moved that Bill C-352, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to provide for the development of a national strategy (abandonment of vessels), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, oil spills and marine debris from thousands of abandoned vessels across the country pollute our waterways and put local fishing and tourism jobs at risk. For too long, jurisdictional gaps have left coastal communities with nowhere to turn when they need help with abandoned vessels.
I first encountered this on Parker Island, a small island off Galiano. Constituents came to me saying that for 10 years they had been trying to get an enormous abandoned barge off of their white sand beach. They had asked every single department, provincially and federally, and got the runaround for 10 years. Someone had had a big dream of turning one of the old Expo 86 barges into a floating bed and breakfast, or something like that, but by the time it beached on the shore, it was rotting. My constituents would phone the Coast Guard, which would say it was a hazzard to navigation and that maybe they would have a look at it. The Coast Guard would then simply tie on the rotting pieces of rebar or the chunks of concrete or asbestos insulation that had fallen onto the beach. Children could not play there and the fisheries were harmed. It was a total mess, and no one would help.
I was chair of the Islands Trust Council at the time. We did not have any authority to deal with this, but we tried to find out whether this really was a result of a hole in jurisdiction and if other communities were having the same problem. We went to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, the local government association for the Sunshine Coast on Vancouver Island. We took past resolutions, asking for action, to the Union of BC Municipalities, representing 180 municipal and rural governments all bound together.
One time, I led a delegation of 19 different local governments to meet with the Liberal B.C. minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations. There were 19 different local governments all in one room asking for help, saying that the minister should get it fixed or implore Ottawa to assume its responsibilities, that this was a marine issue, that it was about the oceans and vessel registration, and that the minister should be acting. Other countries act in regard to such vessels, but Canada fails to act.
For 10 years, we were completely ignored. That is one of the reasons I wanted to get elected as a member of Parliament: to bring the solutions here and to fix this once and for all.
During the course of the election campaign, the Viki Lyne II came into prominence in the riding I was hoping to represent. In Ladysmith Harbour, four years earlier, Transport Canada had found a beautiful old 100-foot fishing trawler adrift, the Viki Lyne II. She had been built in 1961 and had met a bad end. Transport Canada towed her into Ladysmith Harbour, which was viewed as a safe harbour, and there she sat for four years at anchor. Ladysmith had put an awful lot of effort into waterfront beautification, tourism promotion, and yet this horrific rusting hulk was sitting there, a hull that the Coast Guard, in a marine survey in year one, had said was maybe only being held together by the rust, yet it was a vessel with 125,000 litres of contaminants on board.
Ladysmith has jobs invested in aquaculture, tourism, and fisheries. All of them were threatened if the worst-case scenario happened to Viki Lyne II, and still we could not get action. A huge rally during the election campaign was organized by Take 5, one of the great local newspapers. Former MP Jean Crowder had been very active, trying to bring solutions to this. The former mayor of Ladysmith, Rob Hutchins, and then his successor, Aaron Stone, had a very strong alliance with the Stz'uminus First Nation. Here I raise my hands to Chief John Elliott, who was a very strong partner, he and his council. They repeatedly wrote letters to the federal government asking for help.
The Ladysmith Maritime Society, a community-owned marina, pushed as hard as it could for solutions. Finally, having been loud about this in question period, which some members might remember, a former fisheries minister, now the member for Nunavut, said that he would find a way to fund the removal of the Viki Lyne II. A little more than a year ago, there was a huge community celebration when, five years after was had first asked, the Viki Lyne II was finally towed away. In our effort, the Ladysmith Chronicle, a great local newspaper, had really helped us keep the pressure on and tell the story.
After the Viki Lyne II was towed away, every person who had been involved in her removal recommitted to a comprehensive coast-wide solution. The one off approach of dealing with the problem on a boat-by-boat basis, and not dealing with it until it became an emergency, had not been tenable. All them said that no community should have to work as hard as Ladysmith had to get that one boat removed.
Therefore, I brought to the House legislation based on all of the years of advice from coastal communities to fix vessel registration; to pilot a vessel turn-in program; to create good, green jobs by working with local salvage companies and innovating with recycling. Maybe we can find some markets for fibreglass, which has just not been done yet. Finally, my legislation aimed to end the jurisdictional runaround by making the Coast Guard the first point of contact. If someone finds an abandoned vessel, they contact the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard works it out between other federal agencies who should take the first action.
From Tofino, B.C., to Fogo Island, Newfoundland, my legislation has been broadly endorsed. Fifty coastal communities; businesses; harbour authorities; marinas; and labour groups, such as the the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union, Vancouver District Labour Council, and the Union of BC Municipalities all endorsed my legislation.
This summer I went to Nova Scotia and met with local leaders from all over who are facing the same problem, and they all agreed that this legislation would meet their needs and that we needed to accelerate it. We kept raising the pressure, along with many of my other Vancouver Island colleagues, some whom are sitting with me here today. We raised the issue of abandoned vessels 80 times in the House just in this Parliament alone.
The government kept promising that action was imminent. It did announce some funding back in the spring, which was better than a kick in the head, but, honestly, a drop in the bucket, with $260,000 this year for small craft harbours and $300,000 for removal from anywhere else in the rest of the country. The bill for removing the Silver King from my colleague's riding of Courtenay—Alberni was $300,000. This one vessel would have blown the whole budget for the entire year. The capital regional district, which my colleague, the MP for Victoria, represents in part, has applied to the federal government for $1 million to remove the backlog of abandoned vessels. Therefore, $300,000 is not going to go very far.
Then, on October 22, another vessel sunk in Ladysmith Harbour, the Anapaya, which had already been on Transport Canada's inventory of vessels of concern for three years. It certainly was a lot more expensive to recover, and more damaging to local jobs and the environment once it was sitting on the bottom of Ladysmith Harbour leaking oil than if, proactively, we had been able to remove it before it sank. I am very grateful to the Coast Guard, as it has so many times risen to the call for action without really having the proper resources, and without a super-clear authority. Those good men and women of the Coast Guard have acted. However, we need to support and resource their work and give them clear responsibility.
On October 30, just eight days after the Anapaya sank, the transport minister introduced Bill C-64. The bill is compatible with my legislation, as there is no overlap. When I saw that the minister had finally acted, I thought, great, my bill would really fill the gaps in his bill, and both pieces of legislation could move forward together. The transport minister's bill does not legislate on the most pressing issues with abandoned vessels. It does not deal with the backlog and does not fix vessel registration. The transport minister wants to be able send fines and penalties to the owners of vessels, but if there is no proper vessel registry, how will he ever know where to mail the bill?
Therefore, these two pieces of legislation should have been able to go forward together. Again, because the government's bill did not deal with the backlog, part of my bill suggested a vessel turn-in program, kind of like the successful cash for clunkers program for vehicles, which many provinces have worked on. Without that kind of turn-in program, we will just not be able to deal with the backlog.
We have heard of all the procedural games the Liberals used. They blocked my bill at the procedure and House affairs committee. I went to an appeal and showed them exactly all of the ways the bills were compatible and not in conflict, but they used their majority on committee to vote me down. We then used an unprecedented tool that had never been used in the history of the House of Commons, a secret ballot vote.
Even under the cover of the secrecy of the ballot box, I had an awful lot of Liberal colleagues say they were sorry but were voting with the government on this one. I wish they had voted with coastal communities, voted to have the solutions from all of those coastal mayors, brought to this House, and at least had the courage to have these debated in committee. To me, it felt like a real betrayal of the Liberal commitment to work across the aisle co-operatively, and to work with local communities to find solutions. I am disappointed. None of the B.C. coastal voices are included in this legislation, and I do not believe there are any B.C. Liberals on the speaking list today who are willing to speak about why they did not want to support this bill. In contrast, in the previous Parliament, when the Liberals were the third party, they voted for former MP Jean Crowder's version of this bill. That included the fisheries minister, transport minister, and the prime minister. Anyway, times have changed.
Tonight is the end of the road for Bill C-352. It is what coastal communities have been asking for for decades, but this is our consolation prize final hour of debate. Because of the Liberal push, this will not go to committee or a vote, which almost never happens. However, here we are making history again.
Yesterday, I was very pleased to have the support of all parties of the House to fast-track the transport minister's bill, Bill C-64, to committee immediately. Our communities are so hungry for solutions, and I am really glad there was agreement to move that quickly. The minister's bill will go to committee and I will do my best, along with my colleagues, to insert as many of those coastal solutions that remain from my blocked bill within the minister's bill.
I will finish by saying that I continue to be awed by the power and innovation of coastal communities. These are people who take matters into their own hands, find fixes, and use the system to advocate for them. Honestly, they should not have had to work this hard. This should have been solved 15 years ago, as every other maritime country has pretty much done.
I will not forget that the Liberal government tried to stifle coastal voices. However, my resolve to include the innovation and problem-solving nature of coastal community leaderships into the government's bill continues so that we can finally solve the abandoned vessels problem and get it off the backs of coastal communities. For ecology, the economy, and local jobs, let us respect that coastal wisdom. Let us honour the advice of these elected local leaders and bring their abandoned vessels solutions to this House and into Canada's legislation.