Provincial government bans floating accommodations from parking on public waterways

floating accommodation on Trent Severn canal Photo by Joe Nimens

The Ontario government is banning floating homes from parking overnight on provincial waterways. On June 23, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry announced that the Public Lands Act will be amended to prevent these types of structures from stationing themselves on provincially managed public waterways from Big Gull Lake in the southeast, all the way to Trout Lake in the northwest.

Based on public feedback the government received, the amendment revises the definitions of camping sites, boats made for overnight camping, and floating homes to distinguish between the three. 

“The boating community shared concerns that some of the changes could affect the ability to safely anchor in protected bays on many waterways in Ontario,” the amendment says. “We listened, and as a result, the proposal notice was revised to focus only on the changes related to floating accommodations.”

Joe Nimens, whose company Live on the Bay builds floating homes, doesn’t believe these changes will impact his business. Nimens and most of his clients are stationed on the Trent-Severn canal, which he believes is excluded from the amendment because it’s on Crown Land that’s federally regulated.

“I’m really not sure where these rules apply. I’m curious to have someone from the Ontario government answer that question,” he says.  

Georgian Bay mayor Peter Koetsier says he thinks the ban is appropriate, but he’s not sure how effective it will be given how challenging it is to legally define a floating home.

“We don’t know to what degree floating homeowners can claim that they are vessels, and therefore not subject to these regulations. I don’t know how that will unfold,” he says.

Nimens believes he could easily circumvent these new definitions by putting an outboard motor on the back of his home. This would make it “primarily intended for, or usable in, navigation” according to the amendment, he says.

Koetsier says he thinks it should be obvious in most cases the difference between a floating home and a method of transportation.

“These units aren’t designed to go from one place to another, night after night, like most yachts or boats,” he says. “They’re designed to be in place as long as the owner desires, and they’re basically accommodations—a base from which people can enjoy the water.”

The MNRF cites potential environmental impacts among the reasons for the amendment. Koetsier says residents have complained about an increase in styrofoam debris across Gloucester Pool due to floating homes. They’re also concerned about the improper disposal of sewage and greywater, the impact of a floating home’s legs—feet that burrow into a lakebed to anchor the home—and the lack of lighting regulations that could cause safety issues at night. 

“In British Columbia, they have float homes. They’re subject to municipal regulations, and property taxes, and are attached to municipal water and sewage services in many cases,” Koetsier says. 

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