Boating in Canada Archive

Licensing Archive 1995-2009

2011 April 15 The Canadian government increased the requirements for getting a Pleasure Craft Operator Card to improve boating safety. The test was standardized, with 50 questions set by the government. Students using an online exam must spend at least 3 hours studying the course material before writing the exam.

2009 September 15: Deadline for all boater operators to carry proof of competency after ten years of phasing in the program.

Estimates suggest that only three million of Canada's approximately 10 million boaters had qualified by the deadline date (2009). (CBC.CA)

2007: Transport Canada announced plans to tighten testing standards. Only two million Canadian boaters have cards.

2006: In Ontario impaired boating will result in the suspension of the operator's vehicle driving license, just as if the offence had taken place on the roads.

2004: Transport Canada takes over management of the Office of Boat Safety.

1999-2004: The Coast Guard and Office of Boat Safety (pleasure boat policy) were managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans

1999: If you passed a boating safety course before April 1, 1999, the course certificate may be recognized, and a "Card" obtained from the training organization.

1999: The Northwest and Nunavut Territories exempted from PCOC requirements.

1998: Federal proposed changes to pleasure craft regulations including operator licensing, mandatory safety equipment, age/horsepower restrictions, inflatable PFD's, marine forecasts, reduction of navigation aids.

1997 October: The Canadian Coast Guard has formulated a proposal for minimum mandatory education standards. Canadian boating organizations have been asked for their review and comment. It is not known if these standards will be legislated or how they will be implemented. Take a boating course now!

1996 December: The 1996 federal budget outlined plans for boat license fees. Proposed boat licences would also have to be renewed annually -- with a fee paid. [Boats with motors over 10 HP must have a licence only at the time of purchase.] Plans to impose the fees seem to be on hold according to Tony Rogers of the Nova Scotia Wildlife Federation. The theory is that it is due to the impending federal election.

1996 July: In the wake of yet another coroner's jury recommending regulation of the waterways, Ontario boaters could face new licenses, mandatory education, and traffic tickets on the water (from Boating News 1998). The Federal and Ontario governments have put their heads together and want to force all boaters to take boating safety courses in order to "operate" a boat. Contact your federal Member of Parliament and provincial MPP to comment about the proposals. Read about the new federal Contravention Act.

Estimates say there are one million boat owners in Canada. If the fee were $15, it comes to $15 million per year. Any bureaucracy that can handle exams and licensing will likely cost more than that. Hopefully no category of boat will be exempt. PWC's have proportionally more accidents than other types of boats and the majority of deaths are caused by collisions. Deaths from other types of boats are mainly people drowning without a life jacket.

Canadian boating organizations have opposed licenses for boats and operators because they believe that the government is simply interested in a cash grab from people that are perceived to be "rich" and poorly organized.

The Canadian Marine manufacturers (CMMA) also is not in favor of licensing boat operators. Their view is that training, mandatory for young boaters, is the solution to curtail the activities of the few reckless boaters who are the source of the problems on the water.

The only U.S. state to anact boat operator licensing, Alabama, has seen its fatalities increase in 1994 and 1995, after operator licensing went into effect! Generally, boating fatalities have been falling steadily over the last 20 years, in spite of increasing numbers of boats on the water.

Under a new Canadian law, police will give out tickets for boating infractions and the boater will be able to mail in their fine (similar to highway tickets).

All this change has been the result of the Joint Working Group on Recreational Boating Safety formed in 1995. The program started with Ontario and the Federal Government but is expanding to include other provinces.

There are 1.5 million licensed boats in Canada (not counting small boats with no engine or engines of 10 HP or less). This includes boats having more than one! Other estimates say one million boat-owners will be affected by new fees.

Canada Gazette 13 Jun/98 (PDF to HTML conversion by Ken Watson) provides regulation summary: Regulatory Impact Anallysis,Proposed Regulatory Text, Competency of Operators of Pleasure Yachts Regulations, CCG-Accredited Courses (and Test), etc.

Michael Vollmer, OSA President Sept/98 sent these points about "Operator Licensing" to GAM magazine.

Toronto Globe & Mail 2 Apr/98) Ottawa to launch boating crackdown Jan. 1, 1999