Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson (NDP) introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons Thursday, Feb. 4, that would make the Canadian Coast Guard the ‘receiver’ of abandoned and derelict vessels.
“This is a signal to coastal communities that there is something on the books,” Malcolmson said.
Getting the bill debated will take time though. Malcolmson estimated it could take a year for it to come up for debate. And she said, as a private member’s bill the initiative can’t go as far as she would like.
Private member’s bills cannot include funding, so they cannot direct specific actions on the part of government. They raise an issue as a priority, however.
Right now there is no clear line of authority or responsibility when it comes to dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. That means hazards like the Viki Lyne II in Ladysmith Harbour can sit for years while government departments avoid responsibility.
“What it changes is the runaround and the finger pointing that we see from one ministry to the next,” Malcolmson said.
If the Coast Guard were named receiver of wrecks, she thinks it would have to take action on boats like the Viki Lyne II. “I believe it would be compelled to take action,” she said.
She stopped short of saying the government would have to provide funding, but said it would give the Coast Guard a stronger case at budget time.
The initiative comes as good news to communities like Ladysmith, which was identified in a Transport Canada study as having the highest concentration of derelict vessels on the West Coast.
Her’s is the third private member’s bill to be floated on the derelict and abandoned vessels issue. Her predecessor, Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder’s (NDP) motion was defeated by the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper; a subsequent bill was introduced by West Vancouver-Squamish-Sea to Sky MP John Weston (Conservative), who was defeated in the Oct. 19 federal election.
“This absolutely carries Jean Crowder’s work forward,” Malcolmson said.
Although her bill would be a step in the right direction, Malcolmson said she hopes the Liberal government will look south of the border for a more comprehensive solution.
Boats in Washington State have to be registered, and a portion of the registration fee is used to pay for the removal of derelict and abandoned vessels .
“The Washington model, as a coastal MP, is something I will continue to advance,” Malcolmson said.