On numerous occasions I have lamented about the stupid laws that get passed by elected officials (here and here are just a couple of instances). Which is why I was pleased (and amused) to see Chris Seeley’s column in the National Post ripping apart the federal government’s attempt to make the waters of Canada safe through its pleasure craft operator’s licencing system.
If the gun registry does die, where will government-haters direct their ire? Easy. I submit that the federal government’s Pleasure Craft Operator Licence has now usurped the long-gun registry as the worst, most insulting, do-nothing undertaking currently being inflicted on law-abiding Canadians. And the Conservative government is foursquare behind it. Their only possible defence is that it cost less — so far — than the gun registry.
A brief history: Once upon a time, the news was full of people, most of them inebriated, who were driving powerboats into docks, other people, other boats, channel markers, islands and anything else not made of water. Folks were dying. The government needed to be seen doing something. So they decided to license boaters — but not in the way governments license drivers. For some reason, that would have been overkill.
Instead they went with something cheaper that still looked useful to the untrained eye — something perfectly in keeping with the quintessentially Canadian notion that stupid behaviour like, say, drunken wakeboarding, can be prevented by telling people that drunken wakeboarding is stupid behaviour: A stringent written test.
Not so shockingly, people are still dying on the water. In a particularly gruesome incident on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia last weekend, a power boat launched itself into a houseboat, killing the occupant of the latter. Police are suggesting alcohol, excessive speed and lack of running lights may have been factors — which means, obviously, that people need to be told that driving too fast, drunk and without lights in the dark is a bad idea. One more time ought to do it.
So Transport Minister John Baird is promising tweaks to Canada’s farcical boating licence: “new standards … to improve Internet testing,” a spokesman told The Globe and Mail; a requirement to demonstrate that boaters have read the study guide (I can see it now: “Click here to affirm you have read the study guide”); and, my personal favourite, more questions.
The Pleasure Craft Operator Licence has been with us for a few years now and has been pretty much considered a joke since its inception. But even at this late date it is enjoyable to see it get the recognition it deserves.
But the problem – as with all legislation – whether it is bad, stupid, useless or all three is that the chances of it ever being rescinded are zero or worse. Once on the books, dumb legislation tends to haunt us forever.