Oil spills and marine debris from thousands of abandoned vessels pollute our waterways and put local fishing and tourism jobs at risk.
After years of lobbying by New Democrats and stakeholders, the federal government finally passed Bill C-64 the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, which came into force on July 30th, 2019 and made it illegal for a person to abandon, sink, strand, or ground their unwanted vessel on purpose.
Although this is a victory for our coast and environment, it is missing some key elements proposed in my colleague former NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson’s Bill C-352 (abandonment of vessels legislation). We wanted to implement a vessel turn-in program, create a dedicated fee to help the cost of vessel disposal, and formalize the Coast Guard’s role. Bill C-352 would have copied the Washington state’s model instead of re-inventing the wheel. It would have also given the Receiver of Wrecks the responsibility and accountability to determine the owner.
The problem of derelict vessels was first brought to the House of Commons in 2011 by former NDP MP Jean Crowder in Bill C-231. MP Sheila Malcolmson brought the issue back to parliament with Bill C- 219 and Bill C-352. I was pleased to both support her bill and host her at a town hall in 2017 to address the serious environmental and navigational hazards posed by abandoned vessels.
I am happy to say that after years of advocacy by New Democrats and coastal communities our work is finally paying off. We are very proud that the action to clean up our coasts and waterways from abandoned vessels are finally under way through the Abandoned Boats Program, which still needs more funding to deal with this very large problem.
“The government is living on a different planet if it thinks its current budget is going to adequately deal with this problem which so many communities across our great country are currently dealing with.”
Alistair MacGregor – House Debate
Please know I will continue to put pressure on the government to get these abandoned boats cleaned up and protect our environment.