Conservatives float plan to jail owners of abandoned boats

Weston’s private member’s bill adopted as part of national party platform

The Conservative Party is adopting local candidate John Weston’s abandoned vessels bill as part of its national platform.

This week, Weston, joined by former Conservative Party ministers Stockwell Day and James Moore, announced that if reelected, the Conservatives would take action against boaters who abandon their rusty old vessels, essentially using the ocean as a garbage can.

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“It’s a growing problem that people are leaving their abandoned and derelict boats on the water, just like people leave litter on the streets,” Weston told The Squamish Chief. “Four abandoned boats were left in Squamish by the same individual. We lacked the legislative authority to deal with it.”

He said the motivation for his private member’s bill came from outrage in Squamish and several other Coastal communities in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding, where Weston is seeking reelection.

“In consultation with the District of Squamish and other communities… I proposed that a person who abandons a boat faces criminal liability for doing so, possible jail terms and fines.”

The Conservative candidate said while the plan is “not a complete solution” to dealing with owners who leave their boats to sink in the sea, it will help deal with the problem. In Squamish, several boats have been left to rust and sink in the Mamquam Blind Channel.

Under current regulations, the coast guard or Ministry of Transportation removes abandoned boats only if there is an imminent risk of environmental damage or if they are obstructing navigation, according to a Conservative news release. “Otherwise, they sit or drift or rot, potentially causing longer-term environmental damage… and creating an eyesore in some of Canada’s most beautiful places.”

Weston was pleased the party has adopted his hardline proposals, which would make it a criminal offence to abandon a boat, subject to jail time and fines up to $100,000. The party also committed
$1 million to cover one-third of the cost of removing “priority derelict vessels.”

“It’s part of the national platform of the party now,” Weston said. “There will be a commitment of funds from the government that will bolster what I was trying to achieve with my private member’s bill.”

Moore, the Minister of Industry, said the measures are intended to protect British Columbia’s coast and support marine safety.

The Conservatives, if reelected, would provide new resources to deal with the derelict boat problem, acquire greater tugboat capacity on the West Coast and develop HMCS Discovery into a “major Maritime joint operations centre” for the navy and coast guard, the party announced on Monday. The party said it would pledge $65 million toward the project, including $45 million over the next four years. HMCS Discovery is located adjacent to Stanley Park in Vancouver.

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