Alistair speaks on Sheila Malcolmson's Abandoned Vessels Bill

Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP):   Madam Speaker, I just want to start by stating into the record what an absolute pleasure it is to have such a dedicated colleague like the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. We are fortunate enough to be neighbours on beautiful Vancouver Island. We share a coastline. We both have a connection to Jean Crowder, the former member of Parliament Nanaimo—Cowichan. We often like to joke that it took two of us to replace Jean, because that is how good she was.

    I want to set the stage for my constituents back home who may be watching this. We are here debating, and we have been given one hour for my colleague's Bill C-352. We are here because the Liberal government has used its majority, and has used bully tactics to silence her voice, to silence her right to take forward legislation in this House on behalf of her constituents.


    The procedure and House affairs committee deemed this bill non-votable. The member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith appealed to this House and, for the first time ever, we had a historic secret ballot vote. We lobbied Liberal members of Parliament. We sent almost 30,000 emails to them from strong voices in coastal communities. However, still, the Liberals decided they were going to quash the member's voice and not let her stand in this place to bring forward legislation, as is the right of every member of Parliament in this place. That is why we are here today.


    My riding has a long history with abandoned vessels. I could write a whole book just on Cowichan Bay and what it has gone through. In fact, we still have the SS Beaver below water, waiting for action to happen.


    I have had a long history with abandoned vessels. The biggest problem with abandoned vessels has been the jurisdictional finger pointing. If it was laying on the seabed, it was the jurisdiction of the province, unless it was a municipality that had that particular foreshore; if it was an obstacle to navigation, the Coast Guard was called, which more likely than not would just tow it to the nearest sandbar and leave it there. In other instances, the port authorities could be involved. The main point is that constituents, when they found an abandoned vessel, had no idea who to turn to, and would just completely get the runaround.


    I appreciate the government's efforts on Bill C-64. I am very glad that the House gave unanimous consent to move that important piece of legislation to committee. The argument that my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith has made is that her bill fills in some important gaps, and the two bills complement each other. It comes down to coastal voices. We have worked so long on this legislation, for many years. We have had the backing of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and many different organizations that are involved in protecting our coast.


     For the Liberals to use their majority just to silence us, and to not even bring forward this bill for a vote shows an extreme lack of courage on their part. I would have loved to have seen coastal British Columbia members of Parliament—


Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:  Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has said this on a couple of occasions, and I do not think it is appropriate.

    We had a secret ballot, so it is unfair for the member to say that the Liberals actually voted one way or another. In fact, it could have been others who voted that way.


    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):   If the hon. member wishes to participate in debate, he may want to ask to be put on the list.

    The hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford has the floor.


Mr. Alistair MacGregor:  Madam Speaker, to the point of order, that is definitely a point of debate. I know my constituents know exactly how Liberals voted. We just have to take direction from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, but that is beside the point.

    The point is that this House, with its Liberal majority, decided that coastal voices were not going to get their turn. The Liberals denied my colleague her chance to bring forward legislation in this House and have it debated. It shows bully tactics and extreme lack of courage, and it is absolutely shameful behaviour on the part of a government that came in with a mandate to give more respect to Parliament and parliamentarians.


    In fact, I remember the speech by the Prime Minister when I was at the orientation session for new members of Parliament. He kept going on about how important our role as private members was in this place, our ability to bring forward legislation, bring forward those ideas, put them in a bill, and have it debated and voted on so we could actually have recorded votes on where individual members of Parliament stand.


    We will never get to know that now with Bill C-352. We will not know where B.C. Liberal MPs stand on that bill because they decided to make it non-votable. Those are the facts. I could go on and on, but I just want to end with this. No matter what their tactics, it will not stop us from speaking up strongly.


    Again, I want to salute my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for the incredible work she has done on this file. Even with the criticisms I have just levelled at the Liberal government, I can assure members that when it comes to Bill C-64, we will do our due diligence on it. We have given agreement in principle, but I believe there are important amendments. I look forward to the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith working on that bill and making sure it actually is the right fit for our important coastal communities.