The politics of scrap metal bills

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There’s an old saying: “It’s amazing what can get done when you don’t care about who gets the credit.”

In the Manitoba Legislature, sometimes getting credit seems to be more important than getting things done. Let me explain what I mean.

Since before I was elected MLA for St. Boniface, I have been hearing about problems with scrap metal theft, so I introduced a private member’s bill to regulate it.

Partisan political games have prevented the Manitoba Legislature from passing a bill regulating the sale of scrap metal, much of which is stolen.

In parts of St Boniface and St. Vital, people were seeing property crime triple, as bikes were being stolen and chopped up and even barbecues were disappearing. People would pull up to a mall and come out only to discover that the catalytic converter had been cut off their cars.

The theft of scrap metal in Manitoba has been organized and expensive. Entire spools of copper wire have been stolen from Hydro, stripped of insulation and sold. People have even tried to steal and sell manhole covers. In one case, literal tons of nickel, worth millions of dollars, were stolen from a mine in Thompson and recycled.

The solution, which came to us from the community, was to treat scrap metal sales the way we regulate pawn shops. Track the sales, track the sellers, and postpone payment, to cut off the flow of funds to organized gangs profiting from theft.

In the fall of 2020, I introduced a bill to regulate scrap metal sales in Manitoba. It was based on similar bills in Alberta, Nova Scotia and B.C. (where there have been Conservative, NDP and Liberal governments).

In November, 2020, the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives both spoke against our bill and voted against it.

Six months later, in 2021, each brought in their own scrap metal bills.

Observers wrote that the PC bill “largely replicates a private member’s bill that Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont introduced in 2020.”

So, if all three parties agree this needs to happen, why hasn’t it?

Because the other parties cared more about credit than getting things done. Instead of passing the PC bill, modelled on ours, the NDP spent an entire afternoon delaying the bill’s passage, claiming all the credit, while pretending they never voted against the bill the first time.

To say this is a shame is an understatement. It is a concrete demonstration of how partisan political games hurt Manitobans. We could have had an effective anti-scrap metal theft law in place more than a year ago, and plenty of people in our community have had to endure theft after theft, because of political dysfunction at the Manitoba Legislature.

As Manitoba Liberals, we vote for bills based on their merits. If we think an idea won’t work, we oppose it. If we think it will, we support it, because that’s the way things should work.

Dougald Lamont

Dougald Lamont
St. Boniface constituency report

Dougald Lamont is the MLA for St. Boniface and leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba.

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