Vancouver Island MP trying to stop Comox Coast Guard station's closure
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans says new consolidated centre tagged to replace Comox has improved technology
A Vancouver Island MP hopes a parliamentary study into the implications of closing a Coast Guard communications station in Comox may convince the federal government to keep the station open.
The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans passed a motion, Feb. 18, to review "the imminent closure" of the Comox Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centre and then report the findings to parliament.
The decision to close the Comox MCTS centre was made in 2012 by the then-Conservative government, as part of their plan to reorganize coast guard operations and run all West Coast marine communications out of MCTS centres in Prince Rupert and Sidney.
'We live there. We know how important local knowledge is," said Rachel Blaney, the NDP MP for North Island-Powell River who co-sponsored the motion passed by the committee.
"To lose that is a huge disservice to our whole coastline," she toldAll Points West host Robyn Burns.
"If you look at our huge coastline in B.C. and how multifaceted it is, it's a huge concern to think that the coastline will only be covered by two centres."
Blaney asked both the Liberal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard this week and last in question period whether he would abandon plans to shut down the station — which the previous Conservative government had originally planned to do in spring or the early summer of 2016.
On both occasions Minister Hunter Tootoo said the new equipment in the consolidated centres replaces the "30-year-old technology" in stations like Comox, but did not say when the Liberal government would close the centre, or whether it would wait for the findings of the study.
Liberals defend closing
"We've invested in new technology. It's like … switching from a dial phone to a smartphone," he said.
"This technology is exactly what my staff needs in those centres to keep people safe. They have the training and ability to be able to do it, and now they have the technology as well."
Blaney said the NDP is concerned "the technology isn't efficient," and said both the Prince Rupert and Sidney MCTS centres have had short outages in the last few days.
He said there was a lack of consultation when the decision was first made to close the Comox station, and hopes the parliamentary study will provide an opportunity for people to have their say on "what it looks like on the ground."
She doesn't know when the findings will be gathered and reported back to parliament.
"I'm hoping that the minister [Hunter Tootoo] will do the right thing and delay any decisions on closing the Comox centre until the committee has reported its findings back to the House."
CBC News requested an interview with the minister, but he did not respond by deadline.
To hear the full interview with MP Rachel Blaney listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver Island MP NDP fears imminent shutdown of Comox coast guard station