EDITORIAL: Derelict politics

NDP MP's bill related to derelict boats could have been a good start

In a system that serves political masters more than it serves the public, good intentions mean nothing.

The Conservatives used their majority in the House of Commons this month to kill a private member’s bill that would at least get something on the books regarding derelict vessels that threaten coastal environments.

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder put a bill on the floor earlier this year that, if passed, would have made the Canadian Coast Guard the sole receiver of wrecks, taking responsibility for aging, abandoned boats in the country.

Crowder is a member of the NDP, so goodbye bill — it didn’t even make it through second reading and into committee.

John Duncan, the Courtenay-Comox MP and Conservative Party whip who wants to represent the people of Parksville Qualicum Beach by winning the new riding of Courtenay-Alberni in the federal election this fall, provided us with an explanation as to why he voted against Crowder’s bill (and presumably whipped the rest of the Conservatives into doing the same).

Duncan said he believes there needs to be legislation making the boat owners responsible, perhaps even criminally, and he also has said he prefers the way many U.S. jurisdictions deal with the issue with user groups setting up funds to deal with derelicts.

While we like the idea of personal responsibility and liability for deadbeat boat owners, we believe this issue has been around long enough to warrant more pressing attention. It’s been more than a year since NEWS reporter Candace Wu highlighted the issue through stories that earned her a provincial-award nomination, and complaints about derelict boats had been around for years, perhaps decades, before that time.

Crowder’s bill could have been sent to committee and changed considerably to a point where it would be palatable for Duncan and the Conservatives. Its death at second reading has killed that possibility.

Will Duncan and the Conservatives come up with legislation to deal with derelict boats before the federal election? Not likely. That puts any kind of action on this at least another year down the road.

That’s not leadership. That’s not governing with any regard for coastal environment safety, including roughly 600 jobs in the shellfish industry in Duncan’s backyard.

We understand why you don’t like Crowder’s bill, federal Conservatives, but what have you got?

— Editorial by John Harding

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