Local MP Murray Rankin praised local and regional efforts to haul derelict and abandoned boats off beaches across Vancouver Island, but also called on the federal government to step up efforts.
Rankin, a member of the federal New Democratic Party, said money and co-ordination – “and not necessarily in that order” – represented the biggest obstacles to removing some 1,200 boats off Vancouver Island beaches between Nanaimo and Port Renfrew alone.
While groups like the Dead Boat Society have shown local leadership in raising funds and investing sweat equity, they alone will not solve the problem. “We need federal leadership and federal funds,” he said.
Murray made those comments after meeting with members of the Dead Boat Society, Eric Dahli of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, and John Roe of the Veins of Life Watershed Society.
The group, which also includes the Community Association of Oak Bay, Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Oak Bay, Saanich, C-Tow and Ralmax, plans to apply for newly announced funding to finish cleaning the shores of Cadboro Bay, where more than a dozen derelict boats of various types litter the Oak Bay side of the beach.
Tuesday’s meeting with Rankin came hours after Saanich sent a signal of support to the Dead Boat Society as council voted unanimously in favour of sending a letter of support to the group in its bid to secure federal funding through federal programs announced in May.
The group – which is still securing full society status – formed after efforts to remove more than a dozen boats from the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Beach stalled in May because of funding issues that caused some tension between the organizers of the cleanup and the Capital Regional District, tension which has since been resolved.
Coun. Fred Haynes said the issue of derelict and abandoned boats on local beaches has been a “consistent, ongoing problem” in Saanich as well as other parts of the Greater Victoria region. Council approved sending a letter after Haynes had filed a notice of motion last month.
Coun. Leif Wergeland said he would also like to see the provincial government get involved. “It is a long-term problem and it has to be addressed in a much stronger way.”
But if council’s support was unanimous, some members also sounded cautionary notes. Mayor Richard Atwell said many practical issues around the matter would likely be resolved at a later date. Coun. Judy Brownoff also stressed that Saanich reserves the right to apply for the same funding that the society is pursuing.
Council made the decision after hearing from Dahli of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association and Rob Wickson of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association.
Dahli said the group’s application for federal funding is one part of a “three-pronged approach” to secure funding. The group has renewed efforts to work with Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver, he said.
“There’s some thought with Mr. Weaver’s new position, there is some action there,” he said. Leader of the B.C. Green Party, Weaver has played an instrumental role in the emergence of the New Democratic minority government under John Horgan.
The group has also launched an effort to crowd-raise the necessary funding. Dahli said last month the group is still setting up its fundraising portal, but is “cautiously optimistic” about meeting its goal of $20,000.
Timing is crucial, he said. If the group does not secure funding by the fall, past cleanup efforts will have gone wasted, said Dahli, who fears that winter storms will fill the abandoned boats with sand.
While Dahli acknowledged that the group’s primary goal is to clean up Cadboro Bay, he said the group will pursue comparable projects across the region.
Wickson agreed with the need for the action. Nobody would tolerate abandoned cars, yet boats continue to litter local beaches, he said. “Get on with the job,” he said.