The provincial ombudsman says a law designed to protect New Brunswick’s waterways is useless.

“The regulations that presently exists is in fact worse than having no regulation at all. It’s the equivalent of having a smoke detector in your house without batteries,” said Charles Murray.

The 2002 Water Classification Regulation was implemented to classify water systems to protect them for their intended uses, such as drinking, recreation and wildlife. Environmental groups were tasked with testing the waters and submitting applications for classification. Nineteen did so, but Murray says a clause in the regulation allows ministers to have final discretion on any classification.

“What you have here is a blanket refusal by the ministers over [an] extended period of years never to accept any applications under the program, even though those applications are complete,” he said.

Charles Murray

Provincial ombudsman Charles Murray lashed out at the province in a new report over its water classification program. (CBC)

River systems like the Nashwaak could potentially be affected by proposed projects like the Sisson Brook mine near Stanley. Conservationists and First Nations groups have voiced concerns about such a plan.

Environment Minister Danny Soucy says he can’t speak to actions made by previous governments.

“While I can’t speak to decisions made in the past, at this time we’re working on development of a provincial water strategy,” he said. “This will include public engagement and discussion concerning the existing Water Classification Regulation, and whether it is the right tool to achieve our watershed management objectives.”