The boating industry needs to speak up

Andy Adams

July 12, 2022

A recent conversation with a senior marine professional reminded me that we don’t seem to speak up to defend our own interests, even when the stakes are high.

His comment that caught me off guard, was that a major marina dealer had recently commented to him, that the new Liberal/NDP luxury tax on boats was really hitting his business. Buyers were saying they would not buy a big boat out of principal – they refused to be victimized by the new luxury tax. 

Right – that should not come as a surprise. Our industry associations have lobbied long and hard in opposition to this tax yet at least this one big boat dealer expected that the tax would not come in. He thought it was obviously a terrible idea that would not generate new revenues. Now he is seeing that it’s killing his sales and is therefore cutting into the government’s GST take on big new boats.

It was recently revealed that the government actually has projected millions in lost sales for our industry. They knew what was coming and they went ahead anyway.

Politics trumps common sense. The luxury tax was a political strategy by the NPD and the Liberals, to tell average Canadians that “rich guys” would pay for all these social programs and pandemic costs that they campaigned on.

Did you write your MP to express your opposition to the luxury tax? Did you lobby your customers to write to their MPs? Did you share any information with your customers about the impact this will have on your business, on your employees and on the economy where you are?

In this edition of Boating Industry Canada News Week Digest, we have a story from NMMA Canada about their response to a cottage owners lobby effort to force legislation to limit noise from boats. The Decibel Coalition seems to be a sub-set of a group called Safe Quiet Lakes and they hired a top-flight lobby organization to advance their goals of limiting boat noise.

What noise? New boats are the smoothest, most quiet boats ever. The target seems to be people with performance boats that run raised engines and open exhaust. Somehow, they got this onto Transport Canada’s radar and into Transport Canada’s “Let’s Talk” web portal where they invited public input on many issues around boats and boating.

This Decibel Coalition sent out a press release saying that as a result of their communications and lobby efforts, large numbers of respondents signed into Transport Canada’s Let’s Talk web portal to express support for decibel limits on boat motor noise. Their press release staid that 89% of the total 1,000 respondents were in favour of decibel limits. Of those, 84% supported implementing performance standards for manufacturers, vessel operators, or both, to make sure vessels do not exceed decibel limits. More than 2,000 comments were voiced with many indicating support for clear enforcement procedures and significant fines or penalties. 

The Decibel Coalition is keeping up the pressure. They have asked their supporters to write to their MPs about decibel limits, and to date, almost 500 letters have been sent to more than 70 MPs across the country and to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of Transport. Leveraging this support, the Coalition has met with several MPs and key members of the Transport Committee to advocate their position with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

They claim to have generated press coverage in 85 media outlets in four provinces and it appears that their fund-raising efforts have given this group a loud voice with our government.

You probably realize that new boats are already quiet. No one wants to see higher boat costs that can result from this legislation. And, no one wants to see our enforcement resources squandered on equipping police with sound level meters. This is a vanity project when more boating safety support is so much more important.

Owners of offshore performance boats won’t change their behavior to avoid a $500 or even a $1000 citation. Captain’s Call and Silent Choice exhaust systems will make it even more difficult for enforcement.

My point is that the data The Decibel Coalition reported indicates that very few voices were raised in opposition. The NMMA Canada had a sensible and measured response on behalf of the marine industry, but we need to speak up in our own defense.

You are part of an economically significant industry. Your livelihood and that of your employees, their families, the communities we live in and the customers we serve are also significant.

It’s important that we speak up for our own interests as individuals. Of course, we need to support the marine trade associations because they are leading the charge, but politicians only care about big numbers and staying in power. Not much else seems to matter these days.

Andy Adams – Editor

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