That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) take meaningful steps to address the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels within six months of this motion being adopted by the House; (b) recognize the requirement for the prohibition against the abandonment of a vessel through potential amendments to any relevant legislation; (c) incorporate an educational component within the government’s strategy to address the issue of abandoned vessels in order to inform vessel owners on the risks and consequences of vessel abandonment; (d) improve vessel owner identification by considering ratifying the International Maritime Organization’s International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, and by considering widening the scope of the Canadian Register of Vessels; and (e) create a mechanism for government to assist in the removal of an abandoned vessel where its presence creates an economic burden for a community.
She said: Mr. Speaker, to start, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for , for seconding the motion. I look forward to hearing her perspective on this issue later on.
I certainly do not need to make much of an argument to the residents of about why the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels is so important. Indeed, many of my hon. colleagues, and certainly stakeholders in our communities, share my 400-tonne vessel-sized headache, which just does not seem to go away with Advil.
However, for many of my colleagues here, and Canadians who may not be familiar, I would like to paint a quick picture of the problems with abandoned and derelict vessels, why the House should call on the government to take a leadership role on this issue, and what I think makes the most sense in moving forward. I look forward to the debate and the discussions to follow.
Finally, I will be asking for my colleagues support on passing this motion in the House.
Our coastlines and waterways support us and our livelihoods in so many ways. We rely on them for food, resources, jobs, economic return, tourism, recreation, and finding a sense of peace and home. As well, as with any asset, people do their best to manage it in a sustainable way. Large abandoned and derelict vessels affect the ability of our coastal communities to support these important activities.
Abandoned or derelict vessels can also be a navigational or environmental hazard, putting our marine environment and people's safety at risk. While some reactive mechanisms are currently in place to deal with these cases, we can do much more in terms of prevention.
Also, there is a huge financial and social cost. Municipalities and port operators have been burdened with significant challenges due to the presence of such vessels, including the inability to sell land, expenses related to monitoring and inspecting of the vessel or the site, lost revenue from docking fees, lost revenue from their hindrance on tourism activities, and, as well, public outcry.
Currently, this is a burden that falls completely on those who have the misfortune of owning a property on which a vessel is abandoned. As the mayor of Shelburne, Nova Scotia recently said, “We didn't ask for it, we didn't want it; [but now] we have it”.
To illustrate this, between 2011 and 2015, the Government of Nova Scotia spent over $12 million to remove the MV Miner, an abandoned vessel it did not own, from a provincially protected area. Our lack of legislation was abused, and an incredibly expensive bill was footed by taxpayers. That was $12 million that could have been spent on education, health care, or roads. Instead, because of a lack of legislation, it was left to the taxpayer to pick up the bill.
If our federal government can in a responsible way help to lighten some of that load, we should. We can and should create mechanisms through which taxpayers are not left footing the bill at the end of the day, by making sure that there are strong incentives to safe and responsible vessel ownership, and penalties to those who violate these regimes.
The responsibility for an abandoned and derelict vessel has been batted around for years among all levels of government, but now is the time for the federal government to step up and take a leadership role. While this is certainly not a new problem, it has consistently proven to be an incredibly challenging one. Many people in coastal regions across Canada understand it too well.
To address this problem in a comprehensive way, we need co-operation and input among all levels of government and among different departments at the federal level. We need to harness the knowledge and experience of port owners and operators, municipalities, and other stakeholders, who know the challenges well. We need to make sure that experts, research, and evidence are leading the development of this framework.
Simply put, there are no easy solutions to this issue. Nothing will make these vessels go away overnight. However, there are several steps that can be taken to make that sure this is less of a problem for our children.
Canada needs more tools in our tool belt to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels. To that end, I am moving Motion No. 40, which contains several different components that if enacted can help deal with this problem.
First, we need action. This not a new problem, but it has not yet been dealt with. People in coastal communities have been waiting long enough for a resolution to this issue. I have been heartened by our 's strong mandate for marine safety, and by the 's commitment to environmental protection. Solving the problem of abandoned and derelict vessels is a piece of this larger puzzle. Now is the right time. I am asking the government to act within six months of this motion being adopted in the House.
Second, we need to create legislative or regulatory penalties for abandonment. Currently, the bulk of the financial burden experienced from an abandoned vessel falls on the owner of a facility or property where the vessel is located. The responsibility rests with the property owners to pursue the vessel owners in court, often to varying success and at their financial expense. We could address that by making the abandonment of a vessel an offence in legislation, and prosecution could be done by law enforcement. Simply put, we need rules with more teeth. Taxpayers have been on the hook for millions of dollars in cleanup fees. It is time to be proactive and not simply reactive.
Third, we need to ensure that vessel owners understand their responsibilities. Though the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels is well known to many vessel owners and the general public, the complex regulatory framework surrounding it is not. If changes to this framework are made as proposed in this motion, an educational component should be included to ensure that people who want to follow the rules can do so easily, as most Canadians will and do. One key problem in addressing the issue of abandoned vessels is that the owners are often unknown. The Canadian Register of Vessels only includes those vessels that are designated for commercial purposes. Many older large vessels are purchased for salvage, which is not deemed a commercial purpose, and are subsequently abandoned if a salvage operation is projected to be unprofitable. Expanding the scope of the register could be a way to improve vessel owner identification. Past Transport Canada reports have recommended that Canada sign on to the International Maritime Organization's international convention on the removal of wrecks and its accompanying actions to address this issue. By adopting this convention, owners of very large vessels that are in Canadian waters would have to take preventative steps to ensure they have the resources available to dispose of vessels safely and responsibly.
Transport truck owners have to register and insure their vehicles. When a truck is no longer useful, an owner cannot just leave it abandoned at the side of the road for someone else to deal with. Therefore, why are we allowing people to do it with vessels? There are 59% of vessels on the large vessel register that are over 30 years old. By following the recommendations of the International Maritime Organization's international convention on the removal of wrecks, we will help ensure that these vessels do not end up abandoned down the road or, more precisely, down the river.
However, we cannot ignore the problems we have now. Transport Canada estimates that there are currently over 600 abandoned and derelict vessels across Canada. There are many communities that have current and very real economic burdens from the inadvertent presence of abandoned vessels in their harbours and on their shores. Under the current regime, the federal government can only step in if a vessel is an environmental hazard or if it is blocking a navigable waterway. Currently if an abandoned ship sinks at a wharf, the Coast Guard can go in, raise it, and clean it. However, if it sinks again, there is no responsibility for anyone to step in and help because it has been deemed clean.
The final component of Motion No. 40 would call on the government to widen the scope of situations in which the federal government could intervene and aid in the removal of abandoned vessels.
As I mentioned earlier, we are spending millions of dollars on cleanup and salvage. Would it not be better to deal with these vessels before they become an environmental or economic issue?
The South Shore—St. Margarets is the most beautiful coastline in the world, and I know that many of my coastal colleagues feel the same way about their communities. Is it not time for us to step up and make sure that they are protected for all to enjoy, make their living from, and get a sense of peace that only being by the water can provide? Protecting marine life and a marine way of life is something we have a responsibility to do.
I am very much looking forward to the debate on this issue and to hearing ideas, comments, and feedback from my hon. colleagues on both sides of the floor. I feel confident that with the support and insights of the House, members of Parliament, and stakeholders across the country we can address the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels in ways that suit the needs of our diverse coastal communities. This is an issue that we can truly all come together on to do what is right for coastal Canada. Our coastlines are a source of pride and economic opportunity, and our policies should safeguard them and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.
This is a great opportunity for the federal government to take leadership on what has long been a thorn in the side of coastal communities across Canada. To that end, I am asking my hon. colleagues to support Motion No. 40.
Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, I would like to thank the member for for bringing forward this motion.
I am pleased to rise today as the official opposition critic for fisheries, oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard to speak in favour of Motion No. 40. I will be voting in favour of it, and I will be encouraging my colleagues in the official opposition to do the same.
Motion No. 40 proposes that the government explore legislative options prohibiting the abandonment of a vessel, suggests an educational component on responsible vessel ownership, recommends improving vessel registration, and calls upon the government to assist in the removal of abandoned vessels where its presence creates an economic burden for a community.
I know that my colleague, the member for and the deputy critic for fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard for the official opposition, will be sharing some compelling examples of that in his speech later on in this debate.
Vessels that are abandoned by their owners pose a serious challenge to Canada's coastal communities. Abandoned vessels can pose an imminent risk of environmental damage and can interfere in navigation. Ships left to drift or rot can cause long-term environmental damage, endanger other craft on the water, and create a general eyesore.
We know that derelict vessels are a major irritant and concern for municipalities and port authorities across the country, as they do not fall under local bylaws and local authorities often lack the financial means to deal with these abandoned vessels. That is certainly true for smaller communities.
Currently, vessels are removed by the Canadian Coast Guard or Transport Canada only if there is an imminent risk of environmental damage or if they are obstructing navigation.
Back in 2012, a Transport Canada study on the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada drew a number of conclusions. It was estimated that there were 397 abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada. The removal of these vessels could range from $1,500 to $3,000 for small vessels to hundreds of thousands of dollars for large vessels. We certainly heard from the member for that some stretch into the millions.
Abandoned and derelict vessels are an issue being addressed by a growing number of municipalities and private shoreline property owners, and their removal is costly and requires significant technical resources. It is challenging or impossible to identify owners of such vessels, and consequently municipal governments or property owners may have to deal with the issue and pay for the removal themselves. There is also a lack of coordination of the type of information that is collected across the country, and it is not possible to do a cost estimate for the removal of all known abandoned and derelict vessels.
The report recommended that an interjurisdictional working group be formed to address the issue and to provide recommendations on identified issues, including creating definitions of the terms “abandoned vessel” and “derelict vessel”; developing relevant legislative and regulatory tools and a gap analysis to identify all responsible federal, provincial, and municipal authorities; highlighting methods used to identify owners; identifying potential sources of funding to remove abandoned and derelict vessels, including short-term and long-term options; creating a central inventory; developing training, communication, and awareness material; and facilitating the sharing of information in relation to the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels.
For these reasons, the former member of Parliament for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, John Weston, introduced a private members bill in the last parliament to address a number of the issues related to derelict and abandoned vessel. Bill , would have amended provisions in part 2 of the Canada Shipping Act in order to prohibit the abandonment of a vessel. Clause 1 would have added the definition of “deemed abandoned” in section 210, describing when a vessel is considered abandoned. Clause 3 would have added the offence of abandonment of a vessel, liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $100,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both.
Bill recognized that boat owners needed to be held accountable for their own vessels, just as this motion “recognizes the requirement for the prohibition against the abandonment of a vessel”.
In the last election, as part of our platform, the Conservative Party promised to support the provisions of Bill C-695. We also proposed to set aside $1 million per year, beginning in 2016-17, to cover one-third of the cost of removing priority derelict vessels.
Over the years, a number of proposals were brought before the House that would take a different path. Two nearly identical bills, Bill and Bill C-638, would have shifted the burden from vessel owners to Canadian taxpayers.
Clause 1 of Bill C-638 would have designated the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wreck. Clause 2 proposed to change the discretionary power found in section 155(3) of the Canada Shipping Act into an obligation for the receiver of wreck to take measures in order to remove, dispose or destroy a wreck.
Clause 3 of the bill would have given the minister of transport and the minister of fisheries and oceans regulatory powers respecting appropriate measures the receivers of wreck must take or direct to be taken to remove, dispose of or destroy a wreck, as well as exemptions from the obligation to do so.
Clause 4 would have required the minister of transport to file a report every five years before each House of Parliament regarding the operation of part 7 of the act.
There are a number of concerns with an approach that would designate the Canadian Coast Guard the receiver of wreck. The Coast Guard is considered to be part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is not a separate legal entity and simply cannot be designated as a permanent receiver of wreck.
However, there is a larger issue here. Automatically making the Canadian Coast Guard the receiver of all wrecks regardless of the level of threat the wreck poses to the environment or navigation would divert the limit of resources of the Canadian Coast Guard from the current important work that it is doing. Scientific work, work to manage our fisheries, life-saving search and rescue work would all be compromised if we were to shift the responsibility of addressing abandoned vessels from shipowners to the Canadian Coast Guard.
Washington State has a program for derelict ship removal, a program that Transport Canada has studied. What was learned from that experience was that any remediation program that did not improve shipowner responsibility and accountability merely encouraged vessel owners to abandon unwanted vessels, relying on taxpayers to pay for the cost of disposal.
We must not shift the financial burden of derelict and abandoned vessels on to taxpayers. We must do more to ensure that vessel owners are held responsible for their property. We do need to take action, and this is a major issue in many communities in British Columbia and right across the country. The motion should be passed by the House so the work can continue on making our laws and regulations on derelict vessels more comprehensive and more stringent.
I look forward to the debate on this and encourage all members of the House to support the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of Motion No. 40. I thank my colleague for bringing it to the House.
First, the problem of abandoned vessels is urgent and there is on-the-ground harm being done, including to B.C.'s ferry fleet. Second, local governments have been passing motions like this for over a decade. Third, I will tell members about the legislation I tabled in the House in February. Finally, since the problem is urgent, I will argue that the federal response also be urgent. The New Democrats want to turn words into action.
Here is the problem. A legislation gap allows for the abandonment of vessels that are not an immediate navigational or environmental hazard. No one department is responsible to prevent these vessels from becoming a greater hazard to the environment or navigation. When communities try to take action, they get the run around.
First, I want to give some good news. I have stood in the House at least three times since the beginning of the year and have asked for help with the Viki Lyne II. It is a 100-foot trawler abandoned four years ago. Transport Canada towed it into Ladysmith Harbour where it has sat ever since.
It did not originate in Ladysmith. The federal government brought it in, and local governments and communities have since been asking the federal government to get it out.
Four years ago, the Coast Guard filed a report with Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans saying that this vessel was an imminent risk to sink and that it was full of contaminants. It recommended full removal, yet that has not happened.
However, the good news is that partly with the excellent advocacy of Ladysmith city council, Stz'uminus First Nation, Georgia Strait Alliance and also a very big on-water rally of residents of Ladysmith last summer, after four years of rotting in the harbour, I was delighted to tell all the local community representatives, when I was back in the riding the week before last, that I had secured an agreement from the former fisheries minister, the member of Parliament for . He agreed that the Coast Guard would remove this vessel by August.
We are delighted. I was so glad a week today to be able to thank him in person for taking that action on behalf of Ladysmith.
That it took four years and ministerial intervention is a major problem. The federal government must understand the urgency of the abandoned vessel problem, which has spiralled out of control over the past decade. Some 400-plus abandoned vessels litter our harbours and waterways all over the country. These are end-of-life freighters, large ships, and small recreational craft.
Why are there so many right now? Fibreglass is reaching the end of its lifetime, there are more intense storms and changed weather patterns on our coasts, there are changes in the coastal fishery which have moved some boats out of commercial use, and, finally, economic hardship has resulted in the abandonment of responsible ownership by some people.
Why does it matter? Oil and solvents pose environmental risks when these vessels inevitably sink. They can harm sensitive ecosystems and threaten shellfish and aquaculture industries that provide jobs in our region. They are eyesores that blight otherwise picturesque harbours on our coasts.
Like Ladysmith Harbour in my riding, former mayor Rob Hutchins, described spending millions on waterfront beautification only to have the harbour blighted by almost 50 abandoned vessels evicted from Vancouver harbour and Nanaimo harbour. It was not Ladysmith's problem, but became its visual pollution.
This is like Shelburne, Nova Scotia, where last week the mayor applied for an arrest warrant for the owner of the abandoned vessel Farley Mowat, and the CAO called for the federal government to help overwhelmed municipalities like theirs with federal legislation.
Municipalities have been calling on the federal government and the province for help for years to no avail. For 12 years, I was elected to local government and we passed resolutions calling on action on abandoned vessels every year. The Union of BC Municipalities, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities, and the long-time regional district of Nanaimo chair, Joe Stanhope, all stood together, with strong advocacy and encouragement to no avail.
As chair of Islands Trust Council, three times I led delegations to the provincial government and to the responsible minister. One time, 19 local governments stood with me. Gary Holman, the New Democrat provincial MLA for Saanich—Gulf Islands, has pushed hard on this issue and it has all fallen on deaf ears. The B.C. Liberal government has not acted on this file.
We did get an inventory, a fact sheet, and a working group, which was good, but those actions did not remove a single vessel from our waters. These motions fell on deaf ears. This undermines the confidence the coastal communities have in senior levels of government, which is a problem. It is one of the reasons I ran for federal government. I wanted to bring legislation to the House to act on this issue once and for all.
The member of Parliament for had options in front of her to either bring legislation or to bring a motion. She chose to go with a motion, and it is a good one. I will vote in support of it. Honestly, however, I have been voting on motions to fix abandoned vessels for 15 years, and the problem has only grown. It is not what people have been asking for, and it is not what the urgency of this problem requires.
By contrast, Bill , the bill I introduced in February, could become a law. It would solve the inaction on abandoned vessels federally. By making the Coast Guard the responsible agency, we would end the runaround, and that is the biggest frustration. We do not know which ministry to ask. The government would have the mandatory obligation to deal with the removal and recycling of these vessels once and for all, and it would be responsible for the collection of the cost from the original owners as well.
I hope to have support from the Liberal government for my abandoned vessel solution, as it supported former MP Jean Crowder's almost identical bill a year ago.
Other countries have comprehensive legislation. I have visited Norway and the coastal authority there takes action when there is an abandoned vessel. It does not mess around to find out who owns it. It gets it out of the water where immediately it can protect the ecological and economic values of the region. Then it passes on the bill to the responsible owner.
I helped to bring the Washington State derelict vessel program manager to Canada. She met with Transport Canada representatives so they could learn how well a comprehensive solution could work here.
Canada also needs a national plan, not a ship-by-ship approach. We cannot just shuffle this problem from one community to the next.
We also heard in the House of when the Silver King started to sink in Baynes Sound, mid-Vancouver Island. My colleague for worked very hard to protect the aquaculture and migratory bird habitat. He secured Coast Guard removal, but the Silver King was towed from his riding to mine in Ladysmith Harbour. It sat there for months instead of the days that were originally promised, and that was right at the beginning of tourist season.
Nanaimo Port Authority, to its credit, has acted, although it does not have to, on vessels both inside and outside its waters. However, it is also pleading for federal leadership and a comprehensive approach. Right now, it is costly and uncoordinated.
The costs of not dealing with this are real, and I have a brand new example of the cost to coastal communities in B.C.
In the course of our research, we spoke with the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union and with BC Ferries management . We heard that the Queen of Oak Bay, a public ferry which has the capacity to carry 1,500 people, hit an overturned sailboat, an abandoned vessel. Vessel Traffic Services and the Coast Guard were involved and had to stay at the scene of the collision until it was clear, and the Queen of Oak Bay was cleared to resume its trip.
Collisions like that endanger the safety of passengers and crew. They create travel delays and economic costs. Additional staff had to be assigned to monitor the ferry afterward to ensure it was safe. It is dangerous, time consuming, and expensive. That collision in March was just one of three hits or near misses in just a few months this year.
While I support the motion, it will not help coastal communities as fast as we need. A legislated solution binding future governments will. Therefore, I really hope the government will bring in full legislation or else support mine. Until then, action is needed so communities can see immediate results.
Therefore, I would like to seek the consent of my colleague who sponsored the motion to propose the following amendment: That the motion be amended by adding after the words “abandoned and derelict vessels” the following words: “including the dismantling of abandoned ships or wrecks that lie in waters that are a source of drinking water, or threaten the environment, or obstruct navigation.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak in support of private member's motion M-40 on abandoned and derelict vessels.
Before I start I wish to thank the hon. member for on behalf of the government. As a representative of a beautiful coastal region in Nova Scotia, the hon. member and the people she represents have first-hand experience with this issue and the complications it poses.
The Government of Canada recognizes that abandoned and derelict vessels, including shipwrecks, are a growing problem for local communities. The potential issues are known. They can present fire and other hazards that threaten the security of surrounding infrastructure. They can place local fisheries and aquaculture businesses at risk. They can create negative economic impacts by taking up scarce moorage space at wharfs causing loss of revenue to property owners and local communities or by reducing the tourism draw of some of Canada's most picturesque waterfront communities. Additionally, the average age of Canadian vessels continues to rise so it is clear a solution is needed.
It is important to recognize that while most boats are disposed of properly, a small percentage of abandoned and wrecked vessels threaten to impact Canada's coastal and freshwater communities.
It is also important to clarify that not all abandoned and derelict vessels pose the same hazards and a risk-based approach is needed to ensure that the most hazardous vessels are addressed. This is where local and provincial partners can play an important role as they are well-placed to help determine which vessels pose the greatest risk to their local communities.
Although we may never eliminate all abandoned and derelict vessels, all stakeholders and all levels of government must work together to address the real risks that hazardous vessels pose.
Dealing with these hazardous vessels can be very expensive. It may require court proceedings to compel owners to take action on their vessels. That is of course if the owner is known. In other cases, irresponsible owners have simply walked away and chosen to no longer bear any responsibility for their property.
The first challenge, a key challenge we face, is the current regulatory and legal regime that governs abandoned and derelict vessels.
Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government is exclusively responsible for matters related to navigation and shipping, but that legislation does not give us a comprehensive legal framework to address abandoned or derelict vessels that pose immediate risk to navigation, the marine environment, or safe operations of our waterways. This is clearly the first challenge we need to address.
Furthermore, current federal acts and regulations target the impacts from vessels, such as pollution or obstructions to navigation. They are designed to directly address the issue of abandonment and ultimately identify the owner of a vessel to hold him or her responsible.
The second challenge we face is clarifying roles and responsibilities. The issue is complex and involves a wide range of legal, economic, and social factors that fall under the jurisdiction of several federal departments and levels of governments in Canada. Allow me to explain the current scheme.
When a boat is a risk to navigation, Transport Canada acts. When a boat is a pollution risk, the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible to respond. Environment and Climate Change Canada also has a role to play in managing pollution incidents by providing advice to responders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Moreover, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for boats abandoned in small craft harbours and provides scientific advice on risks to aquatic species and fisheries.
Likewise, provinces, territories, local governments, and indigenous organizations also have a role to play. Some own the land below the water and have shared jurisdiction over a boat anchored or moored there. They are also generally responsible for matters related to waste management, private property, and law enforcement. They are the eyes and ears along most waterways and know most about where these problem vessels are located and the hazards they pose.
We also need to recognize that action may not be required on every single vessel. We need a way to identify those vessels that pose the highest immediate risk.
The third challenge is the ability to track vessels and owners, follow up on vessels that pose a threat, and support remediation.
It is evident that Canada cannot continue with a boat-by-boat approach to abandoned and derelict vessels. We need a proactive, national strategy to address the problem.
The government's support of Motion No. 40 clearly signals our ongoing commitment to move forward with concrete actions to tackle this issue. We must first focus on prevention and ensure that Canada's waters do not become a dumping ground for abandoned and derelict vessels. We must ensure we can hold owners responsible for their vessels. This would be particularly helpful to address the great number of pleasure crafts that are abandoned in Canada.
Motion No. 40 supports the government's commitment to protect Canada's freshwater resources and oceans. It proposes that the government address gaps in existing authorities, for which we are devoted to working with provincial, territorial, local and indigenous partners, and other stakeholders to develop a long-term strategy to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels. As the federal government cannot solemnly address abandoned and derelict vessels, having shared responsibility with the other levels of government is essential.
Additionally, the Government of Canada is currently actively studying a number of legal and program options. One option for consideration is accession to the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, which was adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 2007, and which came into force internationally last year. The Nairobi convention ensures that vessel owners take responsibility for remediating the hazards posed by wrecks resulting from maritime casualties, and requires large vessels, over 300 gross tonnes, to maintain wreck remediation insurance. However, the convention does not aim to improve vessel owner identification, but rather, aims to ensure that vessel owners are liable for actions taken to deal with hazardous wrecks. We are looking carefully at the Nairobi convention and all the comments provided to the government through targeted consultations.
To conclude, the motion aims to put in place measures that focus first on preventing the problem before focusing on how to remove these vessels. The government believes that supporting Motion No. 40 is the right thing to do, but is suggesting the following friendly amendments to further clarify language. I hope the member will accept these proposed changes and encourage all members to vote in favour of Motion No. 40.
That the motion be amended by:
(a) adding after the word “should” the following: “, in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous organizations”;
(b) deleting the words “by considering ratifying the International Maritime Organization's International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, and”;
(c) replacing the words “create a mechanism” with the words “identify mechanisms”; and
(d) adding after the words “for a community” the following: “(f) consider measures to ensure owners are strictly liable for remediating abandoned vessels, such as acceding to the Nairobi International Convention for the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.”
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today as the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap and deputy critic for fisheries and oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard.
I rise today to speak on Motion No. 40, a motion to address the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels. I thank the member for for bringing the motion to the House, because the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels poses real problems to communities right across Canada.
The House debated the matter of abandoned and derelict vessels in its examination of three private member's bills during the 41st Parliament, and I sincerely hope this 42nd Parliament can muster the will and consensus to deliver a new system for dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels.
In approaching this debate, I must say that an important component of such a system must be upholding the responsibility of those who own the vessels to remove or dispose of their vessels in a responsible manner. I understand that a major obstacle to holding some owners accountable to their responsibilities is the absence of an effective tracking of ownership, and I hope this debate can produce some solutions in this regard.
Having spent nearly 40 years in the marine industry, I have witnessed the expansion and evolution of boating and vessels plying our waters. Whether it be along our coastlines, our navigable rivers, or in our inland lakes, we are seeing the size and numbers of vessels ever increasing. As such, today's debate regarding abandoned and derelict vessels acknowledges the current and future need for a Canada-wide management system for dealing with this problem when it arises.
People from around the world and across Canada have been building boats for centuries. The early vessels, which were made mostly of wood, were somewhat biodegradable and as such posed less of a threat of polluting or contaminating the waters if they were abandoned. As demands for shipbuilding and associated technologies increased, so did the lifespan and operating costs of the vessels being built.
New technologies also brought with them the need for fuel and other fluids for operating these vessels. Abandoned or derelict vessels containing fluids and fuels pose a very real risk to fouling the waters and habitats. This is something on which we can all agree we must work toward preventing.
Despite advancements in manufacturing technologies and materials, every vessel has a limited lifespan and at some point the cost of maintenance outweighs the cost of replacing a vessel. As these vessels, large and small, age and become more and more costly to maintain, they are often sold, down the line, to other owners that are less financially prepared to spend large amounts of money on new purchases or on maintaining and refitting.
This happens with small and large vessels alike. I have seen examples of this in my home riding of North Okanagan—Shuswap, where we are blessed with world-class boating on our lakes and river systems. However, as the vessels on these waterways age and become less seaworthy, owners often look to free themselves of the cost of maintenance or disposal.
Sometimes this is done by selling the vessel to someone motivated to become a boat owner, who thinks they are getting a bargain deal. Unfortunately, the purchasers in these situations find out too late that the real reason the vessel was sold was the cost required to maintain or repair the vessel. Whether the original owner simply gives up on maintaining the vessel or passes the albatross on to another unsuspecting owner, occasionally the end result is the abandonment of the vessel.
I know that even in the transfer of a vessel destined for the scrapyard, vessels can end up abandoned if the new owner runs out of liquidity or a sudden dip in the value of scrap metal makes the scrapping operation economically senseless.
On our smaller waterways, with smaller craft, it is not usually a major issue, but on our ocean coastlines or our navigable rivers, we do not want to see our bays, harbours, and beaches become a dumping ground for financially strapped or unscrupulous owners.
The threat that such dumping poses to the environment and to public safety on the waters can and must be prevented.
As an example of this, just last month my office was contacted regarding an abandoned houseboat left on a beach on Shuswap Lake. The vessel had been tied at this location for a number of years and had each year risen and fallen with the rising and falling levels of the lake. This year as the lake levels rose the houseboat did not, causing great concern for nearby property owners and local government officials. Concerns over potential fuel and oil leakage and public safety were difficult to address. Numerous calls by a concerned local resident only led to frustration from being passed from one government department to another. The uncertainty of which government or department held responsibility brought more concerns over delays in action. Thankfully in the past days, our provincial government has taken action and remedial measures are taking place. This is but one example of how an improved system of tracking vessel ownership, vessel transfer, and ownership responsibilities and accountability could help protect our waterways and our taxpayers.
One challenge of tracking vessel ownership is the fact that late-in-vessel-life transfers are not always tracked through the Canadian Register of Vessels. This can happen if the parties involved are not aware of their responsibilities to report the transfer or they do not declare the transfer to avoid payment of taxes. The end result is that the actual owner may not be the owner on record in the federal registry. As such, it is often difficult if not impossible to ensure the cost of removal and cleanup goes to the vessel owner and does not end up with the public taxpayer. Establishing a system to deal with this issue will require much collaboration with all levels of government. Municipal, regional, provincial, federal, and international governing bodies will all need to work together to answer questions. Those are questions such as the following: How will Canada deal with foreign ownership of vessels left in Canadian waters; how will we deal with bankrupt or insolvent owners; how will we deal with untracked vessel sales? While answering these questions, I would call on all discussants to develop legislation and regulations that do not place a greater burden on Canadian taxpayers.
How do we develop legislation that places the onus on the vessel owners, making them aware of their responsibilities and holding them accountable so that in the end our harbours, communities, local governments, and government departments do not bear the cost of removal? That should be borne by the vessel owners.
As previously mentioned during the 41st Parliament, the previous member for , John Weston, introduced Bill , which sought to establish a prohibition against abandonment of vessels. This bill would have introduced significant penalties for abandonment of vessels. Unfortunately, this bill did not make it through the legislative process prior to the 2015 election.
We will find that a system for preventing and dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels must include at least the following: an improved system for vessel registration and tracking; measures to confirm vessel owners are educated on and aware of their legal responsibilities upon purchase and sale of a vessel; and measures, including penalties and enforcement powers, holding vessel owners accountable for their responsibilities. I believe that such a system is needed and welcomed by Canadians. I believe that any such system must be sustainable and effective, with the federal government providing leadership. Such a system should cast no department or level of government simply as a janitor of our shorelines at the taxpayers' expense.
I will be supporting this motion from the member for . If the government adopts this motion, I will be willing to work with her and others to find solutions to the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels in a way that is good for Canada and all Canadians.