Solutions to derelict vessels need political momentum

Another derelict boat sunk in Brentwood Bay this week. It is astounding how little has been done to address derelict and abandoned vessels in British Columbia.

Six long years ago, at UBCM 2010, I attended a meeting with then Minister Pat Bell. He outlined a plan to bring the local, provincial and federal governments together to address this issue.

A few days after the UBCM ended, the Cabinet was shuffled and Steve Thomson became responsible for the issue. At UBCM 2011, our impromptu group of Mayors, Councillors, Regional Directors and Island Trustees, heard from Minister Steve Thomson that sadly the file had "lost momentum." 

From the moment I heard those words I knew I would never forget them. The "file" had lost momentum and it appears to have been anchored and taking on water for years now. I wonder how many other important issues have completely lost momentum?

Admittedly, much of the solution requires the federal government to take action. In 2012, a Federal government reflected back on the work of the previous years and reiterated that a multi-jurisdictional working group could help solve the problem.

Minister Bell facilitated the process to get it that far. Since then, addressing problem vessels like the one that sunk this week in the Saanich Inlet, are only found at the end of an exhausting game of finger pointing or when
the vessel has sunk.

All of this from Federal and Provincial governments that claim to have "world-class" or "world-leading" response capacity to pollution.

The BC Liberal government wants residents of the Saanich Inlet to support a gas liquefaction plant at Bamberton. Meanwhile, they can't facilitate a series of meetings of critical stakeholders on a high profile problem that has plagued the pages of UBCM resolution booklets for decades. Check out B22 on the UBCM agenda put forward by Saanich this year.

What is so frustrating about this issue is that back in 2010 the UBCM brought Melissa Ferris in from Washington State. She runs their program that proactively deals with these problem boats. She runs a small department, basically just her and some administrative support and her presentation exposed how little attention our governments are paying this issue.

This problem is not without a solution. Just the political will and the "momentum" needed to achieve it!

UBCM 2016 Resolution

The UBCM will be debating another resolution about derelict and abandoned vessels at the 2016 Convention. Note the comments from the UBCM Executive, this is not the first time this is has been debated!

My colleague Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Leader of the BC Green Party continues to write Minister Steve Thomson about derelict boats washing up on the shores of his riding as well. Read more here.

Adam Olsen

Stellys Cross Road, Brentwood Bay, BC, V8M 1J7