No support for derelict vessels bill from Conservatives

The first hour of debate on my private member’s bill, C-638, to designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck was held on Feb. 26.

Jean Crowder

NDP Member of parliament

The first hour of debate on my private member’s bill, C-638, to designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck was held on Feb. 26.

It is an attempt to deal with the growing problem of derelict vessels by giving one entity jurisdictional power to take action.

I was hoping that recent efforts by Transport Canada to identify derelict vessels and map the extent of the problem meant there would be support for my efforts by the Conservatives.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Here is a partial transcript of what the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Transport said:

“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.

“Our government recognizes that the current Part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act does not capture all wrecks that are vessels of concern. In particular, wrecks where the owner is known but unwilling to act are not captured. The proposed bill does not provide a solution to this issue.”

The response from the government deliberately seemed to miss the part of my bill that would allow the minister to create regulations regarding derelict vessels. That would give the minister the power to outline when the Coast Guard should act and what it should do when the owner of a vessel is known and unwilling to act.

But more disturbingly, the Conservative response ignored what organizations like the Town of Ladysmith, Islands Trust and the Union of BC Municipalities have been saying for years — the frustration in dealing with derelict vessels comes from a lack of jurisdiction, with small municipalities left hanging when there is a vessel that needs to be removed before it becomes a problem, not after it has become a threat.

Support for some legislative change to help clear up the jurisdictional morass around derelict vessels is growing.

My hope is that we can convince the Conservative government that ignoring this issue is the wrong thing to do for people on the coast.

The bill will come back for its second hour of debate in April.If you want to help see it pass, please go to my website at www.jeancrowder.ca and follow the links.