A 90-foot wooden boat built in 1918 sank in Ladysmith Harbour last month. MIKE GREGORY/Black Press

Secret ballot will determine if MP’s abandoned vessels bill can proceed

Members of Parliament will vote next week whether to allow Sheila Malcolmson’s bill to be debated

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson’s abandoned vessels bill is staying afloat thanks to an “historic and unprecedented” appeal process in the House of Commons.

Speaker of the House Geoff Regan confirmed Thursday that members of Parliament will vote next week in a secret ballot to determine if Malcolmson’s private member’s bill, C-352, should be allowed to proceed for debate.

“This is historic and unprecedented. This is a tool that’s never been used in the history of the House of Commons,” Malcolmson said.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau introduced the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act last month, and the Liberal government subsequently determined that Malcolmson’s bill had become non-votable.

“It’s extremely rare that a private member’s bill is blocked…” Malcolmson said. “The Liberals used their majority on a process and procedures committee to block the bill from even being votable.”

She said the bills aren’t similar.

“The government bill focuses on establishing fines and penalties and it makes the abandonment of vessels a criminal offence,” she said. “That’s nowhere in my bill and it’s not really what we heard coastal communities were asking for. Nevertheless, if the government thinks they need more teeth, then that’s good and I plan to support the government’s bill.”

Malcolmson said the Liberals’ wrecked vessels act wouldn’t clear the backlog of abandoned ships, doesn’t address problems with vessel registration, and is missing some of the recycling initiatives in her bill.

“So they’re complementary, they’re not in conflict. At this point, it’s simply that they both have ‘abandoned vessels’ in the title of the bill,” she said.

Malcolmson’s appeal required the support of Conservatives, as the process had to be supported by a majority of parties (that have official party status) in the House of Commons.

The secret ballot will take place Nov. 28-29.


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