Canada Marine Day

MP champions Canada Marine Day
Alex Binkley, Canadian Sailings, July 14, 2008

A Conservative MP is trying to make Canada Marine Day a nationally recognized annual event every May 26. Mike Wallace, from Burlington, Ont. (pictured), has introduced a private member's bill in Parliament to recognize the importance of marine transportation to the prosperity of Canada. The marine industry has played a vital role in the development and growth of Canada, said Mr. Wallace, who chairs the Conservative Marine lndustry Caucus. "Whether moving goods or people across the sea or
through the Great Lakes, we have grown and prospered along our waterways and the marine industry was and continues to be the lifeblood of many communities, he said.

Canada Marine Day would "celebrate our glorious marine history but more importantly recognize the industry's future in our great country," he said in the Commons. "Whether it is getting our agricultural products from the west to their markets in Asia, shipping raw materials across the Atlantic, or moving manufactured goods through the Great Lakes, the marine sector continuesto be a leading industry in Canada".

"The marine industry will continue to be an efficient, effective and environmentally safe mode of transportation for many generations to come."

A private member's bill faces a daunting political path. First, it has to get selected for second reading and then avoid being talked out by government or opposition MPs that don't agree with its intent. But Mr. Wallace's bill wouldn't lead to an actual day off work and does recognize an important industry so it's not likely to
stir up any great political animus.

With Parliament in summer recess, the best Mr. Wallace can hope for is the bill coming up for debate in the fall and being adopted or referred to a committee. However, with a federal election a real possibility this fall, the initiative may die on the order paper. Then, Mr.Wallace would have to get re-elected and start the process all over again.

But that didn't inhibit his brief speech to the Commons about his bill. "In many respects, the marine industry is the gateway to trade and the future of Canadian prosperity. Marine waterways form the primary line of trade with corridors that are linked to massive networks of rail, road and other transportation networks."

Stephen Brooks, vice-president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said that since the first National Marine Day a few years ago the industry has received active
interest from the government. The government moved on changes to the Canada Marine Act that the ports wanted and announced projects related to the development of trade gateways and corridors. Having a nationally recognized day would be "a small but symbolic gesture for the industry."

Since its formation last year, the first Marine Industry Caucus has been across the country for a firsthand look at ports and terminals, Mr. Brooks said it started with a visit to the Port of Halifax, followed by visits to Quebec City, the Welland Canal, Port Metro Vancouver, and Prince Rupert for the official opening of its new intermodal terminal. It plans to visit the Port of Hamilton and Port Colborne this year.

There is also a possible trip to Washington to meet Congressional representatives from Great Lakes states. CMC representative spend a lot of time on Parliament Hill, Mr. Brooks said. "MPs and senators are talking about the industry; we are in regular communication with them." While the Marine Industry Caucus is a Tory-only affair, the shipping industry doesn't ignore the opposition parties, Mr. Brooks aid. 'All the parties know about us. We're open to whatever evolution in the caucus the MPs want. Anything that encourages them to talk about the industry."

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