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Ottawa to toughen standards for pleasure-boat operators

July 2010 News Siri Agrell and Ingrid Peritz - www.theglobeandmai

Ottawa will change course on the way it licenses recreational boat operators, toughening up a testing program long criticized as ineffective and easy to cheat.

But the new standards will not take effect until September, after the height of the summer boating season, Transport Canada confirms. And some marine-safety experts suggest that even the proposed changes to the online Pleasure Craft Operator Card testing regime will still leave too many people operating boats without sufficient knowledge, training or oversight.

Calls for tougher rules on the water have grown following a horrific accident on Shuswap Lake in B.C. last weekend in which 53-year-old Ken Brown was killed when a speedboat rammed into his houseboat. Police investigating the accident have said speed, alcohol and the lack of running lights could have been factors in the crash.

James Kusie, of federal Transport Minister John Baird's office, said the government is altering the licensing program with the goal of improving boating safety from coast to coast.

"New standards are currently being developed to improve Internet testing and will be available to course providers later this year," he said.

Currently, anyone can obtain a licence by visiting the website of a company accredited by Transport Canada and taking a 36-question test. Critics have pointed out that there is no way to prevent applicants from looking up answers online or in reference books while taking the test.

The new test will have 50 questions and place greater emphasis on reviewing the rules of the water.


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