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Transport Canada floats new user fee for pleasure craft

a person posing for the camera: Pat Nelder with Boating Atlantic says the recreational boating industry supports user fees to help pay for safety programs as long as the cost is reasonable. (C) Brian MacKay/CBC Pat Nelder with Boating Atlantic says the recreational boating industry supports user fees to help pay for safety programs as long as the cost is reasonable.

The recreational boating season is mostly over, but Transport Canada is floating a plan to expand the number of pleasure craft that require a licence, shorten the renewal period and introduce a user fee on those licences. The proposed rule changes would provide the government with more information to identify the owners of recreational boats abandoned or wrecked in Canada’s lakes, rivers and oceans. Transport Canada signalled its intention to amend the small vessel regulations in a presentation prepared for a virtual meeting of the Canadian Marine Advisory Council this week.

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The user fee is undefined. Pat Nelder of Boating Atlantic said the industry in this region is on board — so far. “We have to pay to license cars,” she said. “We have to pay to license trailers.

I don’t think it’s a big issue to license boats as long as they’re … very reasonable in the amount of money they want to charge. “We also feel that it will support Transport Canada’s work that they do with our industry for safety and for the wrecked and abandoned boat program.”

The changes

Right now, only pleasure craft with an engine over 9.9 horsepower need a licence — and it’s free. Proposals introduce a user fee and make a licence mandatory for any boat above six metres, regardless of engine size.

Transport Canada intends to end lifetime non-renewable licences and reduce the licence-renewal period from 10 years to five.

a small boat in a body of water: Pleasure boats under 9.9 horsepower don't need a licence under current regulations. (C) CBC Pleasure boats under 9.9 horsepower don’t need a licence under current regulations.

The amended regulations are expected to go to the treasury board in 2021. The federal cabinet committee oversees government financial management. The new licence requirement would capture thousands of pleasure craft, including the 7.9-metre sailboat owned by Pat Nelder, which is powered by a 2.6-horsepower engine.

“It’s currently not licensed and it would probably ask me to license that particular boat, which I have no problem doing,” she said. “But I don’t know how putting these boats under a licensing system would be policed. I mean, I’ve never been boarded by Transport Canada.”

Transport Canada did not respond to questions about its plans. Nelder said the recreational boating industry will raise the amendments with officials later this week. “We want to know what the fee would include.

Is it a fee for service for the licensing, plus a charge towards the wrecked and abandoned boats program?” She said the user fee is better than the alternative — a luxury tax proposed by the Liberals in 2019 on boats, planes and cars over £100,000.

Most wrecks are from overseas

In Atlantic Canada, most pleasure boats are taken out of the water for the winter. Boat yards along the coast are brimming with boats covered in shrink wrap this time of year.

Nelder said recreational boats that are wrecked and abandoned here generally come from overseas. “The person may have run out of money and just abandoned the boat,” she said. “And those are the boats we see. The licensing system isn’t going to change that.”

She considers it the beginning of a consultation that could take several years.