canada Port Authorities and other federally regulated marine organizations need:
    • harmonized regulations
    • a modernized framework that supports a competitive, efficient and sustainable port system
  • Taking advantage of new marine innovations will support an improved marine system
  • Government, industry and Indigenous communities must work together on an approach for:
    • marine transport
    • coastal and marine environmental protection
    • the competitiveness of ports
  • We need to address the infrastructure deficit in the North, as it affects both economic opportunities and transportation safety, especially with climate change and extreme weather challenges
  • The federal government should work closely with the territories and Indigenous communities on a long-term northern transportation infrastructure strategy that responds to the unique needs of the North’s communities and geography

Where we go from here

To meet our goals for transportation affecting waterways, coasts and the North, we committed to:

  • developing an oil tanker moratorium for the northern coast of British Columbia
  • building stronger protection for our coastlines and coastal areas
  • working with territorial governments, Indigenous people and communities in the North to address basic transportation infrastructure needs and adapt the transportation system to a changing climate
  • looking at ways to realize the full economic potential of our coasts and waterways over the long term (including the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway system)
  • developing a long-term plan to address the problem of abandoned and wrecked vessels
  • making sure our actions support work on government priorities such as:
    • trade and transportation investments under the Investing in Canada Plan
    • a Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
    • protection of our sensitive coastal areas

Support in Budget 2017

The budget confirmed:

  • $1.5 billion to support the National Oceans Protection Plan over 5 years
  • $400 million in dedicated funding for projects in the territorial North as part of the $1.9 billion National Trade Corridors Fund

Support in Budget 2019

The Oceans Protection Plan is taking concrete steps to prevent and better respond to marine pollution incidents, to address abandoned, wrecked and hazardous vessels, and to take action to restore coastal habitats and manage the impact of day-to-day vessel operations on marine mammals.

Through the plan, Transport Canada and partners are improving marine safety and enforcing responsible shipping practices. These are helping to:

  • protect Canada’s waters and marine environment
  • restore and protect marine ecosystems and habitats, and
  • improve collaboration with Indigenous and coastal communities

To improve and build infrastructure in northern Canada, Budget 2019 announced an extra $400 million for transportation infrastructure projects in Canada’s Arctic and North, as defined by the Government of Canada Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.

This increase, starting in 2020-2021, brings the total funds for these regions to $800 million and the total National Trade Corridors Fund allocation to $2.3 billion for investments across the country.

Our progress

Oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia's north coast

In May 2017, the Government of Canada introduced legislation to ban oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oil from the northern coast of British Columbia.

Non-persistent oils, like liquefied natural gas , can still be shipped through this area. To limit the impact of the moratorium , shipments below 12,500 metric tonnes are still allowed.

The legislation includes strong penalties of up to $5 million for anyone who violates the Act.

On June 21, 2019, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act received royal assent and works hand-in-hand with the Oceans Protection Plan.

Oil tanker moratorium

Changes to coasting trade

As part of Transportation 2030, the Government of Canada changed laws through the Transportation Modernization Act to improve the transportation system, this included changing the Coasting Trade Act.

As of December 10, 2018, vessel owners can use any registered vessel without a coasting trade license to move shipping containers between locations in Canada (on a non-revenue basis).

This will help:

  • support the marine industry’s business flexibility
  • deal with the current container shortage and could reduce the cost of trade

The Act also amends the Canada Marine Act so Canada Port Authorities may access funding through the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Coasting trade in Canada

Modernizing the Pilotage Act

Marine pilotage is a key part of Canada’s navigation system.

Following an independent review of the Pilotage Act which ended in 2018, the federal government proposed changes to the Pilotage Act with the goal of modernizing the law and improving the safety, efficiency, accountability and transparency of Canada’s marine pilotage system. These changes received Royal Assent in June 2019.

Transport Canada is working with Pilotage Authorities, system users and other stakeholders to put in place the changes as different parts come into force. The full transition should be complete by early 2022.

Pilotage Act

Pilotage Act Review Final Report

Pilotage Act Review

Abandoned and wrecked vessels

On November 7, 2016, the Government of Canada announced a comprehensive national strategy to address abandoned and wrecked vessels in Canadian waters. The national strategy focused on both the prevention and removal of abandoned and wrecked vessels. The strategy includes:

  • the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act
    • Came into force on July 30, 2019
    • Aims to protect coastal and shoreline communities, the environment and infrastructure
    • Increases owner responsibility and liability for vessels, addresses irresponsible vessel management, and gives the Government of Canada the power to remove problem vessels
  • creating a national inventory of abandoned and wrecked vessels and developing a risk assessment methodology to prioritize response
  • improving vessel owner identification
  • creating a long-term vessel remediation fund, financed by vessel owners, to address abandoned and wrecked vessels
  • launching short-term funding programs to help remove and dispose of small boats:
    • Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program
    • On May 31, 2017 we launched the $6.85 million Abandoned Boats Program to protect the country's coasts and waterways. This program:
      • funds the removal of abandoned and wrecked small boats that could be harmful to Canadian waters
      • teaches small boat owners about how to dispose of their boats when they are no longer able to use them
      • supports research on boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design

As of December 31, 2020, we have provided Abandoned Boats Program funding for:

  • 316 projects to assess and remove boats
  • 5 projects to educate boat owners
  • 3 projects that are researching boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design

National Trade Corridors Fund

The $2.3 billion National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) includes $800 million in dedicated funding to address the unique transportation priorities of Canada’s North, including safety, adapting to climate change resilience, and supporting socio-economic development opportunities. As of January 2021, more than $379 million has been committed to 15 projects across all 3 territories through 2 merit-based calls for proposals, with a total investment of $528 million.

On October 23, 2020, the Minister of Transport launched the Arctic and Northern call for proposals to divide up to $400 million to projects in the territories and northern regions of Manitoba, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Transportation in the North

To better address northern transportation needs for the future, we are working with Indigenous communities, territorial government representatives and industry stakeholders to develop an Arctic transportation policy framework.

The framework complements the Transportation 2030 agenda, and will provide a strategic approach for Transport Canada to prioritize potential transportation infrastructure investments in line with the northern focus of other recent initiatives, including the National Trade Corridors Fund and the Oceans Protection Plan.

Moving forward, the framework will guide the department’s policies, programs, and regulations in order to better reflect the realities of the North and remain in close alignment with the Government of Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.

Management of the St. Lawrence Seaway

On July 14, 2017, we confirmed a five-year extension to the Government of Canada’s agreement with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation to manage, maintain and operate the Seaway. This extends the existing agreement until March 31, 2023. It will provide stability for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the marine transportation industry.

In addition, we are conducting a review of the St. Lawrence Seaway to examine:

  • opportunities for further development
  • the Seaway's competitiveness and sustainability
  • its management structure

On October 5, 2020, we released a What We Heard Report for the St. Lawrence Seaway Review, which summarized the feedback we collected during the review process. The views expressed will inform the recommendations that will be provided to the Minister of Transport.

Canadian Navigable Waters Act

On August 28, 2019, the Canadian Navigable Waters Act came into force. The act amended the Navigation Protection Act. This act:

  • restores and better protects the public right to move freely over Canada's waterways
  • makes progress on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by requiring that decision-makers consider any Indigenous knowledge provided, and consider any adverse effects that decisions may have on Indigenous or treaty rights
  • creates more accessible and transparent processes

Protecting Canada’s Navigable Waters

Ports Modernization Review

The Ports Modernization Review was launched in March 2018 by the Minister of Transport, and focuses on how ports can make progress on five key goals:

  • supporting the competitiveness of Canada’s economy by facilitating the movement of goods
  • strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples and local communities
  • promoting environmentally sustainable infrastructure and operations
  • improving port safety and security
  • optimizing governance and financial management

An agreement process was launched to gather input on these goals and other related issues. In October 2020, Transport Canada released a What We Heard Report that summarized feedback collected through our engagement with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and the online submissions.

Transport Canada is analyzing what was heard from participants during the engagement process. The feedback will help us identify potential policy, legislative and regulatory changes that we can make to strengthen Canada’s port system.

Using new technologies

In 2019, we launched the Quiet Vessel Initiative, a 5-year, $26 million dollar program to test and evaluate the most promising technologies, vessel designs, retrofits and operational practices to test “quiet” vessels.

The program is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to address underwater vessel noise, and protect the marine environment.

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