The federal Conservative government continues to be on the hot seat over its controversial decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. The base is widely considered to be the busiest in Canada fielding some 300 calls a year. Government is saving $700,000 a year by closing the facility.
The decision to close was first announced last year and since then opposition political parties of all colours and all levels — from provincial, federal and municipal — have questioned the Conservatives about the closure. Public protests have been held and the lobbying has been rampant. But out of nowhere, as the provincial Liberals announced the budget on Feb. 19, the Conservatives quietly closed the facility without any notice to local politicians.
Then in an even more incredulous move, the feds announced their intention to open a brand new $6.6 million Coast Guard base in Newfoundland — in a community of some 2,000 people without a working port.
So if the rationale behind the Kits closure was to save money, then why are the feds spending millions opening a base on the other side of the country? Vancouver city Coun. Kerry Jang probably said it best last week when he was quoted in the Vancouver Sun about the decision: “They are robbing Peter to pay Paul. I can’t believe it.”
And neither can we.
We, like many others, were outraged when the planned closure was announced late last year, but we are even more enraged by the millions now being spent on a base in another part of the country that will cost much more than the money the feds are supposedly saving by closing the Kits base.
The Conservatives claim it was the Coast Guard that made the decision to open a base in Newfoundland, but we’re not buying that — and neither are any of the opposition parties.
This week several B.C. federal NDP MPs launched a petition urging the Conservatives to reverse their decision to close the Kits station.
Fin Donnelly, Libby Davies and Don Davies are calling the closure “reckless” and “irresponsible” and a decision that will put public safety at risk.
And it very well could. Now the closest Coast Guard station is in Richmond — more than 30 minutes away. Lord only knows if there is a major boating accident in English Bay what would happen. Precious seconds could mean life or death for an injured party — precious seconds that now are going to be minutes because Coast Guard crews will take much longer to respond.
This should not be about money — this should be about public safety.