Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I'm pleased to join you for a brief discussion this morning about the key role of the Oceans Act and marine protected areas in the management and protection of Canada's coastal environment and how our industry integrates into that management approach to support both protection and trade.
Overall, I hope you appreciate that there is an increasing need for coastal management that is transparent, predictable, and adaptable. While significant progress is being made by all stakeholders involved in coastal protection, there are several aspects where modest investments in resources and changes in approach would yield significant benefits. To be sure, effective coastal management that will generate results requires an integrated approach, bringing together the range of relevant stakeholders to collaborate and develop practical and actionable plans. To this end, we are pleased to see recent investments in oceans science and the various commitments of the oceans protection plan.
My comments, of course, are provided from the perspective of commercial marine transportation and international trade more generally. The Chamber of Shipping represents the interests of shipowners, agents, and service providers responsible for Canadian international trade and domestic trade on Canada's west coast. This includes everything from people in ferries and cruise ships to bulk commodities for export to Asia such as grain, and containerized traffic for imports and exports through our major ports in the western region.
Protection of coastal environment goes hand-in-hand with the ability to earn trust of Canadians and our customers. Furthermore, the ability to protect our coastal environment smartly will also ensure the continued competitiveness of our trading gateways at a time when competitive pressures are increasing.
I have personally been involved with conservation initiatives on all three of Canada's coasts and the Great Lakes. I have experience in planning and managing various aspects of risk on our coasts and in enforcing Canada's pollution regulations more broadly, in my previous role in the government.
With a current focus on western Canada, we are actively involved in several conservation initiatives, both under the Oceans Act but also under legislation and programming of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada. Each process is unique, having different biodiversity challenges, conservation objectives, and engaged and affected stakeholders. Our sector is now represented on the national species at risk advisory committee for the first time ever.
The preamble of the Oceans Act refers to Canada's promotion of integrated management of oceans and marine resources. We believe that this intent is the right intent, as integrated planning and management of our coastal waters should provide the best opportunity to protect and recover our pristine ecosystems while also managing sustainable human activities, including commercial shipping.
The Oceans Act expands on this intent in part II and establishes principles for developing and implementing Canada's oceans management strategy, including the principle of sustainable development, that is, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
It is from this departure point that there appears to be some vagueness as to how to respect the principle of sustainable management. From our perspective, there does not appear to be a clear process or legislative or regulatory tool that appropriately addresses integrated coastal planning and management in areas of high human activity.
The outcome of this gap is the increased potential to poorly understand the environmental changes occurring in an ecosystem until such time as they reach a critical level and then, in response to such a predicament, implementing measures to address a threat that may lack substantive consideration and could have unintended consequences. Likewise, a lack of deliberate spatial planning means that a change in activity, including industrial activity like ours, is largely not measured or understood holistically.
Interestingly, one of the best examples of integrated planning exists in many of Canada's ports, where the pressures of sustainable development and stakeholder concerns associated with vessel operations has resulted in holistic approaches to examining risk and impact, and mitigating such impact in order to achieve safety, sustainability and conservation objectives.
A lack of integrated planning and subsequent management of areas with high human activity could result in a missed opportunity to improve a specific regional ecosystem, provide predictability for regulated human activity, such as commercial transportation, and find innovative strategies to manage such development.
For example, there are several aspects of risk planning that should be integrated. These include risk planning to determine coastal pilotage requirements, route planning that considers vessel manoeuvring characteristics, and spill response and preparedness planning, to name just a few.
We believe that the oceans protection plan will include several new planning initiatives that will seek to better manage vessel movements, anchoring operations, and aspects of vessel operations where indigenous and coastal communities have indicated concerns.
None of this would come as a surprise to federal officials. Indeed, they have been striving towards a more integrated approach to coastal management, and efforts such as the Pacific north coast integrated management area attempt to leverage a more holistic approach. It is hoped that the oceans protection plan will further integrate existing and future coastal management strategies.
We suggest that some of the current challenges could be addressed relatively quickly and without significant debate.
First, amend section 35 of the Oceans Act to include an additional reason for establishing a marine protected area, namely for the conservation, protection, and sustainable development of coastal areas with high human activity, including marine transportation to support domestic and international trade. By including this, areas of high human activity could receive appropriate scientific examination and resources, including benchmarking for cumulative impacts such that changes over time could be measured and addressed through integrated and adaptive planning. This integrated approach could also establish recognized marine trading corridors, concentrating integrated planning in marine corridors essential to Canada's trading gateways. The current systems approach may or may not address such areas, so it would be helpful to explicitly include such a reason in order to provide formal marine spatial planning for areas of high human activity.
Second, once an initial area has been identified as a candidate for a marine protected area, designate it early and then subsequently initiate integrated planning. Integrated planning should not happen in a vacuum that results in lengthy delays, but should be an iterative process where stakeholders are committed to common objectives. These objectives can be tailored to the specific area's protection needs.
Third, ensure the right federal departments are integrated in the planning process from the beginning. Certain previous initiatives were less effective and failed to identify the potential stakeholder needs early, resulting in subsequent challenges when draft regulations were published. This is both inefficient and ineffective.
Fourth, strongly consider several of the recommendations of the recent report by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development concerning federal protected areas and conservation objectives. For example, recommendation 35 of the committee's report refers to needed investments in infrastructure as it pertains to conservation. There are several aspects to sustainable use of our coastal waters that relate directly to infrastructure. This could include port reception facilities, data networks, vessel management systems, radar coverage, remote surveillance, acoustic measurement, and many other important technologies for mitigating risk to coastal waters.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that we need to carefully manage expectations and be mindful of the level of effort required to properly fulfill our international biodiversity targets and additional coastal protection measures. While there might be a propensity to progress all conservation initiatives simultaneously, there needs to be some degree of prioritization such that stakeholders can also be adequately prepared to engage with thoughtful, evidence-based input.
In a similar light, Canada's supply chain is facing increasing competition from the United States, and we must be focused on developing sophisticated solutions to sustainability challenges rather than simply imposing constraints to trade. We believe with solid integrated marine spatial planning and clear objectives, Canada can continue to sustainably grow its international trade and protect our coastal ecosystems.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.