Council emphasizes its support for derelict vessels bill

The first hour of debate on Crowder’s private member’s bill held Feb. 26 in the House of Commons.

With the first hour of federal debate on Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder’s private member’s bill regarding the handling of derelict vessels now complete and hazardous boats in the harbour, Ladysmith council is sending another strong message of support for the bill to the federal government.

Council voted March 2 to write a second letter to show support for Crowder’s bill and request that Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott sign the letter as well.

“There was a letter from Chief John Elliott and myself that was sent to [Transport Minister Lisa Raitt ] last week about a specific vessel in our harbour, specifically with the intent of getting it into the hands of the Ministry and MP Jean Crowder before that debate took place in the House,” said Mayor Aaron Stone. “That letter was delivered and received; we have not gotten a reply so far. We also did send a letter after Sheila Malcolmson was here in support of the bill. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to send a followup and say how incredibly strongly we continue to support the resolution and get action on that.”

The first hour of debate on Crowder’s private member’s bill to designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck was held Feb. 26 in the House of Commons.

Last week, Crowder reported that  during the debate, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Transport stated: “Making obligations mandatory would require the receiver of wreck to take action on every wreck and to take every reasonable measure to locate the owner of the wreck, regardless of its location or state. This would create a financial burden on the federal government, and that means on the Canadian taxpayer. In the same vein, it would be costly to the Canadian Coast Guard, and it would divert resources from responding to priority vessels, causing damage to the marine environment.”

The second hour of debate on the bill will take place in April.

Coun. Steve Arnett brought the matter up at the council table.

“What I was really concerned about is what they spoke about if the reporting is accurate was the very thing that causes the problem, and that’s these competing jurisdictions where nobody will take any authority or responsibility,” he said. “So I would urge that we are in communication with the other coastal communities that signed onto the [Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities and Union of British Columbia Municipalities] resolution and we send a strong letter to both the MP in support and to the sitting government members on the Island that this is an issue of economic development … and we really need this resolved.”

John Craig was in attendance at the meeting, and he encouraged council to send the letter, noting that he started sending photographs of derelict vessels in the harbour to the Town 12 years ago.

“I don’t think we have a parallel for this industry in Canada,” he said. “When cars get old, they go to auto-wreckers, they’re crumpled, they’re destroyed and re-invented as new cars or tableware or whatever. When boats get old, they just go somewhere and they rot and rot until they sink. In the meantime, you are polluting the seabed, you’re creating a hazard to navigation and it’s an issue that if we think it’s a big issue today, wait 10 years, wait 20 years.”

Expressing appreciation for Craig’s support, Stone noted that the vessel they are most concerned about right now is a large boat that is listing to one side with 16,000 litres of oil and solvents onboard.

“The Coast Guard unfortunately was only able to with their funding pull up I think it was 20,000 litres in 2012, and they commissioned a report that said there was less than a sixteenth of an inch of hull left, and yet here we are, still trying to petition the minister and the groups responsible to take some action on this,” he said.