A day before the one-year anniversary of the Hanjin Seattle shipping container spill that covered the West Coast in metal and styrofoam, Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the federal government to develop a national strategy to tackle marine debris and create a fund to help pay for shoreline cleanups.
On Nov. 3, 2016, 35 Styrofoam-insulated shipping containers spilled off a cargo ship owned by South Korean shipping company Hanjin Shipping as it was making its way past Long Beach. The spilled containers crashed onto the shores of Tofino, Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and, according to the NDP MP Johns, with no government funding mechanism in place, the cost to clean up the mess fell onto local volunteer organizations like Surfrider Pacific Rim.
“To date, the government has provided zero funding to clean up the spill while community-led initiatives and volunteers have sprang into action and continue to donate their own hard-earned money and time to clean up efforts,” Johns said through a Nov. 2 media release.
Johns’ bill M-151, which he tabled today, “aims to create permanent, dedicated, and annual funding for community led projects to clean up plastics and debris,” and to reduce the use of micro-plastics and single-use plastics,” according to the release.
Johns said the motion draws from recommendations published by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre in August.
“It’s a world class report for an important issue in my constituency and for the planet,” Johns said. “I’m thankful for the T.Buck Suzuki sponsoring it and for the Environmental Law Centre’s work, and very happy to try and get real legislative action on its recommendations.”
During the House of Commons Nov. 2 Question Period, Johns urged the federal government to create the fund and stop relying solely on volunteers to clean up after incidents like the Hanjin spill.
“Still, community groups are leading the cleanup efforts without any help from the current government. Government officials have indicated there is a near complete legislative and regulatory void for coastal debris cleanup and no dedicated fund,” Johns said. “The Liberals love talking about their world-class Ocean Protection Plan, but nothing is happening. It is a simple question. Will the Minister create a permanent, dedicated, annual fund for coastal debris cleanup?”
The Liberal government’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau responded by saying the government is proud of the Oceans Protection Plan it launched last year, but that incidents like cargo spills are up to the companies responsbile for them to pay for.
“With respect to ships that lose cargo, it is very clear that they are responsible for the cleaning,” Garneau said. “That is the situation with the Hanjin.”