Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson participates in votes in a secret ballot earlier this week in the House of Commons. (Sheila Malcolmson Facebook)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP’s abandoned vessels legislation sinks with secret ballot

MP Sheila Malcolmson has lost her appeal to unblock proposed legislation on abandoned vessels.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson’s historic appeal to unblock her proposed abandoned vessels legislation ended on Thursday after losing a secret ballot vote in the House of Commons.

The results of the two-day vote were announced earlier this morning in Ottawa.

Malcolmson’s appeal came after the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs blocked Bill C-352 from being debated and deemed it was too similar to legislation introduced by the government last month.

“I’m disappointed the Trudeau Liberals stifled coastal community voices yet again, and voted to sink my legislation on abandoned vessels,” Malcolmson said on Parliament Hill. “The government could have, like many other opposition party bills, heard them in the normal manner and voted on them in public and turned them down.”

Transport Minister Marc Garneau introduced Bill C-64, an act on wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels and salvage operations, on Oct 30.

A second reading of the proposed legislation is not yet scheduled.

Malcolmson said she wasn’t consulted on Bill C-64 and called in “inadequate” for dealing with the backlog.

“If the government would have plagiarized my bill and inserted all of it into their legislation I would have cheered and I would have been standing in front of the microphones endorsing their legislation…,” she said.

Malcolmson has both in Ottawa and local meetings in the riding highlighted some of the differences between her bill and the one tabled by the government.

“It doesn’t include any of the elements that coastal mayors had asked me to incorporate into my bill – vessel recycling, dealing with the backlog, fixing vessel registration, creating good green jobs…” said Malcolmson, adding that she plans to support Bill C-64.

Over 50 coastal organizations across the country, including local governments in Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Victoria, as well as organizations such as the Ladysmith Maritime Society, Union of BC Municipalities and the BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union have all supported the private member’s bill.

Another 27,000 letters as well as social media messages were been sent to the government over the past week asking for Bill C-352 to be debated and voted on as scheduled next month.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay sees merit in both bills but said there are many unanswered questions surrounding how Ottawa intends to tackle this widespread coastal issue.

“The federal government, in my view, needs to amalgamate both of them and they need to determine how they’re going to fund it,” he said. “Originally they were using a fund that was for oil spills or pollution from foreign going vessels – that’s not good enough. That fund is there for a specific reason and it isn’t this.”

In 2014, Transport Canada assembled a list of 245 vessels of concern that were at risk of sinking, with 37 per cent along Vancouver Island. Federal officials are now looking to update that list possibly as early as 2018.

“We can’t react to this after they’ve sunk. We have to deal with this as an ongoing problem,” McKay said. “Somebody has to take responsibility for these vessels, cradle to grave.”

Ladysmith Maritime Society executive director Rod Smith was in Vancouver a day earlier on Wednesday at a workshop that brought together officials from Transport Canada with those from marinas, port authorities and insurance agencies.

Smith said there is a “lot of goodwill” from the government but that a vessel turn-in program is missing from its bill and increased funding needs to be top-of-mind.

“I think we said loud and clear that if the legislation is going to translate into action that there has to be some initial federal funding to clean things up because the cost is going be substantial,” he said.

From there, everything from a fee associated with vessel licensing to a program where the provincial and federal government would match funds raised at the community level have be floated as possible solutions.

“When you’ve got an issue that is this big, with this many people concerned around the coast, given the opportunity we’d find a way to help provide funding but there’s has to be something at a provincial and federal level,” Smith added.

The House will still hold an open one hour discussion on Malcolmson’s bill on Dec. 6 but it will be not be followed by a vote.

“Although we lost the appeal today, we made history by elevating the voices of coastal communities, and we pushed the Trudeau Liberals as hard as we could,” she said.

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