VANCOUVER – B.C. Premier Christy Clark has slammed Ottawa for its move to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, saying it could put the lives of British Columbians at risk.
“The federal decision to close the Kits Coast Guard base is disappointing in the least,” Clark said in a comment posted on YouTube Friday.
The station is in Clark’s riding and she said the new inshore rescue boat still leaves Vancouver with a “dangerous drop in service for eight months of the year.”
The federal government announced last summer it would close the station as part of its cost-cutting plans, but despite heated opposition, Ottawa maintains safety will not be compromised.
Earlier this month, Randy Kamp, the parliamentary secretary for Fisheries and Oceans, announced a three-person inshore rescue team will set up in Stanley Park to offer around-the-clock service during the peak boating season.
The base, which is slated for closure this spring, responded to 271 calls in 2011 _ 36 of them marine distress calls and 40 humanitarian distress, according to the Coast Guard.
When it closes, calls will be handled primarily by the Coast Guard base at Sea Island, in Richmond. That station will be getting a new hovercraft to allow faster response to localized calls.
Jody Thomson, Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the Coast Guard, has acknowledged the closure will have an effect, but she said reaction times will remain within international standards.
Clark is among the critics who say closing the busiest Coast Guard base in Canada will cost lives.
“Our swimmers, boaters and our ports expect the federal government to keep B.C.’s harbours safe. That’s why we are asking them to reconsider the decision to close the base.”
Clark said her government is working at balancing a budget and she understands the challenges, “but not when lives are at risk.”
Just over a month ago, Vancouver’s police and fire chiefs wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express their concerns.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is also fighting to keep the base open.