Mr. Speaker, I am proud to support this bill at second reading. This is an important issue for the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges who live along the shores of Lac Saint-Louis and Lac Saint-François, where a wreck, the Kathryn Spirit, recently sat.
Lac Saint-Louis is located at the confluence of the St. Lawrence River and the Ottawa River. In the past 40 years, a number of developments have posed a threat to the health of our lakes. These threats to our rivers and lakes include very worn pipelines and urban sprawl. Wrecks are another threat to our lakes and rivers. A wreck is very likely to pose a threat to safety and the environment sooner or later.
I have already mentioned the wreck of the Kathryn Spirit, which is a real-life example of why this bill is needed. This ship was built in 1967. In 2011 it was decided that the ship would be scrapped and that it would be dismantled in the Beauharnois region. The mayor of Beauharnois opposed the idea of dismantling the ship in Beauharnois, and the city managed to block the work. However, the wreck remained where it was from 2012 to the end of 2014. It was discovered that the ship had leaked oil into the waterway, and the mayor of Beauharnois, Mr. Haineault, wanted the federal government to intervene. He was the mayor of a municipality and this issue did not fall under his jurisdiction since the ship was in federal waters. The federal government did not take action.
We are choosing to take action this evening by way of this bill.
This bill would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. If this bill had been around in 2012, the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges and Beauharnois—Salaberry would not have been frustrated by the federal government's inaction. This bill would have given them some tools.
This is what the mayor of Beauharnois had to say:
Quebec's most precious resource is the beauty of the St. Lawrence. We have to protect that. Allowing this type of activity makes no sense.
We will not create a better future by working in isolation; we have to work together. The time to act is now. Municipalities, port authorities, regional authorities and provincial governments want to help the federal government develop a more robust regime that includes fines and removal costs. A regime like that cannot come from a private member's bill.
It is time that the government acted in the interest of citizens living in coastal regions. What the Conservatives have done and have in place right now simply is not working.
The Kathryn Spirit in Beauharnois is proof of the system not working. Years and years have passed while the Kathryn Spirit has menaced the environment. The wreck has been floating for more than three years in the waters of Lake Saint-Louis and its deterioration poses a threat to the environment, biodiversity of the watershed and the health of local residents. The boat's owner delayed work to get the ship back afloat and continued to delay the process. Meanwhile, the federal government did nothing. The Conservatives abdicated their responsibilities.
The member from the government side referenced the Canada Shipping Act. Well, in this case, the federal government did not use that authority to have the owner remove the boat that was clearly posing a risk to the environment and the health of the people of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Beauharnois—Salaberry, Lac-Saint-Louis and all of the communities downstream along the St. Lawrence River.
The Conservatives need to take action. It is disappointing to see that they do not intend to support this bill from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
I am proud to have lived in the member's riding for a short time, in 1989 and 1990. I also worked in the riding of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca at the repair and disposal facility at the naval base in 1992 when I was a summer student. I know the people of their ridings are looking for solutions to deal with derelict vessels.
The Kathryn Spirit is one example of a wreck in my riding where the federal government did not act to have it removed, and it was posing a threat. There are many other examples of derelict vessels across the country.
In the riding of the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, there was the sinking of the SS Beaver in Cowichan Bay. As reported in an article, pollution from the ship leaked into the bay and the Coast Guard was called to the scene. The article mentions support for Bill C-231, which is now Bill C-638, to eliminate the jurisdictional confusion related to the responsibility for derelict vessels.
There needs to be a bit of clarity here in the regime that we have in place, obviously. Just in listening to the members across the way explain in their speeches that the regime is clear and efficient, I was confused about it. I could not really make sense of it. If it is difficult for a member who is very familiar with legal terms and jurisdictions to try to figure out the regime that is in place, think of what it would be like for a mayor of a small or medium-sized town to try to navigate the labyrinth that is the current regime which is in place.
The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan has developed an excellent, clear proposal, which I think would give the tools to municipalities and regional governing bodies to deal with wrecks. We would like to see a derelict vessel regime similar to that of Washington State, which I think has been mentioned a few times in the debate tonight, to deal with this growing problem of abandoned boats in our waterways.
Our waterways are a legacy that we pass down to our children. We have to keep them clean. We have to keep them healthy. We would like to see the biodiversity in them continue. This private member's bill is just the first step of a new regime that is needed.
I am sure that in October we will flesh this out once we become government after the next election. We will have a regime in place that will provide a clear authority for who should deal with derelict vessels.
Even though I have heard members across the way say that they oppose the bill, we hope that they will listen to the voices from the coastal areas in Canada. These are people who are asking for action on the problem of aging fleets, the lack of recycling facilities for fibreglass, and a desire to protect waterways from potential environmental or safety concerns so that we can pass on this legacy to our children.