VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The federal minister in charge of the Coast Guard could be here in BC in a few weeks to check out our lifesaving resources even as he decides to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield says despite anger from Vancouver’s mayor and a push by our province to keep Kits base open, it will close.’

He has said he plans to come to Vancouver to explain the closure, which Ottawa claims will be covered by a new hovercraft at Sea Island, a new in-shore rescue station and a greater reliance on the volunteer Coast Guard.

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission Conservative MP and Ashfield’s Parliamentary Secretary, Randy Kamp, was asked why the Coast Guard only spoke with National Defence before deciding to close the base, not the city or the province.

“Well, these [federal officials] are the experts and the ones whose mandate it is to provide this network of resources, and we’re having those talks with them now to make sure that we are able to make that transition,” he says.

“We’ve announced this well in advance, at least a year,” Kamp adds. “We’ve already begun talking to municipal partners to be sure that we can make this transition in an orderly way.”

Kamp expects the Kits station will close about a year from now.

Last week, BC Justice Minister Shirley Bond says she told Ashfield she wants the proposed station closure reconsidered, believing there are other places to be looking for savings.

“First of all, there should have been some consultation about the impact,” Bond feels. “Secondly, public safety is the primary consideration here. Those are the kinds of decisions that we think need to be further down the list.”

“The argument is being made that perhaps we have more assets related to the Coast Guard than other parts of the country. My point is that rarely does BC ever feel that there’s been an overly generous reaction to the west,” she adds.

Bond says she understands the need for budget cuts, but suggests savings should be found at the administrative level. She adds Ashfield would not commit to keep the Kitsilano station open.

Many different groups have spoken out about the planned base closure beyond the province and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

An emergency town hall meeting was held recently, which included a former Coast Guard captain, NDP Fisheries and Oceans and Defence critics, a Vancouver city councillor and the general manager of the Jericho Sailing Centre.

The meeting drew commercial fishermen, recreational boaters and people who owe their lives to the coast guard.