Madam Speaker, by now everybody in the House and beyond are well aware of the crisis facing the planet with respect to the plague of plastic in our oceans. It is of concern to all of us. Soon we could see plastic outweigh fish.
I have risen in the House on numerous occasions to urge the government to act in response to a spill of 35 shipping containers from a Korean tanker off the coast of Vancouver Island last November. Seven months have now passed and although a small contribution has been made to reimburse the partial costs of the Pacific Rim chapter of Surfrider, one of the community organizations that mobilized its members to respond to this travesty, no other effective action has been taken.
The government tells us that it is doing all it can and is working with communities to recover the vast quantities of styrofoam used to line the containers, which have long since broken up into small pieces and have been carried with the tides and currents onto our precious beaches. However, those who are out on the beaches are telling us that the government has been invisible. In fact, the government's reaction has been neither rapid nor responsive. It collected $72,000 from the bankrupt shipping company and waited six months before allocating less than a quarter of the total to one of the volunteer organizations that has been doing the work.
Needless to say, the impact of this container spill has consequences for the local population and its food security. The Pacific Rim relies heavily on the pristine coast for its economy, jobs, the ecosystem, and species at risk. This region relies heavily on tourism, as the Prime Minister and many members of the House know well.
Increasingly, I am receiving images, photos and videos of the situation, along with the media reporting on both the damage and the courage and hard work of local first nations, Surfrider, the Wild Pacific Trail Society, the Clayoquot Cleanup, and other dedicated local groups and Canadians who have taken to the beaches. The message from these groups, my own voice, and the voices of others across the country and around the world seem to be falling on deaf ears.
First, we need a proper response plan to remove the tons of marine debris along the coastline of Vancouver Island. We need a plan that sets out the activities required to achieve common-sense outcomes that provide for the safety of those doing the work and for the disposal of massive amounts of debris.
Second, we need a policy to address spills like this in the future. It needs to be clear about the roles of local people using local knowledge and community resources to remove marine debris. It needs to be developed with the lessons learned internationally from countries with best practices.
Third, we need a funding formula that accurately calculates the resources, the funds, and the source of funds that must be allocated to support the work of cleanup in an efficient and effective manner.
Fourth, we need a public education program that informs Canadians about what is happening to our oceans, the peril of single-use plastics, the consequences of using styrofoam in shipping containers, and multiple other risks to our oceans.
The government needs to tell the House about its plan of action for removing marine debris that is being deposited on the shores of Vancouver Island before it can cause further damage. We want to know what its plan of action is.
I also want to thank the government. I appreciate its response to my concerns about its omission of the west coast of Vancouver Island on the list of priorities identified in the minister's announcement of the coastal restoration fund last week. I very much appreciate the addition of our coast to this list. It is certainly better late than never.
As well, I would like to know if cleaning up and removing marine debris and plastics is eligible under this coastal restoration fund. If so, when will the resources required to support the work be available?