Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-352. Before I speak to the bill, I want to sincerely thank the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her commitment to and her advocacy for coastal communities and the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels. We both agree that something has to be done about this ongoing problem.
I often use the example of a truck when I talk about abandoned vessels. If truckers are through with their rigs, they cannot leave them at the side of the road and expect someone else to look after them, so why should we expect anything different from people who own vessels.
During the election in 2015, I heard over and over again about the problem of abandoned and wrecked vessels and the problems they cause in our coastal communities. Living in Nova Scotia and representing a large coastal riding, this was not an issue that was uncommon to me. That was why I was happy to bring forward Motion M-40 to the House in February 2016.
My private member's motion helped put the issue of abandoned and wrecked vessels on the government's radar and set the wheels in motion, leading up to this fall, when the Minister of Transport introduced the government's bill C-64. This is comprehensive legislation that will deal with the ongoing problem of abandoned and wrecked vessels. We need to be proactive, not reactive.
I am proud of the fact that this legislation was based on a motion I put forward that was unanimously adopted in the House. Coastal communities have had a problem with these vessels, and those problems have been punted between federal, provincial, and municipal governments, because nobody wanted to deal with the issue. I am so happy that we have taken the initiative and are moving to provide long-term solutions to deal with this problem. Bill C-64 is a comprehensive plan that would address the problem of abandoned vessels and put the onus squarely on the owners, where the liability belongs.
Bill C-64 has many objectives that would be met to ensure a long-term solution to this issue. The bill aims to strengthen owner liability, including the cost of cleanup. It would address irresponsible vessel management, including by prohibiting vessel abandonment. It would enhance federal powers to take proactive action on problem vessels. It would introduce a compliance and enforcement regime, with offences and penalties, and it would clarify the roles and responsibilities of Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Coast Guard. In short, it would make it illegal to abandon a vessel and would close loopholes that have made abandonment possible without recourse.
A key difference between Bill C-64 and Bill C-352 is the involvement of the Coast Guard as the receiver of all wrecks. On this difference, I believe that the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith and I have very different opinions.
In my opinion, our Coast Guard is there to serve our coastal communities with search and rescue operations and to conduct vital scientific research. To designate it a salvage organization would be inappropriate for these men and women and the role they provide in our coastal communities.
Currently, lobster fishers in my riding are braving the Atlantic Ocean at times that are trying and in weather that can turn on a dime. I would hate to think that at a time when they may be needed off our coast in an emergency situation, resources for the Coast Guard might be tied up dealing with an abandoned vessel that someone has dumped.
I believe that the responsibility for vessels belongs squarely with the people who own them, not with the Coast Guard, and ultimately the taxpayers of Canada. A significantly stronger regulatory regime to make sure we can identify who owns vessels and that owners have a proper way of disposal would be a more comprehensive and better way of dealing with this issue.
There are times when the government has to step in to help with removal, as was the case this summer with the removal of the Farley Mowat, in my riding. The town of Shelburne had done everything possible to have the Farley removed, but unfortunately, it was met with resistance at every turn. The federal government recognized that the town could no longer face the impending environmental disaster this ship posed and stepped in to have it removed. The people of the town of Shelburne were ecstatic to get rid of that rusting hulk of garbage after three years of trying everything. However, we need to deal with these vessels before they become the kind of problem the Farley Mowat did, and Bill C-64 would accomplish just that.
In closing, I again want to thank the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her advocacy and her support of Bill C-64. I note that there are some differences between Bill C-352 and Bill C-64, but we all want the best solution to address this long-standing issue. I look forward to working together to make sure we get this right. Like my colleague, I want us to be able to deal with the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels so that our coastal communities do not have to.