NANAIMO — After a high profile secret vote in the House of Commons, a bill introduced by Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson is dead in the water.
The bill, a long-in-the-works passion project for Malcolmson about cleaning up abandoned vessels along Canada's shores, was originally deemed unvotable by a procedural committee because it was too similar to a Liberal bill put forward after hers. Malcolmson then enacted a never-before-used tactic where MP's voted in secret on whether the private member's bill should be brought to the floor for debate.
“I'm really disappointed but I'm also really pretty disgusted with the Liberal government's refusal to hear the solutions from coastal communities about abandoned vessels,” Malcolmson told NanaimoNewsNOW on Thursday after it was announced her plan didn't work.
Though vote totals weren't announced, Malcolmson said she heard from Liberal MPs they would vote along party lines, even though the secret ballot was designed to specifically prevent party allegiances from dictating how members voted.
“It's very cowardly and I'm really disgusted with how they've handled the so-called democratic process.”
Malcolmson said if the Liberals had copied her existing abandoned vessels bill into their own, she would have been thrilled. However, she called the current Liberal bill a hollow shell of what she'd proposed, focused more on criminalizing abandoned vessels than preventing them.
Though this is the end for her bill, there's still another chance for her to bring her concerns forward.
Whenever the Liberal bill on abandoned vessels comes before the House of Commons for debate, Malcolmson said she'll try to add amendments to bring it in line with her earlier vision.
The debate isn't yet scheduled and Malcolmson said it could be more than a year before it happens.
Local political analyst Allan Warnke said Malcolmson's maneuver with the secret ballot vote and also the Liberal's reaction is a case study which will be referenced for years to come.
“It reflects what we've got to do in terms of making Parliament work and we can always go back to this particular case to illustrate how Parliament does not work. One who's even casually interested in what happens in Parliament would take note of this.”
Warnke said the Liberal's voting against Malcolmson's bill in favour of their own is a serious stumble.
“This is one time they really could have looked down the road a little bit and understood the implications here.” Since abandoned vessels are an ongoing problem along Canada's coasts, Warnke said the government will undoubtedly have to tackle the issue again in the future when the current bill doesn't do enough to help the situation.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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