That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 5.
Mr. Speaker, I am standing once again in the House to talk about the imperative for federal action to deal with abandoned vessels. Because of fishermen being forced out of the commercial fishing fleets, because fibreglass is reaching the end of its lifetime, and because climate change is creating different types of storms, all coasts of Canada are littered with abandoned vessels.
For 15 years, it has been clear that there is a jurisdictional hole that no government has been able to fill. As a result, it has fallen to coastal communities, which have had to try to jerry-rig solutions. My predecessor, Jean Crowder, as the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, had legislation in the House that was supported by the Liberal Party when it was the third party, so we had real optimism that in this session of Parliament, we would find legislative solutions for abandoned vessels.
I think back to my start, when I was first elected chair of the Islands Trust Council, which is a regional government in the Salish Sea charged with a mandate of preservation and protection. We were approached by ratepayers on Parker Island, just off Galiano Island, in the Salish Sea. They had been trying for 10 years to get a government department to agree to help them with a wrecked barge from the early 1980s that had been sitting on their shore for 10 years. Every department gave them the runaround. They were told to talk to navigation, talk to environment, talk to land management, and talk to the Coast Guard. They were at the end of their rope, so on behalf of the Islands Trust Council, I went to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities conference. There were five other resolutions, not just from the Islands Trust Council but from local governments from all over British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast, and the Vancouver Island area that were facing the same problem, and we were all at the end of our rope.
We were able to bring together solutions. We said, “Let us get together and design what would be a good fit.” We looked to Washington state, which has had a very successful abandoned vessel program operating since the early part of this century and lots of working experience. We passed resolutions. The AVICC did, as did the Union of B.C. Municipalities. It became a big election issue in my riding, because with a huge, 100-foot, hulking boat that the federal government towed into their harbour, residents wanted to vote on this. They were looking for an MP who would take the imperative to act to Ottawa. I was so honoured to be elected to do this work.
In the legislation I tabled in this House, I built on Jean Crowder's bill, and then I updated it a year and a bit later when my amazing staff team found a way to build all the solutions from coastal communities into my private member's bill. That was in April 2017. I was on the verge of bringing all those solutions to the House to debate in December, when, as we will remember, the Liberals used some unused tactics to block and then basically vote down my bill to prevent it from even being debated and voted on. It was not a possible outcome I could ever have imagined.
Because the transport minister said he was going to legislate on abandoned vessels, I really hoped he would just plagiarize my bill and bring my elements into his or at least recognize, when he tabled his own bill, on Halloween last year, that Bill C-64's proposed remedy of penalizing and fining for abandoned and wrecked vessels would not work unless he brought in the elements of my bill. They would deal with the backlog and also fix vessel registration. If we are going to fine an abandoned vessel, we need to know who the owners are to send them a fine or penalty. This has been said in the House before.
The two pieces of legislation would have worked well together. Members could probably recite the pieces I proposed along with me. They would deal with the backlog by putting in place a pilot program, a vessel turn-in program, as has been done with great success in Washington and Oregon. It would be kind of a boat amnesty. People who did not know how to deal with a boat at the end of its life could get it out of the water where it could be safely recycled. We could create incentives for fibreglass recycling and piggyback on the government's avowed innovation agenda. Let us do something to help us deal with marine plastics and waste fibreglass. Let us find new markets so we can recycle and work with local salvage companies to deal with this mess.
We need to fix vessel registration so boat owners can be more accountable and so the costs do not end up on the backs of taxpayers. And there is more.
I had all of those solutions from coastal communities and coastal governments in my legislation. When my private member's bill was killed by the government, I worked hard at transport committee to insert each of those solutions into Bill C-64.
To my great disappointment and despite the fact that so many witnesses said they wanted all those elements in the legislation, people on the ground like the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, West Coast Environmental Law, local governments, marina operators, people who all endorsed the solutions from coastal communities that I proposed to amend the bill, both Liberals and Conservatives voted all of those amendments down.
Here I stand with my final attempt to improve this legislation and to bring the solutions that would help coastal communities into the bill.
During the committee's study, we identified the fact that the government is not going to apply the fine and penalty system that is in Bill C-64 to government-owned property. We have a lot of examples on the B.C. coast and the Atlantic coast of government assets becoming abandoned vessels.
The member of Parliament for Courtenay—Alberni was involved in the removal of the vessel Laurier from Baynes Sound, which is a rich aquaculture shellfish area. A lot of jobs are dependent on it. Everybody was worried when the Laurier sank. It turned out that it was an old fisheries inspection vessel with many stories. It was also a Coast Guard vessel. It was a government asset that became an abandoned vessel.
On the east coast the Cormorant is an old Navy ship that has been languishing at the dock in Bridgeport for over 10 years. It too is an abandoned government vessel. A lot of my British Columbia colleagues will have seen the old wrecked BC Ferries vessel still with the logo on its side. It is a disaster. It looks like a ghost ship.
We have Coast Guard vessels, Navy vessels, the whole gamut on the coast of British Columbia. My amendment before the House proposed to close that loophole and make the fines and penalties equivalent, whether it is a government asset or a private vessel, in order to bring accountability and fairness as well.
From both a fairness perspective and an environmental perspective, this is our last chance to try to improve the transport minister's bill.
We take pride in the fact that this legislation is going to be voted on during the final days of this Parliament because of the tenacity of and pressure from the Nanaimo Port Authority, the mayor of Ladysmith, and Chief John Elliott of the Stz'uminus first nation. There has been a lot of co-operation and that has led to some success and has really put this issue on centre stage.
I am pleased to see the pan-partisan support for solutions on abandoned vessels. I remain discouraged that some of the solutions that were proposed by coastal communities, that would have dealt with the backlog, that would have worked with salvage companies to create jobs and innovate and recycle are not present in Bill C-64. None of those elements have any presence in the transport minister's bill. There still is a lot of work for us to do as a country to get this problem off the backs of coastal communities.
Voting yes to my report stage amendment to remove the clause that would exempt the government from the same penalties that it is putting on private boaters would be the one thing that we could do in these final hours of this Parliament.
For the sake of coastal communities, for small businesses, for tourism, for the coastal environment, I urge my colleagues to vote yes.