The federal government’s new program to deal with derelict vessels is getting a cool reception.
Sheila Malcolmson, the NDP MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, said the $6.85-million Abandoned Boats Program that was unveiled this week doesn’t come close to covering the potential costs of removing abandoned and neglected vessels along Canadian coasts.
Malcolmson, who tabled Bill C-352 in Parliament last month that was intended to create a comprehensive coast-wide strategy to deal with the vessels, said the inadequate funding earmarked for the program is just one of her many concerns.
She said the Liberal plan also lacks any measures to improve vessel registration, build a vessel turn-in program, get taxpayers off the hook for clean ups or support local marine salvage businesses.
“After missing their own deadline (for a plan), the Liberals unveiled a rudderless plan that simply can’t address the thousands of vessels abandoned on our coasts,” Malcolmson said.
“The cost of removing just one vessel in Ladysmith was more than the annual budget for vessel removal. It’s a drop in the bucket.”
About 600 boats have been ditched and abandoned on Canada’s coasts, including dozens over the years in Cowichan Bay and Ladysmith harbour.
The government stated the new Abandoned Boats Program will provide grants over five years to coastal communities where abandoned vessels have become a problem.
The plan intends to cover 100 per cent of eligible boat assessment project costs and up to 75 per cent of boat removal and disposal costs for provinces, local governments and indigenous communities across the country.
Of the $6.85-million, $5.6-million will go to those projects while $1.25-million is earmarked for education, awareness and research projects.
Alistair MacGregor, the NDP MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, agreed with Malcolmson that the program’s funding is inadequate.
“Does the government realistically believe that just $6.85 million is enough funding for the program to cover the longest coastline in the world?” he asked.
“I think we should take a closer look at Sheila (Malcolmson’s) Bill C-352 because, among other things, it would provide the legislative framework for proper enforcement. The bill has not come up for a second reading yet so perhaps there’s a way to put more pressure on the government before that vote.”
Lori Iannidinardo, the director for Cowichan Bay for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, has also worked on the issue of derelict boats for some time.
She said the new program is just a “band-aid” to deal with the problem of derelict vessels.
“We need a far more comprehensive approach to this issue,” she said. “It’s ongoing and we need a whole department all to itself to deal with it.”
Iannidinardo said the nation’s highway system has regulations to deal with similar issues around abandoned vehicles, and the same types of strategies should be used on the coasts.