Boosted coast guard facilities and increased safeguards for Canada’s coastal environments are part of an expanded $3.5-billion marine program that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has dubbed the “Oceans Protection Plan 2.0.”
Trudeau announced new details of the plan, first launched in 2016, during a news conference on Bowen Island, B.C.
“The Oceans Protection Plan 2.0 is about moving forward with new, bold action with partners from coast to coast to coast to protect and restore our oceans,” Trudeau said Tuesday.
In its most recent budget, the government pledged to add $2 billion over nine years to the $1.5 billion already set aside for ocean protection.
Initiatives already funded by the program include the opening of six coast guard stations in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, establishing an Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary in B.C., the restoration of coastal aquatic habitats, and the removal and disposal of hundreds of abandoned boats.
It has also funded efforts to protect at-risk species including southern resident killer whales and North Atlantic right whales.
The new funds are aimed at expanding such environmental and safety efforts to more regions.
Trudeau said the latest plan was intended to keep oceans and coasts healthy, advance reconciliation and build a clean future.
The initiative showed his government “was moving back into the space of saying our oceans need to be protected,” he said.
“The federal government prior to us was shuttering coast guard stations, was underinvesting, was ignoring any sorts of partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and firing scientists,” Trudeau said.
He said his government was doubling down on the original oceans plan and it would be “expanded and deepened.”
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said that while marine protection work has continued since the oceans plan was first announced, the conditions have changed.
“The world has changed in the last two years. The pandemic, climate change, innovations in the marine industry and supply chain challenges are affecting the marine environment,” he said.
That’s why, he said, the plan is being expanded to cover new areas, including making ship traffic safer, keeping supply chains healthy and improving oil spill response.
Joyce Murray, minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said the government would be “working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and coastal communities to protect Canada’s mariners, waterways and shorelines now, and for the generations to come.”
A public opinion poll of more than 2,700 people commissioned by the federal government and completed early this year found limited awareness of marine safety, including shipping practices in Canada and environmental protection.
Seventy to 82 per cent said they believe protecting the marine environment is important and the number is even higher for those living in coastal communities, says the survey by Ekos Research Associates Inc.
Among the top elements of the Oceans Protection Plan considered important by those surveyed were strengthening polluter-pay principles to ensure companies take responsibility for spills, improving pollution response, protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems and protecting endangered whale species.
Results suggest more confidence in the plan than on the overall marine safety system, it says.
About 60 per cent said they were confident the plan would have a positive impact on the marine environment and species.
However, only 30 per cent said they were confident in timely oil spill response under Canada’s system and only 20 per cent believe it ensures industrial polluters would be made to pay or that affected communities would be compensated.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 per cent.
—Amy Smart, The Canadian Press