An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Jean Crowder  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of May 13, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to strengthen the requirements relating to wreck by ensuring that regulations are made to establish measures to be taken for their removal, disposition or destruction. It designates the Canadian Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck for the purposes of Part 7 of the Act and requires receivers of wreck to take reasonable steps to determine and locate the owner of the wreck.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 13, 2015 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

May 13th, 2015 / 2:05 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr Speaker, once again I rise to draw attention to the failings of the Conservatives when it comes to the west coast water protection.

When I first began working on water issues in the late 1980s, as the executive director of the Pacific Peoples' Partnership, one of our concerns was the rapidly growing great Pacific garbage patch, which at that time was as big as Vancouver Island and is now a monster of plastic garbage as large as British Columbia.

I was disappointed when the Conservatives reneged on their vote to ban the plastic microbeads that are so rapidly accumulating in our local waters. Residents in my riding, like those involved with the Peninsula Streams Society, are far ahead of governments when it comes to working to protect and restore water quality and fish habitat. ¸

That is why I introduced legislation to support local volunteers by restoring federal environmental protection for the Goldstream, Colquitz, and Sooke Rivers.

I am also disappointed that the Conservatives decided not to support NDP Bill C-638 to make the Coast Guard responsible for derelict vessels and for tracking down the owners to make them pay removal and clean-up costs.

We must act now to protect our water, fresh and salt, if not for the fish, if not for the whales, then, ultimately, for ourselves and our fate on this planet.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing Bill C-638 to the House of Commons. It is an important bill. It addresses an important series of issues. I will take a few minutes to explain for Canadians who are following the proceedings around this debate.

It is our view in the Liberal Party of Canada that a federal government has to show leadership in an area that crosses jurisdictions that involve such a variety of important issues.

In my remarks I want to also acknowledge the incredibly good work that my colleague, the Liberal member for Cardigan, is doing as a long-time supporter of action in this area and as someone we look to in our own caucus for leadership when it comes to issues around ports and waterways and of course, ocean policy, as a long-time fisheries critic.

The bill deals with the challenge of derelict and abandoned vessels, which are a very serious concern for our shorelines, harbour authorities, property owners, communities, and orders of government. They can create real problems in our waterways. They can cost all kinds of money in terms of having them repaired or removed. They create obstacles in our waterways. There are of course the implicit and explicit environmental issues that surround this question of abandoned derelict vessels.

This is also an expensive issue for Canada, and it is not one that is going away. There are 2.6 million pleasure craft licensed in Canada today. This is a problem that is not going away. The order of magnitude is simply growing.

There is a financial burden that is falling on community organizations, on municipal and provincial governments, and even on property owners.

One of the problems we see when we look at what the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan is trying to address in the bill, which we support, is the issue of who is in charge. It seems like everybody's job is nobody's job when it comes to this important issue, which is on both the west coast and the east coast and which I am sure is in play as well when it comes to our northernmost shorelines.

It is important to clarify which agency, order of government, or body is in charge of different situations. We need to make sure that we identify all possible measures that can be taken to identify and locate the owners of the wrecks, for example. Confusion reigns in this area.

Sometimes it is Transport Canada. The Minister of Transport can become involved if a vessel is causing obstruction or is blocking navigation, for example. Other times it is the Canadian Coast Guard, when it is called in to deal with threats around pollution, as we saw recently on the west coast of Canada in another episode. The Coast Guard was dispatched to play a role when there was a major leak. Of course, it is in a position to recover the cost of its expenses to deal with that pollution from the ship source oil pollution fund. The problem is that once the pollution has been dealt with and the sources of the pollution have been dealt with, the Coast Guard does not have the authority itself to then move and deal with the derelict vessel, the abandoned vessel, the problem vessel, and this is a real situation for so many of our harbours around the country.

Then again, if this abandoned or derelict vessel, this problem vessel, as I might describe it, is not a major environmental concern and is not posing a problem when it comes to navigation, most of the time there is no action taken by the government, and it can remain a real problem.

It is not just because they are eyesores and not just because they affect local residents in one way or another. It is because they could very well be hazardous. They are hazardous for the good folks who administer and run our harbours, the harbour authorities.

They also become very expensive. This is a very expensive proposition for harbours across the entire country. In fact, one of the most powerful voices I have heard in this area is the voice of the National Harbour Authority Advisory Committee. Ben Mabberley, from the National Harbour Authority Advisory Committee, said:

The truth is that one sinking of a derelict vessel at your harbour can bankrupt the harbour authority. It's that simple. We need to find a solution for it. This is going to be an issue right across the country.

He is right. This is a very important issue.

I understand that there was a study done several years ago by the fisheries committee. It was a very important foundational study that examined very carefully this whole question. The report was entitled “Small Craft Harbours: An Essential Infrastructure Managed by and for Fishing Communities”. It dealt with this very issue and specifically recommended that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans make changes, legislative changes in particular, so that the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from harbours would be facilitated. As a result of that report, frankly nothing has happened. The government has done nothing.

We have just come through a budget cycle. We are still in the midst of it, in fact. There is nothing significant in the budget to deal with this issue as many of our harbour authorities struggle with these particularly expensive problems. It is hard to reconcile that with the fact that at DFO, since the current government has come to power, there has been $1 billion of unspent resources. In our view, that could have been properly applied to provide assistance to these harbour authorities and other parties that are involved in trying to do right by their communities and citizens by taking action. Nothing in the budget was brought to bear to address the specific challenges for our harbours and wharfs when it comes to this issue.

There is still a lingering problem with the fact that harbours themselves do not have the authority, and more importantly, do not have the budget to deal with wrecks and abandoned and derelict vessels. We need legislative changes, because we need to help with the removal of such vessels.

Given the fact that there are 2.6 million pleasure craft licensed in Canada today, with numbers growing and fleets aging, we need a long-term plan. It is something that has been asked for by the committee's report, by harbour authorities, by communities, by municipalities, by stakeholders, by NGOs, and by civil-society actors. People are rightly concerned, and there is no long-term plan to deal with this, after almost a decade of Conservative government.

It requires leadership, and leadership means we have to pull together different orders of government to work together to come up with a plan that allows us to respond to this nationally, as a country.

This bill would go some distance in contributing to legislative improvements, and for that reason we support it. It would help by designating the Canadian Coast Guard the receiver of wrecks and by requiring the receiver of wrecks to take responsible steps to determine and locate the owners of wrecks. That is important. Who owns these things? They cannot simply walk away. They cannot abandon them. There is a responsibility.

The bill would give a new power to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to bring in new regulations that would have to be followed by the owners of the wrecks. They would have to remove, dispose of, or destroy them.

The bill is a positive step. For example, it would require the Minister of Transport to file a report every five years before each House of Parliament, so we would have a better idea with respect to part 7 of the act and the operations it governs.

We think this can be a very powerful next step. It could help to deal with these prohibitively high costs.

Funding will be key. If we are to see any kind of national leadership in this regard, coupled with some of the legislative changes that my colleague from the NDP has brought forward, we can make improvements. However, it does require national leadership, something which heretofore simply has not materialized under the Conservative government.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in support of Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), introduced by the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

This bill addresses three wreck-related issues. Canada is known as the country with the longest coastline. This is therefore a important issue for Canada.

First, wrecks compromise navigation safety. Second, when they are abandoned, they can cause environmental damage. Finally, they represent an economic challenge. When these wrecks are located near major tourist hot spots, they can detract from the scenery. I will get into the economic aspect a little later and propose a way we might use these wrecks to benefit the economy.

A boating association estimates that there are 4.3 million boats in Canada. What is more, in November 2012 alone, 240 boats were abandoned. There does not seem to be an accurate count of these wrecks or any monitoring of them. There is a lack of coordination and leadership. The federal government could play this role, since some of these wrecks may be in interprovincial waters or along the coastline. This would be an appropriate role for the federal government.

As has been mentioned, municipal authorities sometimes do not have the necessary resources or technical means to deal with wrecks. The federal government is well positioned to play this coordination and leadership role.

That is a problem, but there are solutions. For example, Washington State changed its system so that the vessel registration fee, whether it be for pleasure craft or other vessels, helps cover salvage costs. The state also made the Department of Natural Resources responsible for administering the program, which allowed it to salvage 500 wrecks. That is an interesting way of dealing with this problem. The federal government could learn from what is being done in the state of Washington.

I would now like to go back in history a little. I am originally from the Bois-Francs region, which was the first area of Quebec to have a recycling program in the 1970s. That was quite some time ago, and I learned the three Rs—reduce, reuse and recycle—very early on.

At the time, there was a visionary named Normand Maurice who said that there was gold in our garbage cans.

Members may be wondering where I am going with this, so I will talk right away about a course I took in agriculture and the environment to become an agronomist. The name of the course was waste resource management, and in our case, we were often talking about manure. These courses were really interesting. What we consider waste, scrap and wrecks are actually resources that are not in the right place. I think everyone can agree that those resources can be used and repurposed.

This bill talks about wrecks. My riding runs along the St. Lawrence River and so the issue of wrecks is very important to me and my constituents in LaSalle—Émard.

How could we salvage these wrecks and repurpose them in a safe, economical and environmentally friendly way? It must not be done in just any old way. We need to do it in an environmentally friendly manner. There is value in those wrecks because they contain metal and other materials that could be salvaged and repurposed.

This is also about job creation, given that 4.3 million currently registered vessels could be salvaged and repurposed, and there are many others. This could create jobs, especially local jobs, and stimulate our economy. This could be a great opportunity to take a wreck, repurpose it, salvage it, and at the same time, do so in an environmentally friendly and economical way. Let me give a couple of examples of these kinds of wrecks.

In the Montreal region, a boat that was more or less abandoned, that did not run, was transformed into a spa. A private company purchased the boat, which is in Montreal's Old Port, and turned it into a spa. Now that is innovative: to take a wreck and turn it into something useful that will not cause environmental problems, something more attractive that will not spoil the tourist landscape, for example. This challenge presents a unique opportunity to make the most of wrecks and take care of them.

As a final point, I would like to talk about a very interesting project. It is a project of the future, a business opportunity with incredible possibilities, because while ships become wrecks, there are also many planes at the end of their life cycles. There is a company called Aerocycle that specializes in dismantling aircraft at the end of their life cycles and recycling the parts. For instance, that company dismantled two Air Transat planes in Mirabel as part of a research project with École Polytechnique in Montreal and the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec.

That is how a ship and an aircraft at the end of their life cycle were transformed. They were recycled in an environmentally friendly way, jobs and opportunities were created, and various parts were salvaged and repurposed. This is very worthwhile.

Let us move forward with something that could turn out to be extremely valuable by allowing for the salvage of wrecks and aircraft at the end of their life cycle.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 7:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-638, which would amend the Canada Shipping Act.

I would like to provide the House with an overview of the current provisions under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, pertaining to wrecks and their cleanup. I would like to speak to the history of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and how it has evolved over the years to further enhance the safety of navigation in the marine environment, and Transport Canada's plan for a proactive solution to the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks.

As members are aware, Transport Canada's role under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, is vast in nature. The Canada Shipping Act is Canada's principal legislation governing safety in marine transportation and recreational boating, as well as the protection of the marine environment. It applies to Canadian vessels operating in all waters and to all foreign vessels operating in Canadian waters, including recreational boats, cruise ships and large tankers. The act promotes the sustainable growth of the marine shipping industry without compromising safety and is responsive to the needs of Canadians in the global economy.

Transport Canada plays a large role in the administration of the provisions under this act, including the receiver of wreck functions under part 7. In addition, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, represents a greatly updated and streamlined version of the old Canada Shipping Act, including enhanced safety provisions and better protection for the marine environment, with more focus on owner and operator responsibilities, ultimately strengthening the requirements for spill prevention and spill preparedness.

In this vein, Transport Canada continues to work closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the administration of the provision under part 8 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, pertaining to ship-source pollution, including prevention and response regimes, in Canadian waters.

As previously stated, the current federal government regime for the removal, disposal and destruction of wrecks in Canadian waterways is Transport Canada's responsibility under the receiver of wreck provisions of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, part 7. The receiver of wreck functions are administered by Transport Canada navigation protection program, which is also responsible for the removal of obstructions to navigation, including wrecks in Canada's major waterways.

It is important to note that under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the receiver of wreck may deal with a wreck, generally speaking, when the owner is unknown and if the person who reported the wreck finds and takes possession of a wreck in Canada, or brings a wreck into Canada. In addition, the role for the receiver of wreck is to try to locate the owners of wrecks within a reasonable time period, which is 30 to 90 days, depending on the circumstances. If, within that period of time, the owner is not known, the receiver of wreck may authorize the removal, disposal or destruction of the wreck by a third party.

Currently, under part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the receiver of wreck assesses each wreck on a case by case basis to determine whether action is required. Due to technical considerations, such as location, depth, size, or condition of the wreck, the most appropriate response may be to leave the wreck in its current location and, if applicable, remove pollution threats.

A review of Bill C-638 raises concerns regarding some of the proposed provisions.

Bill C-638 would require the receiver of wreck to take action on every wreck, including the requirement to take reasonable measures to locate the owner of the wreck, regardless of its location and condition.

Our government understands the importance of the issues surrounding abandoned and wrecked vessels, but the proposed bill focuses solely on the remediation of wrecked vessels and does not include requirements for vessel owners to prevent a vessel from becoming a wreck.

Be assured that Transport Canada has made efforts to research existing programs that deal with derelict and wrecked vessels, including the Washington State derelict vessel removal program. Washington State program officials shared what they learned about their experience in the initial implementation of a remediation program. It was concluded that remediation without prevention can have unintended consequences, such as encouraging vessel owners to abandon their unwanted vessels, relying on the federal government for their disposal.

Today, the program's success is attributed to measures to increase the accountability on the part of the owners of vessels and robust enforcement and engagement with partners.

I would like to reiterate that the Government of Canada recognizes that vessels of concern, including abandoned vessels and/or wrecked vessels, can pose marine navigation hazards, public safety risks, environmental threats and economic costs. In response to this issue, Transport Canada, in partnership with other federal departments such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is currently examining the gaps in the existing system to deal with these types of vessels.

Together, we will build an approach that will focus on prevention. It is important that owners take responsibility for the full life cycle of their vessels. This is why Transport Canada will develop and implement a public outreach strategy targeting vessel owners, advising them about responsible vessel ownership and life cycle management. As mentioned previously, prevention is key in achieving a positive end result.

In closing, the current Canada Shipping Act, 2001 regimes for receiver of wreck and pollution prevention and response continue to effectively deal with those abandoned vessels and wrecks that have an immediate safety and environmental impact. Bill C-638 is intended to address all vessels, including those that do not pose a risk to navigation safety or the environment. The bill would impose mandatory measures to deal with all wrecks at the cost of taxpayers, instead of placing the obligation where it belongs, with vessel owners. It is for these reasons that the government does not support Bill C-638.

We are confident that our government's proactive approach to educate vessel owners on the prevention of abandoned vessels and wrecks will assist in addressing the broader issue of vessels of concern and wrecks in Canadian waterways. Furthermore, we will continue to work with international partners in support of a global vessel life cycle management approach to dealing with wrecks.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in favour of Bill C-638, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act. I want to express my thanks to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for her work on the problem of derelict vessels. This is a particular problem around Vancouver Island and in my riding, but also along all of our coasts and, increasingly, in the rivers and lakes across the country.

This is an important issue as more and more derelict vessels are being abandoned. While they may start out as something that people see simply as an eyesore, many go on to become hazards to safety or to the environment. The intention of Bill C-638 is to give the Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before derelict vessels become problems.

Municipalities, port authorities, regional and provincial governments all want to work with the federal government on an effective system that might include fines and the recovery of costs for removal, but, of course, that is beyond the scope of what a private member's bill can do. However, at the same time, Bill C-638 would preserve the principle that owners are responsible for the costs incurred in damages done by, or in cleanup and disposal of, abandoned vessels. It would not, as some Conservatives have argued, automatically transfer all those costs to the public. What the public does bear is the cost of inaction. Therefore, when these derelict vessels are neglected and ignored, they eventually end up costing all of us damage to our environment, possibly navigation and other safety hazards.

Ideally, Canada would create a derelict vessel removal regime similar to that of our neighbour in Washington state. In Washington state, there is a system that has a fee as part of the annual vessel registration, which helps pay, ultimately, for the costs of removal of derelict vessels. It also makes a single agency, the department of natural resources, responsible for administering the program.

Unfortunately, as I said just a moment ago, this is beyond what a private member's bill can do in the House, because that would require a royal recommendation. However, this bill is an important first step in providing a single agency, the Coast Guard, with the authority to deal with derelict vessels.

My predecessor, as the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Keith Martin, introduced a similar concept in his Motion No. 554 in June of 2010. This is not a new problem in my riding and one that my predecessor did his best to get the House to recognize. His motion simply expressed the principle that the House support efforts to deter the abandonment of vessels by imposing fines and a regime to make sure that cleanup costs were recovered from the registered owners. It is very consistent with the principles in this private member's bill.

I would also to commend the work of Sheila Malcolmson as chair of the Islands Trust in bringing attention to this problem of derelict vessels. I will say as an aside that she is someone who I hope will be joining us in the House of Commons after the election this fall as she is the NDP candidate in Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

The Islands Trust is a federation of local governments in the Salish Sea off the inner coast of Vancouver Island. It is an area that covers 450 islands and thousands of kilometres of sensitive and scenic coast. Ms. Malcolmson's advocacy resulted in the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities adopting four resolutions in its annual meetings in 2010. These call for action like that suggested in Bill C-638 to fill the gap in our existing regulatory regime.

Here is the problem Bill C-638 is really trying to address. Now Transport Canada is responsible for derelict vessels if, and only if, the abandoned vessel presents a navigational hazard. If such a vessel presents an environmental hazard, then the Coast Guard is responsible, and this presents the obvious problem of overlap, since derelict vessels can present both challenges. However, if there is no immediate navigation or environmental hazard, then no one is responsible. Therefore, derelict vessels that present no immediate hazard for navigation or to the environment may do so in the future as they deteriorate or as storms blow them around the environment. Clearly, leaving these derelict vessels in place does nothing to enhance the very important tourism industry in my riding.

Derelict vessels are problems at both ends of my riding, I have to say.

In the Gorge Waterway, community groups have spent years trying to restore the water quality after decades of industrial use. It is just on the edge of my riding and in an area that I share with the member for Victoria, who has also done a lot of work to try to deal with this problem of derelict vessels. I am happy to say that the Gorge Waterway is now swimmable for the first time in over 70 years and the salmon run has returned. Small numbers in that run so far and very vulnerable, but the salmon are back. Do we want to let derelict vessels undo all the hard work that has been done in this community to restore the water quality, the environmental quality and the salmon run in the Gorge Waterway?

At the eastern end of my riding is Tod Inlet, a beautiful fjord-like body of water with a very interesting ecology due to its great depth combined with very shallow waters at its mouth. This creates a very special environment indeed.

In 2012, more than 20 abandoned vessels were identified in this environmentally sensitive area. This is home, among other species, of B.C. spot prawns that are one of the very successful, sustainable, ocean-wide food sources in our region, again, threatened by derelict vessels.

Some of those have since been removed, but unfortunately, like the old hiker's adage where garbage attracts garbage, derelicts seem to attract derelicts. Somebody has dumped a boat and somebody else sees what a great spot to get away with the same thing.

This is especially true around Saanich Inlet when it is such a short distance from Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, yet it is relatively secluded and so therefore easy for people to think they can get away with dumping a vessel there.

At the western end of my riding, the District of Sooke has been dealing with the issue of derelict vessels most recently at its January 12 council meeting. The council members, under the leadership of its new mayor, Maja Tait, agreed that they would write to the federal government to lodge a formal complaint about the lack of action in dealing with derelict vessels in the Sooke Basin.

Let me give an example of a challenge that just a single derelict vessel can present to local government. This example is the tugboat Florence Filberg that was built for the U.S. Army in 1944, a 38 metre long boat that served the U.S. Coast Guard for many years. The coast guard decided to sell the boat to Canadian owners and spent $40,000 cleaning up the vessel before selling it.

Unfortunately those Canadian owners moored it in the Sooke Basin and then abandoned it. In 2007, it broke loose from its moorings and wedged itself on a sandbar. Who is responsible for its removal when owners have disappeared? Here is where the legal problem arises which Bill C-638 would fix.

Sooke's jurisdiction of the municipality extends only to the land between high and low watermarks, not the sandbars in the harbour. The B.C. government is only responsible for derelicts that have been tied up to provincial docks.

The federal Coast Guard checked and said since the boat had been cleaned up, there was no environmental hazard. Transport Canada said that since it is on a sandbar, then there is no additional navigation hazard. There it sat for more than four years, an unsightly wreck in the middle of a beautiful harbour, but it also presented additional challenges.

One man actually died exploring this wreck in 2008 and arsonists, some suspect those whose view it was sitting in, tried to remove the vessel in 2009 by setting it on fire, leaving a burnt-out vessel with additional environmental hazards created by the fire.

It was finally removed in 2011 at a cost of over $100,000 in an ingenious deal that Sooke worked out as part of the construction of a new boat launch jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments. This was four years later, at a cost of $100,000 and the death of a citizen for a single derelict vessel. This is one that had previously been cleaned up, $40,000 spent by the coast guard cleaning up the environmental hazard.

I know I am going to run out of time very quickly, but I would say Bill C-638 takes the first step in solving the problem with derelict vessels in Canadian waters. It established that the Coast Guard is the responsible agency, responsible for move and cleanup, but also for finding those owners and making sure the previous owners are held responsible for the cost of abandoning their vessel.

In my riding this would help protect the environment. It would help protect marine safety. It would help protect fishing grounds and recreation. It would help protect the natural landscape and seascapes that are the basis of our very important sustainable tourism industry.

For that reason, I am a very strong supporter of Bill C-638. Once again, thank the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for her very important work on this private member's bill.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, brought forward by the member from Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Our government is committed to the safety of mariners and the protection of the marine environment. We have ensured that responders are able to take action when dealing with the unique condition each wrecked vessel presents. The management of wrecks is certainly an important item. However, the private member's bill we are discussing today is unfortunately flawed in its approach to the management of wrecks.

I will use my time today to highlight the fact that the proposed amendments to the act from this bill will not result in an improved approach to managing vessels of concern. In fact, due to the new mandatory actions and the lack of owner responsibility contained in this bill, these changes could instead hinder Canada's management of these kinds of vessels.

As the member's bill proposes changes that will also impact the Canadian Coast Guard, I will also take this opportunity to inform the House on how the current system addresses environmental concerns from ships.

The Canada Shipping Act authorizes the Minister of Transport to designate persons or classes of persons as receivers of wreck. Bill C-638 proposes to make significant changes to part 7 of this act.

Currently, employees of Transport Canada are designated as receivers of wreck under the act. This bill proposes to expand this power to also designate the Canadian Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck as well. The Canadian Coast Guard's objective is to keep our waterways safe and accessible across the country. The brave men and women of the Coast Guard save the lives of countless boaters and sailors through search and rescue missions. Our fleet provides icebreaking services to keep commercial traffic and ferries moving across Canada. In the north, the Coast Guard delivers vital supplies to isolated communities.

The Coast Guard is currently the lead federal agency for all marine pollution from ships or mystery sources in Canadian waters.

When it comes to environmental response from the Canadian Coast Guard, our government has taken real action to protect Canadians and the environment. We have ensured that the Canadian Coast Guard has the capacity to respond quickly to marine pollution incidents across Canada. For example, the Coast Guard has official environmental response managers located across the country, in addition to approximately 80 equipment depots nationwide.

The Coast Guard is involved in all aspects of a response, actively engaging with its partners and stakeholders. Through this program, the Coast Guard's environmental response regime is world-class and ensures safe and accessible waterways for Canadians. When a ship is determined to be an environmental threat, the Coast Guard is there to protect our rivers and oceans. Responders consider the best course of action to address the threat, keeping sure our waterways are safe and healthy.

This brings me to my first point regarding this bill, which is the proposal to designate the Canadian Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck. The fact is that the Canadian Coast Guard cannot be designated a permanent receiver of wreck. Under federal legislation the Coast Guard is not a separate legal entity in and of itself. It is considered part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Therefore, the Canadian Coast Guard, as an organization, cannot be a receiver of wreck or make regulations regarding their management.

My second concern regarding this bill is that it negatively impacts the ability of responders to determine the best course of action for a vessel. The current legislation allows receivers of wreck to assess each wreck on a case-by-case basis. This gives them the ability to determine the right course of action, depending on the realities on the ground. This is important to safeguard the ability of the responders to do a thorough risk assessment in order to understand the condition of the vessel, and to determine the best action to take. Each wreck is a different case, each with its own unique considerations. The reality is that these situations demand a tailor-made response. As this bill lacks a mechanism for responding to the most serious situations, it may cause responders to divert their attention and resources from more pressing vessels.

These amendments call for a sweeping change that would not address the real issue that many of these vessels are abandoned or uncared for in the first place.

That brings me to my next point. The bill does not require any additional responsibility to be borne by the vessel owners. The bill only focuses on the removal, disposal, or destruction of wrecked vessels. It does not include any requirements for vessel owners to prevent a ship from becoming a wreck or falling into disrepair.

It is important for there to be a balance between mandated government action and personal responsibility, the absence of which would cause the Canadian taxpayer to become the collector of wrecks. This bill does not contain much-needed additional requirements.

Without consideration of the obligation of vessels owners to mind their ships, this change could attract those who no longer want their vessels.

In conclusion, I cannot support this bill. It is flawed in its drafting regarding designating the Coast Guard organization. It mandates new obligations while not considering the unique conditions of these vessels. Finally, it does not offer any new requirements on owners for keeping their boats in good order to begin with.

The management of wrecks is an important discussion to have; however, this bill would not achieve results for Canadians. These sweeping changes would not result in better services for Canadians or improve protection of the environment.

For the reasons I have discussed this evening, I ask that members of this House join with me in opposing the bill.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to support this bill at second reading. This is an important issue for the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges who live along the shores of Lac Saint-Louis and Lac Saint-François, where a wreck, the Kathryn Spirit, recently sat.

Lac Saint-Louis is located at the confluence of the St. Lawrence River and the Ottawa River. In the past 40 years, a number of developments have posed a threat to the health of our lakes. These threats to our rivers and lakes include very worn pipelines and urban sprawl. Wrecks are another threat to our lakes and rivers. A wreck is very likely to pose a threat to safety and the environment sooner or later.

I have already mentioned the wreck of the Kathryn Spirit, which is a real-life example of why this bill is needed. This ship was built in 1967. In 2011 it was decided that the ship would be scrapped and that it would be dismantled in the Beauharnois region. The mayor of Beauharnois opposed the idea of dismantling the ship in Beauharnois, and the city managed to block the work. However, the wreck remained where it was from 2012 to the end of 2014. It was discovered that the ship had leaked oil into the waterway, and the mayor of Beauharnois, Mr. Haineault, wanted the federal government to intervene. He was the mayor of a municipality and this issue did not fall under his jurisdiction since the ship was in federal waters. The federal government did not take action.

We are choosing to take action this evening by way of this bill.

This bill would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. If this bill had been around in 2012, the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges and Beauharnois—Salaberry would not have been frustrated by the federal government's inaction. This bill would have given them some tools.

This is what the mayor of Beauharnois had to say:

Quebec's most precious resource is the beauty of the St. Lawrence. We have to protect that. Allowing this type of activity makes no sense.

We will not create a better future by working in isolation; we have to work together. The time to act is now. Municipalities, port authorities, regional authorities and provincial governments want to help the federal government develop a more robust regime that includes fines and removal costs. A regime like that cannot come from a private member's bill.

It is time that the government acted in the interest of citizens living in coastal regions. What the Conservatives have done and have in place right now simply is not working.

The Kathryn Spirit in Beauharnois is proof of the system not working. Years and years have passed while the Kathryn Spirit has menaced the environment. The wreck has been floating for more than three years in the waters of Lake Saint-Louis and its deterioration poses a threat to the environment, biodiversity of the watershed and the health of local residents. The boat's owner delayed work to get the ship back afloat and continued to delay the process. Meanwhile, the federal government did nothing. The Conservatives abdicated their responsibilities.

The member from the government side referenced the Canada Shipping Act. Well, in this case, the federal government did not use that authority to have the owner remove the boat that was clearly posing a risk to the environment and the health of the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Beauharnois—Salaberry, Lac-Saint-Louis and all of the communities downstream along the St. Lawrence River.

The Conservatives need to take action. It is disappointing to see that they do not intend to support this bill from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

I am proud to have lived in the member's riding for a short time, in 1989 and 1990. I also worked in the riding of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca at the repair and disposal facility at the naval base in 1992 when I was a summer student. I know the people of their ridings are looking for solutions to deal with derelict vessels.

The Kathryn Spirit is one example of a wreck in my riding where the federal government did not act to have it removed, and it was posing a threat. There are many other examples of derelict vessels across the country.

In the riding of the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, there was the sinking of the SS Beaver in Cowichan Bay. As reported in an article, pollution from the ship leaked into the bay and the Coast Guard was called to the scene. The article mentions support for Bill C-231, which is now Bill C-638, to eliminate the jurisdictional confusion related to the responsibility for derelict vessels.

There needs to be a bit of clarity here in the regime that we have in place, obviously. Just in listening to the members across the way explain in their speeches that the regime is clear and efficient, I was confused about it. I could not really make sense of it. If it is difficult for a member who is very familiar with legal terms and jurisdictions to try to figure out the regime that is in place, think of what it would be like for a mayor of a small or medium-sized town to try to navigate the labyrinth that is the current regime which is in place.

The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan has developed an excellent, clear proposal, which I think would give the tools to municipalities and regional governing bodies to deal with wrecks. We would like to see a derelict vessel regime similar to that of Washington State, which I think has been mentioned a few times in the debate tonight, to deal with this growing problem of abandoned boats in our waterways.

Our waterways are a legacy that we pass down to our children. We have to keep them clean. We have to keep them healthy. We would like to see the biodiversity in them continue. This private member's bill is just the first step of a new regime that is needed.

I am sure that in October we will flesh this out once we become government after the next election. We will have a regime in place that will provide a clear authority for who should deal with derelict vessels.

Even though I have heard members across the way say that they oppose the bill, we hope that they will listen to the voices from the coastal areas in Canada. These are people who are asking for action on the problem of aging fleets, the lack of recycling facilities for fibreglass, and a desire to protect waterways from potential environmental or safety concerns so that we can pass on this legacy to our children.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2015 / 7:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging many of my colleagues and also members from the Liberal Party who are speaking up in support of this important piece of legislation. I have to admit to feeling some frustration after listening to the Conservatives outline a program that is clearly not working. If it were working, I would not have to stand here in this House and propose a piece of legislation to deal with the problem.

Throughout Canada there are hundreds of derelict vessels, both on coastal waterways and on inland waterways, and this is a problem for many members in this House from coast to coast to coast. I am baffled as to why the Conservatives will not support this first step, and I acknowledge it is a first step. In my brief period of time I want to tackle a couple of concerns that they raise.

First, there seems to be four main areas where the Conservatives say they cannot support the bill. The first one, they say, is that this would force the Coast Guard to deal with every derelict vessel, which would adversely affect their operational capacity. If they had read the bill, they would understand that I included a provision that would allow the minister to set out in regulations the circumstances where the receiver of wreck was not obligated to take measures to deal with a derelict vessel. By doing so under the regulatory process, that would allow the public to have a say in when they think vessels should be dealt with by the government.

Clearly, the intention of the bill is not to have the receiver of wreck, the Coast Guard, deal with absolutely every derelict vessel, but we already know the problems that provincial governments and municipalities are having, which has been ably outlined by members like the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, how difficult and complex it is for other levels of government to deal with this and that we do need some clear definitions about when a derelict vessel needs to be apprehended.

Second, the Conservatives say that the Coast Guard is not a stand-alone department. It is part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, so it cannot be made a permanent receiver of wreck.

Actually, under the act and the regulations as they currently stand, the minister can designate any entity or individual as a receiver of wreck. The status as a stand-alone entity does not matter because the power to designate still resides with the minister. The bill does not change the ability to have the minister designate a receiver of wreck.

Third, the Conservatives are claiming that the cost of dealing with derelict vessels will now be borne by the government and ultimately by the taxpayer. That is nonsense. We have already seen that the government is already having to pick up expenses. Again, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca pointed out the $40,000 that was spent in cleaning up a vessel, and then an additional $100,000 had to be spent in dealing with the derelict vessel when it had been torched and otherwise dismembered.

Nothing in the bill removes the obligation on the owner of a vessel to pay for its disposal. That is why the receiver of wreck must take all reasonable steps to contact owners before taking action, because those owners are responsible for paying the cost. As currently happens, every effort is made to track down the owners and have them pay for those costs, but we also know there are many cases where it is simply not possible to identify the owner. They are deceased, out of the country or whatever.

It still is incumbent upon the owners to be responsible. If we wait for all derelict vessels to become navigational or environmental hazards, the cost of dealing with them goes up. Again, we have seen that in cases. The longer a vessel remains derelict, the more costly it becomes to remove it. By giving a receiver of wreck the ability to contact the owner upon observing a wreck, this legislation may help prevent vessels deteriorating to such a point that the removal or disposal becomes a costly burden.

Finally, the government is proposing a public relations exercise that will tell owners about their responsibilities. I have to say, many owners already recognize that there is a life cycle issue with vessels, but part of the problem is, there is nowhere to recycle these older vessels. Again, my colleagues have pointed out, there is actually a business opportunity in recycling these vessels.

I am hoping that some members of the government will recognize that these derelict vessels are serious problems in their own riding and that they will actually have the courage to stand up and support Bill C-638 so that we could take the very important first step in dealing with a problem that the government has ignored for the 11 years that I have been elected.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

February 26th, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

moved that Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for seconding this piece of legislation, and I also want to acknowledge the work that has been done by the member for Victoria and the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

What exactly is it that Bill C-638 does? It designates the Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks for the purposes of the Canada Shipping Act, allowing them to take action without being directed to by a ministry. It would also compel the government to create regulations for the removal, disposition, or destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.

I have had a number of emails asking me exactly what we mean by a wreck. I will go to part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, section 153. It says that a wreck is defined as:

jetsam, flotsam, lagan and derelict and any other thing that was part of or was on a vessel wrecked, stranded or in distress

Part of the reason I brought this bill forward is that what we have out there is a jurisdictional quagmire. We have three separate federal government departments that end up dealing with wrecks, whether it is Transport Canada, whether it is Environment Canada, or whether it is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Then we have provincial and municipal levels of government as well. I want to quote from a report called “Dealing with Problem Vessels and Structures in B.C. Waters”. This report says:

Dealing with problem vessels and structures can be highly complex due to the mix of provincial ownership of land, federal jurisdiction over navigation and shipping and sometimes conflicting federal and provincial laws.... Determining what laws apply can be complicated by the fact that Provincial laws or local government bylaws that would be applicable to a structure or vehicle on dry land may not apply to vessels because they either conflict with federal laws such as the Canada Shipping Act, or infringe on the core of the federal government's responsibility for navigation and shipping.

What ends up happening, actually, and I will give an example a little later on, is that departments end up pointing their fingers at each other, or levels of government end up pointing their fingers at each other, and nobody takes responsibility.

We might ask, what is the scope of this problem? Unfortunately, part of the problem is that we do not have a really good inventory of this. However, there was some attempt in British Columbia to deal with the problem of derelict vessels. There was a report called “Vessels of Concern Inventory” produced by Transport Canada in March 2014. In this report, and it only focused on British Columbia, it said that a total of 245 vessels of concern have been identified in this inventory.

In my riding, for example, the town of Ladysmith has 45 vessels. South of me, the city of Victoria has 22 vessels, and so on, but there is a caveat in this report. It said, “The reader is cautioned that this inventory consolidates only the municipalities responding”.

Most people feel that the problem is seriously understated in British Columbia, and we know that this is a problem from coast to coast to coast. We are hopeful that all members of this House will be seized of this issue and will support what is really a first step. This is just a very preliminary first step.

“Vessels of Concern Inventory” also indicated that “Many problem vessels of concern to local governments and the public are not obstructions to navigation and therefore [Transport Canada] is unable to take direct action”.

I want to point out that this report was done by Transport Canada, and it highlights part of the jurisdictional problem.

Before I get into some examples, I want to mention a couple of people who have worked on this issue for a number of years. The first person is Lori Iannidinardo, who is a regional director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District and is responsible for Cowichan Bay. Unfortunately, Cowichan Bay, which is a lovely part of my riding, has had a number of problems with derelict vessels.

I have to acknowledge the former fisheries minister from the east coast. One of the vessels broke loose and was floating around in high winds, and when I went to the fisheries minister, he immediately had the Coast Guard get the vessel secured and tied up. They did not deal with the fact that the vessel was still in Cowichan Bay, but at least it was secured so that it was not running amok in the bay, where there are many other vessels, including commercial vessels.

I also want to acknowledge Sheila Malcolmson, the former chair of Islands Trust. Both Sheila and Lori have been working on raising awareness and seeking solutions.

Recently, Sheila Malcolmson sought and gained support from the Town of Ladysmith and the Regional District of Nanaimo for my bill, Bill C-638. In a 2013 letter to the transport minister, Sheila, as the former Islands Trust chair, highlighted the challenges facing our communities. The Islands Trust has been concerned about derelict and abandoned vessels for decades and has been asking since 2010 for the Province of British Columbia and the federal government to develop a coordinated approach to the timely removal of all types of derelict and abandoned vessels, barges, and docks.

Although we are grateful for the leadership shown by Transport Canada staff with some specific derelict vessel removals last year, no permanent solutions have been adopted. Derelict and abandoned vessels, barges, and docks pose environmental contamination and safety risks. They also create visual pollution in communities, which negatively impacts tourism and commercial activities.

The age of vessels in Canadian waters is increasing and so the number of incidents of abandoned and derelict vessels is expected to increase and become unmanageable. I will give a very recent example of how difficult this is for our communities to deal with.

Just the other day, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Minister of the Environment, highlighting a current situation. In the letter I indicated that on August 31, 2012—we are talking two-and-a-half years later, and we have still not dealt with the problem—a survey was commissioned for the Canadian Coast Guard. It said that the Viki Lyne II, also known as the Aberdeen, posed a significant, imminent, and ever-increasing threat to the environment due to her deteriorated condition and the significant amount of oil aboard. The survey recommended that the only certain way of removing the threat was to disassemble and scrap the vessel. More than two years later the vessel remains a threat.

In the fall of 2014, 20,000 litres of oil was pumped from the Viki Lyne II by the Coast Guard. However, 13,000 litres of oil and solvent remain on board. Unfortunately, the resources to remove the remainder of the material are limited.

This is part of the problem. If it is a hazard to navigation, Transport Canada will step in and secure the vessel. If the vessel is actually leaking oil into the water, Environment Canada will step in and do something. However, the problem in this particular vessel's case is that they pumped out the oil and left all of this sludge in the bottom of the vessel, and the vessel is listing and threatening to sink. In the Coast Guard's own assessment, the vessel is said to be deteriorating, yet the vessel still sits there. The community is waiting for it to sink and then maybe someone will step in and deal with the cleanup, which would probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if the vessel were removed from the bay.

We have been working on this issue for months now. In an email on February 6, we wrote to the Minister of Transport and said that the vessel appeared to be listing and, given a forecast of lots of rain and possible high winds in the coming week, there was concern that the vessel could sink. The transport minister wrote back to us saying that it had been determined that the vessel was not now, nor would it likely ever become, an obstruction to navigation in its current position and, therefore, that the navigation protection program had no mandate to intervene in this matter.

I do not know if Transport Canada staff have actually been out to the west coast where we get big winds and big seas. We know it is not a question of if the vessel will sink, but when it will. The transport minister has known for years that this vessel is a problem, yet there is no action.

It is not just about the environmental pollution, or just about it being a hazard to navigation. I want to read a letter from the Stz'uminus First Nation. They have also written a letter to the Minister of Transport about the Viki Lyne II, or Aberdeen as it is known. They wrote that it would be an environmental disaster, affecting the traditional waters of the Stz'uminus First Nation, where there is a vibrant and established shellfish industry, a growing marine tourism industry, and B.C.'s most successful west purple martin colony, thereby threatening the very lifestyle of a region known for its connection to the sea

Therefore, not only is it an environmental hazard and a hazard to navigation, but it also affects the very livelihood of the people who live in the area. It is quite shocking to me that we cannot get any movement to deal with this longstanding problem.

There are many examples, and I wish I had time to go over all of them. However, as I said, there are 245 vessels that have been identified, and that does not even come close to representing the scope of the problem. I do not have time to go over every vessel and the state it is in, but we have concerns from the provincial government as well. The provincial government and municipalities are urging the federal government to come to the table and show leadership in tackling this problem.

I want to mention one other vessel, the Trojan, which was adrift in Maple Bay. This vessel was inadequately anchored. It did not have enough rode, and the mooring attachment was not sufficient for the size of the vessel. We contacted Transport Canada, and because the vessel was temporarily secured and not in the navigation channel at the time, Transport Canada said it could not touch it.

I understand Transport Canada's perspective. Transport Canada's mandate is that it cannot step in until it becomes a hazard to navigation. However, in this case, because there was no environmental concern, Environment Canada could not step in either.

We get some extreme tides on the west coast. For a while, at low tide, the Trojan was not drifting around the bay. However, as soon as some extremely high tides came in, the vessel was drifting around the bay.

One of the constituents who had been involved in this said that the last word they had from Transport Canada under the navigation protection program was that it is considering its options. The constituent followed up and inquired about who had responsibility for removal and cleanup when, not if, the Trojan ran aground, but received no reply.

The constituent goes on to say:

Of course, the problem with Transport Canada's response...is that when the vessel becomes an obstruction to navigation (again) or a danger to property (again), it may be too late for remedial action.

In this case, it had actually damaged some private property when it had broken loose at some point.

We had a tremendous amount of support for this bill, but I want to remind people that this bill is only a first step. We are constrained in private members' business about what we can ask for in a private member's bill.

I have to acknowledge that the Minister of Transport has been convening meetings discussing the Washington State model, which is probably a good model for for Canada to look at.

The Minister of Transport has also been responding and acknowledging the depth of the problem, but in the meantime, municipalities and first nations are rallying to support my bill because they recognize that it represents at least some movement. Again, it would designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks and require the government to set some regulations.

The Town of Ladysmith has written a letter to the minister indicating support for this bill. The letter says:

The problem continues to grow and poses an ever-grave threat to our communities. Derelict and abandoned vessels leach many different environmental toxins into our waters, pose serious navigational hazards, and adversely affect both aesthetics and local economies. Local governments like ours are virtually powerless to address this issue which has such serious consequences for our communities.

Just the other day, the Regional District of Nanaimo also supported Bill C-638. The regional district directors voted unanimously at their regular meeting to write a letter in support of private member's Bill C-638, which would see the Canadian Coast Guard take on full responsibility for derelict vessels littering the coastline.

Bowen Island Municipality has also indicated its support because of the issues around environmental, economic, and navigational hazards posed by derelict and abandoned vessels.

I am hopeful that there will be support from all members in this House for this legislation as a good first step. I think it is important not only in terms of environmental hazards and hazards to navigation but also in terms of the impact on economic opportunities when derelict vessels run aground or sink.

Again, I am looking forward to further debate on this bill. I am expecting to see it pass on to committee for further review.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

February 26th, 2015 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Essex Ontario

Conservative

Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak about Canada's current role in dealing with the ongoing issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks across the country.

More specifically, I would like to address the issue in the context of Bill C-638, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and why the government cannot support the proposed bill.

Our government has a robust mandate to deal with the safety of navigation and the environment. In fact, two of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation in the marine domain continue to be the foundation for navigation safety and the protection of the marine environment. I am referring, of course, to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and the Navigation Protection Act.

Canada's principal legislation governing marine transportation safety and the protection of the maritime environment is the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The act covers a vast array of safety requirements for shipping and recreational boating and includes stringent provisions for the protection of the marine environment. It also includes international commitments varying from ship safety standards to ship source pollution.

In fact, part 8 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of both Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard regarding pollution prevention and response.

Transport Canada is the lead regulatory agency for the pollution prevention and response regime, which includes management and oversight; the development of regulations and standards; and the implementation and enforcement of those regulations, notably relating to response organizations.

The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for spill management under section 180 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Specifically, it provides a national preparedness capacity, manages the national response team, and is the federal monitoring officer, or on-scene commander, for marine pollution incidents.

Together, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard work diligently to ensure that the safety and environmental provisions under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, are carried out efficiently for incidents, including abandoned vessels and/or wrecks that pose an imminent risk to the marine environment.

Regarding provisions for wrecks, part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, clearly outlines the functions and current capabilities of the receiver of wreck for wrecks in Canadian waterways. In general terms, these functions continue to serve the best interest of the Canadian public by helping protect the rights of the vessel owners and by assisting those who wish to salvage wrecks when and were possible.

The receiver of wreck functions are administered by Transport Canada's navigation protection program. These are the same Transport Canada officials who administer the Navigation Protection Act.

As members are aware, the Navigation Protection Act is Canada's principal piece of legislation allowing for the safe construction and placement of works in Canada's busiest waterways, while maintaining safe navigation.

While the main focus of the act is to review, authorize, and approve works, such as bridges and dams, in navigable waters, the act also includes provisions for being able to deal with obstructions in waterways listed in the schedule of the act.

For the purposes of the Navigation Protection Act, an obstruction can be a vessel, or part of one, that is wrecked, sunk, partially sunk, lying ashore, or grounded. This means that sections 15 to 19 of the Navigation Protection Act can deal with abandoned vessels or wrecks that have become an obstruction to navigation in navigable waters listed in the schedule of the act.

In addition, section 20 of the Navigation Protection Act allows the Minister of Transport to authorize any person to take possession of and remove the vessel, or part of the vessel, under certain circumstances.

I have presented a brief overview of our government's current legislative mandates that respond to the abandoned vessels and wrecks that pose imminent danger to both safe navigation and the marine environment and, in general terms, whereby the owner of these vessels are not known.

There are certain considerations that our government has taken into account in its review of the proposed bill.

First, currently, under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, part 7, the Minister of Transport can take action when and where necessary to manage wrecks that pose a hazard to navigation and the marine environment.

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.

In addition, the bill only addresses remediation through government intervention. It does not address the issue of vessel life cycle management. Public outreach focusing on the roles and responsibilities of vessel ownership is needed in order for any remediation program to be effective. I understand that work is under way to promote greater understanding among vessel owners of their life cycle management responsibilities.

The bill proposes that the Canadian Coast Guard be designated as receiver of wreck. However, designating the Canadian Coast Guard as receiver of wreck for all wrecks in Canadian waters will not only make it difficult for the Coast Guard to focus on its current mandate for pollution response, it will duplicate Transport Canada's functions, causing operational inefficiency and confusion.

Finally, I would like to point out that under federal legislation, the Coast Guard is not a separate legal entity in and of itself. It is considered part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Therefore, the Canadian Coast Guard cannot be receiver of wreck or make regulations regarding their management.

While our government appreciates the importance of the issues surrounding vessels of concern and wrecks in Canadian waterways, Bill C-638 does not address them. Instead, the bill would obligate the federal government to use valuable resources on abandoned vessels and wrecks that pose no hazard to marine safety or the marine environment. In addition, the bill is impossible to implement under current federal legislation and therefore fails to present a viable solution to the issue of wrecks. For these reasons, the government opposes Bill C-638.

Prevention should be the focus of this issue, not mandatory government remediation measures. Our government supports the immediate initiatives being led by Transport Canada and undertaken in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other interested parties to develop an implement a public outreach campaign. This proactive approach includes targeting the broader issue of vessels of concern and ensuring that owners have the information that they need to take responsibility for the life cycle management of their vessels.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

February 26th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing Bill C-638 before the House of Commons. Coming from the west coast, she fully understands what an issue this is, and coming from the east coast and living on an island with a lot of ports and wharfs around, I fully understand the problem that the bill is trying to address.

Abandoned and derelict vessels are a serious concern for community harbour authorities and shorelines and also property owners. They can create obstacles for mariners and impact on the environment and commercial and recreational activities. Their removal requires financial and technical resources, and often it is not possible to identify the vessel's owner to seek compensation.

This results in the financial burden falling on the property owners, community organizations, or municipal or provincial governments. This issue is particularly difficult because it crosses so many areas of jurisdiction. Many different agencies and governments are responsible for dealing with these hazardous boats, which creates misunderstanding, uncertainty, and frustration.

Therefore, it is important to clarify which agency will deal with the wrecks and derelict vessels and to ensure all possible measures are taken to identify and locate the owners of the wrecks. The Minister of Transport can become involved in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation.

The Canadian Coast Guard responds to incidents where pollution can be a threat and can recover the cost of its expenses to deal with pollution from the ship source oil pollution fund. But once the pollution and the sources are dealt with, it does not have the authority to deal with the abandoned and derelict vessel itself.

If an abandoned or derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken by government, and these vessels can remain hazardous and an eyesore for communities and harbour authorities—and a great expense for harbour authorities, I might add.

This issue has become a growing concern over the last few years and will continue to be a major issue as commercial and recreational fleets age and numbers grow. Currently there are 2.6 million pleasure craft licensed in Canada. A few years ago, I was pleased to be part of a study by the fisheries committee into the country's small craft harbours.

The report, entitled “Small Craft Harbours: An Essential Infrastructure Managed by and for Fishing Communities”, included a section on derelict vessels and recommended that Fisheries and Oceans Canada consider legislative changes to facilitate the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from its harbours. The government supported this recommendation, but unfortunately no action has been taken, as of yet, and that is too bad.

We know that approximately $1 billion has gone unspent at DFO since the government came to power. We know that the government has cut the budget for small craft harbours from $200 million down to now under $100 million. Conservatives are promising more money now right before the election, but the harbour authorities I talk to say, even with the new money, the problem in this country with our harbours and wharfs will not be properly addressed.

During the fisheries committee study, we heard the harbour authority representatives say that they do not have the proper authority and budget to deal with derelict vessels. We heard that there is no long-term plan for dealing with derelict vessels and there is a need for legislative changes to facilitate the removal of the abandoned and derelict vessels.

As Ben Mabberley of the National Harbour Authority Advisory Committee put it:

The truth is that one sinking of a derelict vessel at your harbour can bankrupt the harbour authority. It's that simple. We need to find a solution for it. This is going to be an issue right across the country.

As he indicated, it is becoming much more of an issue on the east coast.

More must be done to assist with the problems associated with these derelict vessels. The federal government must show leadership and work in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, harbour authorities, and community organizations to deal with this. This is simply not going to happen under the present government.

Bill C-638, while perhaps not providing all the answers, is a step in the right direction. This bill seeks to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, with respect to wrecks by designating the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks, by requiring the receiver of wrecks to take responsible steps to determine and locate the owners of the wrecks, and by providing the power to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to enact regulations that must be followed by receivers of wrecks to remove, dispose, or destroy the wrecks.

Bill C-638 would also require the Minister of Transport to file a report every five years before each house of Parliament regarding the operations of part 7 of the act. Currently, the receiver of wrecks is an officer of Transport Canada who acts as a custodian of the wreck in the absence of the rightful owner. The receiver has a responsibility to attempt to locate the owner within 90 days.

If after this period no owner is located, the receiver may dispose of the wreck to the salvor or sell it through public sale. The cost of removing a vessel or wreck can be significant and can include environmental and technical assessments, investigative work to determine the owner, salvage contracting for the removal, bringing equipment to the site, preparation for removal, removing the vessel and associated waste, managing final disposal and, finally, the legal fees associated with this.

Stakeholders, while in favour of this bill, have also stressed to me that funding is the key issue to deal with this problem. As has been indicated here, Washington State has set up a fund, and over the last number of years it seems to have made some progress on this issue while here in Canada the government has made absolutely no progress.

In 2009, the fisheries committee submitted a report to the government on small craft harbours, which included a recommendation and a lot of testimony on dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. In 2012, Transport Canada put out a study on abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada. It is now 2015 and the government has still not taken any real action or shown leadership. It is time for the government to step up, work together with municipal and provincial governments, harbour authorities, and all stakeholders to deal with this issue.

These derelict or abandoned vessels are an environmental problem, a navigational problem and, of course, they are a bigger problem on the west coast. We also have to realize that there are 2.6 million pleasure crafts registered in this country and I can only see this issue becoming a much bigger one. I hope that the Government of Canada will support Bill C-638, take some appropriate action for the environment, safety, and navigation around the ports and not leave it to the port authorities, which do not have the financial capacity to handle these issues.

I am very pleased to indicate that the Liberals will be supporting this bill and we very much hope that the government will take up its responsibility and put the money where it should be.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

February 26th, 2015 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I begin my speech, on the topic of shipwrecks and derelict vessels, with cannibal rats, and more specifically, Canadian cannibal rats. That should get everyone's attention. It is not every day that Canadian cannibal rats make it into a speech in this honourable House.

How is this for a headline? “Ghost ship crewed only by Cannibal rats feared to be heading for Scottish coast”. That is from the Scottish Daily Record.

This is another from the Plymouth Herald: “Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon Coast”.

The last quote is, “Hedging its bets, ThisisCornwall.com declared, 'Ghost ship full of diseased cannibal rats could crash into coast of Devon OR Cornwall'.”

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known far and wide as the friendliest people on the planet, but sending a ghost ship full of cannibal diseased rats across the North Atlantic is no way to treat one's European neighbours. We are better than that.

The ghost ship crewed by cannibal rats was the Lyubov Orlova, a 38-year-old, 4,250-tonne Russian cruise ship that was tied up in the St. John's Harbour for two years. It was tied up for two years after it was apprehended by the RCMP after a financial scandal involving the boat's European owners. The ship was an eyesore. It was a rusty, dirty smudge on the St. John's waterfront for months. Nothing, apparently, could be done about it.

Finally, in January 2011, the Lyubov Orlova was towed to the Dominican Republic, where it was to be taken apart for scrap. The ship was only out of St. John's Harbour for a day when the tow line broke. In the words of our then Transport Canada critic Olivia Chow, Transport Canada should have never given a “licence to allow an unreliable and unsafe tugboat to tug the Orlova in the first place”, but that is another story.

The ship drifted for a week toward offshore oil platforms on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, which was a real risk, before it was towed clear by an offshore supply boat. The Lyubov Orlova was then towed by a vessel hired by Transport Canada, but that tow line also broke, and the ship, full of Canadian cannibal rats, if we believe the headlines, drifted into international waters, where it made international headlines for the threat it posed of crashing into the Scottish and Irish coasts.

The ship eventually sank, or that is a widespread belief. Members should keep in mind that it is a ghost ship.

The story of the Lyubov Orlova is a bizarre one. It comes across as a Canadian joke. However, it is not funny; far from it. The Lyubov Orlova was an eyesore in St. John's Harbour for months. The ship was a threat to our offshore oil platforms and a threat to shipping. It was a threat to the British coast.

This brings us to this private member's bill, Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), which my party supports. If this bill had been in effect when the Lyubov Orlova was still around, the world could have been spared the suspense of where the transatlantic cannibal rat ship from Newfoundland and Labrador, from Canada, would end up. This bill would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. That is a perfect example of why the Canadian Coast Guard needs to be given that power.

As has already been pointed out, derelict vessels are a growing problem across Canada, with the aging of both industrial and pleasure craft. In 2013, the National Marine Manufacturers Association estimated that there were 4.3 million boats in Canada. The number of derelict and abandoned vessels was pegged at 240 in November 2012, with the majority of those boats on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Normally, only a vessel that is an immediate hazard to navigation or the environment will be dealt with by any level of government.

That leaves derelict vessels like the Lyubov Orlova in a grey zone. No one is responsible for preventing them from deteriorating and becoming a problem. This bill would designate the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wreck for the purposes of the Canadian Shipping Act, allowing the Coast Guard to take action without being directed by a ministry. It would compel the government to create regulations for the removal, disposition, and destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.

Giving the Canadian Coast Guard the authority to deal with derelict vessels is only a first step. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who tabled this bill—and a fine member she is—wanted to create a derelict vessel removal regime similar to that in Washington State. There, a fee on the annual vessel registration helps pay for the costs of removal of derelict vessels. A single public agency, the Department of Natural Resources, is responsible for administering that program.

However, that was beyond the scope of a private member's bill, so we have this first step: a private member's bill that would give the Canadian Coast Guard the power to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. It makes sense.

To elaborate on what happens in Washington State, the abandoned and derelict vessels program there has been in place for 10 years and has resulted in the remediation of roughly 500 vessels.

There are signs we may be headed in that direction. We would not say that after listening to the speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, but let me quote from a letter that his minister wrote to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. In that recent letter, the minister stated:

Transport Canada will be further analyzing wider policy options related to derelict, abandoned and wrecked vessels, including legal authorities and governance models.

That shows a sign of hope. My party will be keeping an eye on that to ensure there is follow-through.

I also have an example of an abandoned vessel in the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast that has been an environmental hazard for years. It has been leaking oil into the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast for years. To date, the current Conservative government has failed to fix the problem permanently.

The Manolis L, a paper carrier, sank 30 years ago this year in the waters off Notre Dame Bay with 500 tons of fuel aboard. The wreck sat dormant for years, but a powerful storm two years ago dislodged the vessel. That storm also dislodged the 500 tons of fuel that were in the vessel's hull. Last year, the Canadian Coast Guard replaced a cofferdam, a device that catches leaking oil, in order to stop the fuel leak. However, that is not a permanent solution at all. Oil-covered ducks and other animals have been discovered, and with eastern Canada's largest seabird colony just 100 kilometres away, people are worried, and rightly so. So they should be.

In the words of local resident David Boyd, “The patient is slowly bleeding out, and we're putting a Band-Aid on it rather than going in and doing the operation that needs to be done.” The operation that needs to be done is the removal of that oil.

There is no consistency in this country when it comes to derelict vessels or shipwrecks. A couple of years ago, the Canadian Coast Guard launched a major operation to extract hundreds of tons of fuel from a U.S. army transport ship that sank in 1946 off British Columbia's remote north coast. There is no consistency. The oil aboard the Manolis L off Newfoundland and Labrador's northeast coast has not been cleaned up, yet it must be cleaned up, and permanently. Why would the Canadian Coast Guard clean up a wreck off the B.C. coast and not clean up a wreck off Newfoundland and Labrador's coast?

First things first, though. Let us pass this bill and give the Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs before a derelict vessel becomes a problem.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

February 26th, 2015 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak about Bill C-638. It is a short bill, but it would have a significant impact. It is an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The bill proposes to address certain concerns being raised among Canadian coastal communities regarding abandoned vessels and wrecks.

While our government fully understands the importance of this issue, and I appreciate the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan speaking passionately about this—it is certainly an issue that is near and dear to her heart—it is our position that this bill does not adequately address the problems that Canadians are facing in this regard. The bill is looking to ineffectively amend this important act in order to deal with abandoned vessels and wrecks, but doing so would challenge the existing mandates under the act that are already in place and working well for the Canadian public. It is for that reason that our government cannot support Bill C-638.

It is clear that certain communities in British Columbia and the Atlantic coast consider the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks as one that negatively affects their enjoyment of their local marine environment. However, it is important to note that not all abandoned vessels and wrecks pose an imminent danger to safe navigation and the environment. The bigger issue that Bill C-638 does not address is the prevention of the abandonment of vessels. That is at the crux of the matter. There is also the need to educate vessel owners on their responsibilities of vessel life cycle management.

As members are aware, Transport Canada's role under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, is vast in nature. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001, is Canada's principal legislation governing safety in marine transportation and recreational boating, as well as protection of the marine environment. It applies to all Canadian vessels operating in all waters and to all foreign vessels operating in Canadian waters, including recreational boats, cruise ships, and large tankers. The act promotes the sustainable growth of the marine shipping industry without compromising safety, and it is responsible to the needs of Canadians in a global economy.

Transport Canada plays a large role in the administration of the provisions under this act, including the receiver of wreck functions under part 7. This private member's bill is a sincere attempt to address the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks. However, when we look at the facts, we see it is clear that the bill does not provide the proper mechanisms needed to respond to the issue.

For example, the first component of the bill looks to amend part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, which deals with wrecks, and to designate the receiver of wreck functions to the Canadian Coast Guard. Transport Canada navigation protection program officials are currently designated as the Canadian receiver of wreck and, as such, continue to administer the functions under this part of the act. The role of a receiver of a wreck is primarily to take adequate measures in finding the owner of a wreck prior to selling it or disposing of it.

Furthermore, the Minister of Transport currently has the ability to designate anyone as a receiver of wreck, including Canadian Coast Guard officials. Coast Guard officials have not been designated as receivers of wreck because this would duplicate Transport Canada's functions, creating operational inefficiencies and confusion.

In addition, the bill would place obligations on the Canadian Coast Guard to respond to every wreck, including those that do not pose a risk to navigation or the environment. This would have a significant impact on the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to focus its expertise and resources on those marine incidents that significantly impact public safety and the marine environment.

The Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada continue to serve Canadians by means of their existing expertise and long-standing legislative mandate.

This bill should be opposed not only because it would create redundancies but also because the Canadian Coast Guard cannot, under federal legislation, be designated as a permanent receiver of wreck. Under the federal legislation, the Coast Guard is not a separate legal entity in and of itself. It is considered part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Therefore, the Canadian Coast Guard, as an organization, cannot be a receiver of wrecks or make regulations regarding their management.

Our government understands the importance of the issues surrounding abandoned and wrecked vessels, but the proposed bill focuses solely on the remediation of wrecked vessels and does not include requirements for vessel owners to prevent their vessels from becoming wrecks. It is an obvious area that requires attention. That is at the heart of the matter and really needs to be addressed.

Transport Canada has made efforts to research existing programs and deal with derelict and wrecked vessels, including the Washington state derelict vessel removal program. The Washington state program officials shared what they learned about their experience in the initial implementation of their remediation program. It was concluded that remediation without prevention could have unintended consequences, such as encouraging vessel owners to abandon their unwanted vessels, relying on the federal government for their disposal. This cannot become so here.

Today, the program's success is attributed to measures to increase the accountability on the part of owners of vessels, a robust enforcement regime and engagement with partners. Those are two very fundamental aspects of the program and not really dealt with or mentioned in the bill.

The bill is proposing mandatory remediation through the removal, disposal or destruction of wrecks, which would generate substantial cost to the federal government and therefore ultimately the Canadian taxpayer. Transport Canada has estimated that the remediation of vessels over 100 feet in length can range from between $10 million to $50 million per vessel, not an insignificant sum.

I would like to reiterate that our government recognizes that vessels of concern, including abandoned vessels and/or wrecked vessels, can pose marine navigation hazards, public safety risks, environmental threats and economic costs. In response to this, Transport Canada, in partnership with other federal departments, such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is currently examining the gaps in the existing system to deal with these types of vessels. Together we will build an approach that will focus on prevention. It is important that owners take responsibility for the full life cycle of their vessels. That is why Transport Canada will develop and implement a public outreach strategy targeting vessel owners, advising them about responsible vessel ownership and life-cycle management. As mentioned previously, prevention is the key in achieving a positive end result.

Bill C-638 does not address the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks in Canadian waterways.

First, the bill would remove the flexibility for the receiver of a wreck to determine whether the abandoned vessel or wreck was actually harmful to safe navigation and the marine environment. It would do so by placing an obligation on the Canadian Coast Guard to answer to all of the complaints regarding abandoned vessels and wrecks, not just those that were harmful.

Second, responding to every wreck would impact the Canadian Coast Guard's current capabilities to protect Canadians and Canada's marine environment from dangerous spills of pollutants. Mandatory remediation could cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars as the bill does not reflect the concept of polluter pays. We have heard a lot about that concept, even today in the legislation dealt with in the House, where polluter pays must be an important principle of legislation such as this.

It is for these reasons that our government cannot support Bill C-638. There is no question there is an issue with abandoned vessels and wrecks, regardless of their level of impact, to safe navigation and environment. That is why work is under way to examine the current gaps in the existing regulations to deal with these types of vessels. We will look to develop a comprehensive strategy targeting the public at large and vessel owners on their responsibilities for managing the life cycle of their vessels. The current legislation and operational regimes in place continue to be the cornerstone for the safety and protection of Canadian waterways.

While our government does not support Bill C-638, we are committed to continuing to work with interested parties, including key stakeholders and all levels of government, on the development and implementation of a national prevention strategy for life-cycle management of all vessels. It is in that context that we oppose this bill, but we know that it is a serious and important issue that needs to be addressed. The government will be doing that in the course of time.

Canada Shipping ActCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 1st, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Victoria for seconding this bill.

In many coastal communities, derelict and abandoned vessels have a negative impact on their harbours, and some pose a threat to the local environment.

While major environmental dangers from derelict and abandoned vessels are dealt with swiftly by the Canadian Coast Guard, many are simply left to rot away and leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.

If an abandoned and derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken.

The Minister of Transport can become involved in the following situations.

Transport Canada can currently take the lead in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation. However, vessels in the intertidal zone are rarely an obstruction to navigation.

Transport Canada has also been supportive of salvage claims made to the receiver of wrecks when questionable vessels appear ashore or in waters adjacent to communities. However, salvage claims are rarely made against derelict vessels.

Finally, Transport Canada can take the lead in making an assessment as to whether a vessel may pose a threat of pollution. However, an abandoned or derelict vessel that is deemed non-polluting is not dealt with.

Both I, in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and the member for Victoria, often hear complaints about derelict vessels that are not dealt with. Hence, I have introduced this bill, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)