Mulcair derides derelicts, vows protection for coast

Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair praised the efforts of departing Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder as he visited the Cowichan Valley last Thursday to reaffirm his party’s dedication to protecting B.C.’s coast and waterways.

"I’m extremely proud of Jean’s work," Mulcair said.

Mulcair’s visit came just a day after Crowder’s bill on derelict vessels was defeated 145-113 in the House of Commons, with only one Conservative MP voting in favour. Mulcair joined Crowder and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford NDP candidate Alistair MacGregor at Verdier Point in Mill Bay to discuss the issue.

"The federal government is responsible for keeping Canada’s waters and coasts safe, secure, and free of environmental contamination," Mulcair said. "Conservatives have time and time again abandoned their responsibility to protect our coasts, lakes and rivers. The NDP is committed on taking immediate action to protect Canada’s waters."

Crowder’s bill, C-638, would have brought in tough regulations to ensure that derelict vessels were properly dealt with before becoming a problem. Under the bill, the

Coast Guard would have been responsible for derelict vessels.

The lone Conservative to vote in favour of Crowder’s bill was West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast MP John Weston, who is planning his own bill on the issue.

"The Conservatives voted down a piece of legislation that would protect British Columbia’s coast from abandoned derelict vessels which are a hazard to safety and the environment," Crowder said. "Protecting our coast is also a key component of our economy, jobs and culture."

Derelicts have been a major issue on the coast of the Cowichan Valley, with such high-profile examples as the Dominion I, which sat in Cowichan Bay

for years before being removed in June 2013, and the Beaver, a paddlewheeler that sank in Cowichan Bay last summer. Maple Bay has also had concerns about derelict vessels.

"Taking care of derelict vessels and the Island will start after Oct. 19 with an NDP government," Mulcair vowed.

MacGregor also commented on the importance of protecting the coastline.

"We cannot leave our ecosystems and culture at risk," he said. "Canadians deserve better and they can trust the NDP to fix the damage done by the Conservatives."

Mulcair took the opportunity of being in South Cowichan to weigh in on the issue of dumping toxic materials in the Shawnigan Lake watershed.

He recalled Prime Minister Stephen Harper proudly committing $1 billion toward cleaning up the contaminated Giant Mine site in the Northwest Territories in 2013, and wondered why that wasn’t taken as a learning opportunity to avoid similar situations in the future.

"Instead of repeating the past, the federal government has to step up to the plate and work with the provinces and territories," Mulcair said.