Issue Summary #6 – Protecting Our Coasts
A jurisdictional tangle is making it impossible for anyone to take action when BC’s coastlines and harbours are threatened; and too easy for everyone to avoid responsibility. In Ladysmith we have the example of the Viki Lyne II, a derelict, abandoned vessel that is an eyesore and a serious environmental threat to the shellfish, tourism and recreational boating industries here.
Ladysmith is not alone. B.C. is not alone. Many Canadian coastal communities can tell similar stories of abandoned, derelict vessels left to rust and rot in their harbours.
Are there steps you believe the federal government should take to better manage the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels? Is there a need to coordinate the actions of federal departments on this issue? Should the federal government be working more closely with provincial, regional and municipal levels of government in a coordinating role?
What has been missing over the past 10 years is the commitment to take action and work together to clean up abandoned and derelict vessels. Unfortunately, the Harper decade has taken us backwards, placing our environment at greater risk and squandering economic opportunities.
While Transport Canada expects a report to determine possible solutions to be completed some time this year, I feel it is way past due. It is not acceptable that this problem persists. As your Member of Parliament I am committed to work with local and provincial officials to establish a plan for cleaning up the mess and establishing the right penalties to prevent it from happening again.
Protected marine areas are critical to protecting Canadian ecosystems, and also our economic well-being. These areas help fish stocks recover, support eco-tourism, protect coastlines from erosion, and protect species at risk.
We will increase the amount of Canada’s marine and coastal areas that are protected from 1.3 percent to 10 percent by 2020. We will also reverse the $40 million that was cut from the federal government’s ocean science and monitoring programs.
We will develop plans that not only make best use of our marine resources, but also give coastal communities more say in managing the resources around them.
An important first step will be the formalization of the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast to ensure that ecologically sensitive areas and local economies are protected from the potentially devastating impacts of a spill.
Derelict vessels are a serious problem in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, and I have been personally working on this issue since March.
In June, MP John Weston (West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast- Sea to Sky Country) introduced a Private Member’s Bill to counter the increasing problem of abandoned vessels in our coastal waters.
The Prohibition of Abandoned Vessels bill, for the first time, creates the possibility that a person who abandons a vessel may be subject to jail time and fines of up to $100,000.
The work reflects input from mayors, councillors, boaters, and other leaders in BC’s coastal communities, with whom Weston has been working to develop policies and laws to deal with the problem. Transport Canada had as of last year identified 245 boats that might be deemed “abandoned.”
Last October, the Canadian Coast Guard contracted the removal of 20,000 litres of oil, sludge and oily waters from the Viki Lyne II in Ladysmith, to reduce the threat to the environment from the derelict fishing vessel. There was no report of oil in the water – the action was preventative and proactive. The Coast Guard is continuing to monitor the Viki Lyne II situation.
There are four other possible solutions for Ladysmith Harbour that require the participation of other levels of government, including a joint effort with the Town of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus First Nation to approach the Province that could provide an almost immediate solution.
MP Weston’s bill, which imposes personal responsibility on derelict vessel owners, is a good start.
The long-running problem of derelict and abandoned vessels on our coasts will only be solved with the cooperation of all levels of government. Right now both the federal and provincial governments are refusing to take responsibility for establishing and/or enforcing regulations that would protect our coast from these environmental hazards.
This kind of jurisdictional wrangling leads to inaction. We need a way to facilitate cooperation between our governments. The Green Party’s proposal for a Council of Canadian Governments would do just that, with federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations governments working together to find solutions to common problems such as derelict vessels.
The Green Party stands by the principle that polluters must pay and be held responsible for their actions. Registration, insurance and vessel safety codes should be in place to ensure that boat owners are in compliance with the standards necessary to protect our coast.
We also believe we have a duty to prevent harm when we have the power to do so, and would empower the Canadian Coast Guard to take action in situations where vessels have been abandoned in substandard conditions and pose a threat to the environment.
As your Green Party MP I will work cooperatively, across party lines, to introduce legislation that holds owners of derelict vessels responsible, empowers Transport Canada and the Coast Guard to take action, and provides them with the necessary funding to deal with derelict and abandoned vessels before they cause environmental disasters.
I am very familiar with the issue of derelict vessels. I know from my degree in environmental studies, my small business and tourism background, and my experience in local government that our region’s ecology is central to building strong coastal communities.
As Chair of the Islands Trust, I’ve called on the federal government for more than five years to take action on derelict vessels.
I’ve attended local government conventions and led delegations of as many as 19 municipal governments to lobby the Harper government. I’ve spoken out in media, pushing for a permanent, comprehensive, coast-wide solution that includes the principles of polluter-pay, product stewardship, and fiberglass recycling.
It has been the responsibility of the Harper government to take the lead on this issue – and they have consistently refused.
Instead of taking action on the Coast Guard’s strong recommendations, Stephen Harper cut Coast Guard staff and closed stations. Instead of cooperating across party and inter-government lines, the Harper government voted down MP Jean Crowder’s derelict vessel bill.
Instead of ending the one-oil-spill-at-a-time approach of all past federal governments with strong leadership, Stephen Harper’s government gutted funding for oil spill preparation, response coordination and collaborative practice.
I have seen, first-hand, true leadership on derelict vessels in Norway and in Washington State – so I know it can be done, and done well.
As MP in an NDP government, I will work with local community and indigenous leaders to implement a comprehensive, coast-wide solution to derelict vessels and to restore our ability to effectively prevent and clean up oil spills.