Sheila MalcolmsonMP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Two things keep adding up when it comes to abandoned vessels: The number of abandoned boats in Canada’s harbours and waterways from Ladysmith to Labrador, and calls from coastal communities for the federal and provincial government to do something about them.
On Sunday, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities once again passed a resolution asking senior governments to act on the abandoned vessels littering and threatening our coasts. Such calls have been made by Vancouver Island local communities for over 12 years, and yet no senior government has taken comprehensive action.
Over that time, abandoned vessels have continued to harm the natural beauty of Nanaimo and Ladysmith’s harbours and coasts, and they have posed a threat to the local environment. If an abandoned boat is not an obstacle to navigation, the federal government usually will not act, and many are left to simply rot away and leach chemicals into the environment.
The responsibility for dealing with abandoned vessels has been offloaded to local governments, First Nations, community groups and port authorities, and the financial costs can be high for already stretched budgets. The federal government needs to take the lead. I have continued the work done by former MP Jean Crowder and proposed a regulatory solution in the House of Commons. Over the past few months, I have been talking with harbour authorities, conservation groups, local governments and concerned residents in our region and throughout Canada, and one thing is abundantly clear: They all want a comprehensive, coast-wide solution.
We could be following the lead of our neighbours to the south, Washington State, where concerns about the local shellfish and tourism industries resulted in a series of regulations and programs that deal with these boats before they sink and leak. B.C. could create jobs and economic activity by helping owners of old boats dispose of them responsibly and by researching true product stewardship.
It all starts with listening to coastal communities and taking action. Now is the time for the Liberal government to work with provinces, coastal communities and Indigenous governments across Canada to deal with abandoned vessels once and for all.
Sheila Malcolmson is the Member of Parliament for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding