Coast guard cuts prompt formal B.C. complaint
Province asks Ottawa to reconsider closing stations at Kitsilano, Comox and Tofino
The B.C. government has expressed its disappointment to the federal government over a plan to chop coast guard services as part of a plan to balance the federal budget.
Premier Christy Clark said Monday her justice minister has formally written to the federal government asking it to reconsider the cuts.
The B.C. government joins a growing volume of calls against cuts from the coast guard union, local politicians and those in the boating industry.
Clark said she understood the need for budget restraint, but added the cuts should be minimized on regions and savings should be found in the central government.
"I think a lot of us who use the ocean — and I'm one of them — want to know that no lives will be imperilled as a result of this budget-balancing exercise. I think that's the most important thing."
The letter, sent from Attorney General Shirley Bond to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, said the news of the closures was unwelcome for B.C. communities.
"I recognize that the coast guard facility closures are only one part of broad federal budget reductions, some of which I recently discussed with Minister Toews," she wrote. "However, protecting public safety must be a guiding principle for all such budget exercises."
Contradictions on consultations
She said coast guard officials have assured her staff the closures won't affect public safety, but Bond urged the minister to reconsider the decision.
"The coast guard is highly regarded in British Columbia and nationally for its unwavering dedication to public safety and it is essential that they are adequately supported in their mission," the letter stated.
B.C. New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix has proposed a joint committee of the B.C. legislature to conduct a full review of the effects of the cuts.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city was taken by surprise by the announcement and there was no consultation with Vancouver's police or fire-rescue.
In fact, an official with the Canadian Coast Guard admitted last week that the only group consulted about the closure was the Department of National Defence.
When the government announcement was made, James Moore, the federal minister in charge of B.C., said broad consultations had been conducted.
Ten coast guard communications centres are being chopped across the country and the union representing the workers, the Canadian Auto Workers Union, said 77 jobs will be lost and another 104 workers will be relocated.