Cutbacks to federal government employees has eliminated the boating officer position for the Okanagan.
While safety and security remain Transport Canada’s number one priority, spokesperson Jillian Glover said the office of boating safety positions have been cut by the federal government across the country. That is 14 positions, including the position held in Kelowna that serves the whole Okanagan.
“Transport Canada will remain focused on its core priorities, regulation and oversight. Transport Canada can make a better use of taxpayer dollars by supporting partner organizations who do boating safety outreach, instead of printing and mailing brochures,” said Glover. “Through a review of programs and initiatives, Transport Canada found that it can be more effective in supporting outreach efforts by other organizations.”
Glover said Transport Canada has plans to increase funding for the Boating Safety Class Contribution Program to enable partner organizations such as provincial police forces and safety groups to continue to educate the public on boating. The redesign of the program includes reallocation of $500,000, said Glover.
This announcement comes on the heels of the Safe Boating Council stating the summer season continues to be a time of heartbreak for many families on the water.
A 16-year Transport Canada study by the Office of Boating Safety reveals many using watercraft still don’t feel the need to wear a life-jacket.
“It is astounding to note,” the report reads. “that in exposure to boating, where the most frequent injury incidents involve capsizing and falling overboard, non-swimmers and weak swimmers continue to boat without a flotation device and drown as a result.”
According to Susanne Simic of the Safe Boating Council, even consummate swimmers have great difficulty putting a life-jacket on once they are in the water, especially when it is cold water. She points to the issue of cold water shock, where that sudden exposure triggers an automatic gasp reflex that causes people to suddenly inhale a litre or more of cold water.
“Without a life-jacket properly fastened, death is moments away,” said Simic.
Stiff penalties have be aimed at boaters to curb impaired watercraft operation. A Red Cross study found that 37 per cent of boaters in Canada drink alcohol every time they boat and about 66 per cent of boaters admit to partaking sometimes.
“What most don’t realize is that almost half of all boating fatalities are alcohol related,” said Simic. “The mind-numbing effect that alcohol has on boaters can be almost doubled by sun, wind and waves,” said Simic.
In an experiment called the Drinking and Boating Test, a mixed group of boaters were selected to manoeuvre through a challenging obstacle course before and following consumption of alcohol. After a trace of alcohol is registered in blood levels, Simic said participants knocked into dummy people appearing in the water and they frequently failed to negotiate throughways.
Transport Canada also recently ruled that stand-up paddle boards, when they are being used for navigation, are subject to the requirement of life-jackets. All paddle boards must have one Canadian approved life-jacket or personal flotation device (waist-pack inflatable, low-profile paddling vest or other PFD) available on board and available for immediate use. Transport Canada does not recognize the leash/paddle board combination as a flotation device.
Penticton RCMP plan to be on the waterways again this summer and in marina docks checking on boaters. Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said he expects those patrols to start in July. Last year, there were two full-time reserve officers rotating around the Okanagan watching the waterways.
“We try to concentrate on the busier times, and how often we get out depends on the resources and weather. We will be out there checking for equipment and operator’s cards,” said Dellebuur. “Everyone wants to come here, have a good time and go home safely, but every year we have some type of accident that for the most part can be preventable. It is important for people to know how to operate a vessel and be safe when on the water.”
To find what you need to be in compliance with your particular craft, visit www.SmartBoater.ca.