Derelict boat bill coming to House of Commons

Regional District of Nanaimo asked to support sponsor of bill through a letter; plus other regional district news

Regional district directors pledged their support Tuesday night for NDP MP Jean Crowder’s bill to deal with derelict vessels, slated to set sail in the House of Commons today.

RDN directors voted unanimously at their regular meeting to write a letter of support for Crowder’s private member’s bill C-638 that will see the Canadian Coast Guard take on full responsibility for derelict vessels littering the coastline.

The wave of support comes after a passionate plea made by federal NDP candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith Sheila Malcolmson, a former Islands Trust chair.

“Canada’s rules around abandoned boats really come from a time of piracy,” Malcolmson told the board on Tuesday night.

“Now we’ve got people who cannot for economic reasons maintain boats that at one time they thought would be a great asset for them, people with mental health issues that are incapable of dealing with a vessel that’s falling apart; we’ve got a lot of fishing boats coming out of service, a lot of fiber glass boats coming to the end of their lifetime.”

Moreover, Malcolmson said climate change brings “more intense storms” and unpredictable weather patterns further bolstering people’s ability to take care of aging vessels.

She explained Crowder’s bill will designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks and require them to take reasonable steps to contact the owner and also provide for government to make regulations on the removal, disposition or destruction of derelict vessels.

“Right now there is no particular department responsible for derelict vessels,” said Malcolmson.

“It isn’t exactly in anybody’s jurisdiction.”

She said the Coast Guard will only intervene if it’s deemed “a hazard to navigation,” leaving the door open to many problems. Malcolmson said vessels are sometimes moved to the side of a wharf so they’re no longer a navigational issue but they’re still an “eyesore” and “pending environmental problem.”

Between the Coast Guard, Transport Canada and three levels of government, Malcolmson said people often don’t know who to turn to when dealing with aging boats.

She said the bill’s idea is to make the Coast Guard a “one stop shop” for derelict vessels.

The issue of derelict vessels is playing itself out in coastal communities all over the province. Last year, VIU Marine Field Station manager Brian Kingzett surveyed 15 derelict vessels littering the waters of Deep Bay Harbour in Baynes Sound.

Kingzett told The NEWS Wednesday morning “the derelict problem, despite a few steps forward, has taken a bunch of steps backwards and the number of derelicts in the harbour is swelling again.”

Other highlights from the regular RDN board meeting Tuesday night:

• The board approved four funding requests that will increase the budget slightly: $5,000 for the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue, $1,000 for Ladysmith RCMP Victim Services, $30,000 for the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust (NALT) and $30,000 to be put aside for the 2016 Grants-in-Aid budget to acknowledge First Nations in the form of significant artwork.

• The board voted to send a letter of support to B.C. Housing for funding for the Society of Organized Services (SOS) and the Island Crisis Care Society for their joint initiative to create a shelter, drop in centre and supported housing and outreach office space in Parksville.

• RDN directors approved a one month pilot project extending transit to the Qualicum First Nation reserve via route 99.

• The board directed staff to work with B.C. Transit and director Bill Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay/Bowser in establishing transit options connecting the RDN to the Comox Valley Regional District through public transportation.

• The board directed staff to draft bylaw amendments to convert septage disposal to a user-pay system whereby user-fees will increase from $0.18/gallon to $0.23/gallon to recover treatment costs effective July 1, 2015.

• The Regional District of Nanaimo doesn’t want to go cheap with a new Zamboni purchase for Oceanside Place.

A motion Tuesday to include in the budget an ice-cleaning machine that is “the cheapest model that will still do the job” was defeated and re-worded so the machine will be the least expensive model, “propane-compatible” and “not electric.”

In speaking against the motion to go with the cheapest model, Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre said his “vision for the cheapest model is a barrel on two wheels with a cloth full of water where you walk up and down the ice.”

Lefebvre said the cheapest model possible isn’t always the cheapest when it’s breaking down constantly.

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