Madam Speaker, it is a huge honour today to rise to speak to Bill C-352 on abandoned vessels. I would like to thank the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for tabling this very important bill and proving she is a strong steward and champion for our environment. It follows the work she has been doing in our coastal communities for decades, and in one of her many roles as the chair of the Islands Trust
I would also like to thank the former New Democrat member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichen, Jean Crowder, for her work in Parliament for more than a decade on this issue. There is no doubt that the NDP and our coastal community MPs have led the charge for healthy oceans and federal leadership in addressing abandoned and derelict vessels.
Bill C-352 is important for the environment and the economy in coastal communities for several reasons. It would end the run-around and finger-pointing by designating the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for directing the removal and recycling of abandoned vessels. This is fundamental when dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. It would get taxpayers off the hook, by fixing vessel registration and creating a fee to help cover the cost of vessel disposal, like in Washington State. It would prevent vessels from becoming hazards by piloting a turn-in program at safe recycling facilities. It would be great for the economy and green jobs by supporting local marine salvage businesses. Most important, it would build a coast-wide strategy, in co-operation with local and provincial governments, in service of our constituents as coastal people.
These key points, and they are all key to the bill, were derived from more than 15 years of work and advocacy by local stakeholders in coastal communities in British Columbia, and I cited the former MP Jean Crowder and the current member from Nanaimo—Ladysmith, working with individuals, organizations, and local mayors and councils from my riding, from Tofino to Qualicum Beach through the Association of Vancouver Island Municipalities, and a resolution that was supported by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. This bill reflects their concerns and priorities.
However, the government's response to Bill C-352 has been inadequate and undemocratic. In fact, it shut out coastal voices. Instead of thoughtfully examining the bill, offering amendments, and allowing a free vote, the government has chosen another path, deciding to table Bill C-64, which is significantly different in that does not take the advice of local and regional stakeholders, who have been engaged in this issue for 15 years. It is not without merit, but has some gaping holes.
For instance, Bill C-64 would not create nor define a national strategy to deal with abandoned vessels. It has no turn-in program or a cash for clunkers incentive for owners who may be at risk of losing or considering abandoning their vessels at sea.
Finally, while Transport Canada admits there may be thousands of abandoned and derelict vessels along our coastlines today, there is no mechanism or plan to clear this backlog.
Unlike the government bill, BillC-352 directly deals with each of these glaring weaknesses. In spite of this, the government made an effort to defeat Bill C-352 before it could even be debated.
Again, I want to thank my colleague and neighbour from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for bringing this issue forward and for working and co-operating with other parliamentarians. My thanks for her good nature and commitment to progressive co-operation and getting results for her constituents and coastal communities. She has urged all MPs to give their unanimous consent to move the government's along to help our coastal constituents as quickly as possible.
My colleague has done incredible work in bringing coastal communities together, in bringing this forward and in demonstrating that she and the NDP members are leaders in defending coast communities on the environment and the protection of our coast.