VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – With just months away from its imminent closure, people in support of saving the Kits Coast Guard gathered in an attempt to keep the base alive.
Close to a hundred people showed up at the Jericho Sailing Centre to hear speakers from various political parties and levels of government (with the exception of the federal Conservatives).
NDP Leader Adrian Dix is urging people to keep the campaign going.
“It’s important to continue on. In every effort where you try to change the mind of the government, until you do that, until the day they announce the decision that they’ve listened, it seems like they’re not going to listen and it’s why we have to keep the pressure on,” says Dix.
NDP MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody Fin Donnelly says the money saved is not worth people’s lives at risk.
“There was an opportunity to question the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans…I raised the issue and asked how much is this going to cost the people of Canada? The response was it’s $900,000 to operate, $200,000 to close. This is a $700,000 savings. So, over half a million dollars for a vital role that the Coast Guard plays in one of our busiest ports of the country…it’s ludicrous!” says Donnelly.
Other speakers included the leader of the BC Conservatives John Cummins, members of both the BC and federal Liberals as well as representatives from the City of Vancouver and Park Board.
Mandip Sandhu got emotional as he told the crowd about a water tragedy that devastated his family. Sandhu’s brother died in an accident 12 years ago when his vehicle crashed into the Fraser River.
Just days before the accident, the Coast Guard rescue dive program was axed to cut down on costs.
“If this base closes, and when someone is injured or killed, the burden of saying ‘I told you so’ will be something to many of us will have to bare and we can’t let this happen,” argues Sandhu.
“We’re faced with a similar threat to our safety. The Harper government wants to eliminate the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in order to again save money.”
Guy, a recreational boater, says he will no longer feel safe in the water without the base.
“I feel secure about going out knowing there’s back up for me. If anything goes wrong I can call on the Coast Guard no matter where I am,” he points out.
Paul says the thought of being without the base nearby is scary for him and his friends when they hit the water.
“I’m into health and recreation as many of my friends who row with me here in Kitsilano, and literally we are all dead in the water if they close the station,” he says.
Earlier this month, the federal government announced a three-person inshore rescue team will set up in Stanley Park to offer service during the peak boating season in the summer.