British Columbia

Trudeau orders Kitsilano Coast Guard station re-opened

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered the Kitsilano Coast Guard station re-opened in a mandate letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Hunter Tootoo.

'I do not know to this day why anyone would even close it. It's just unbelievable.'

A rescue boat sits moored at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station before the base's closure in 2013.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered Vancouver's Kitsilano Coast Guard station reopened in a mandate letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Hunter Tootoo.

The move was promised during Trudeau's election campaign, and is included in a list of initiatives the prime minister labeled "top priorities" in his letter.

"This is fantastic news for the City of Vancouver" said Coun. Kerry Jang, who expects the base to reopen as soon as possible.

"The building is still there, they just need to station some boats."

Boats like this one will be stationed much closer to Vancouver after the base's recommission. Since its closure, the closest fully established was Victoria's. (CBC)

Support for the decision was echoed by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who in a statement called the initiative "great news for our city, and the safety of our harbour and local waters."

Jang says Robertson had mentioned the need for the base's revival to the prime minister just weeks ago.

"This new government in Ottawa has been very responsive to the needs of Vancouver," he said.

According to the city, the base responded to more than 300 calls every year, making it one of the busiest in the country.

The station was shuttered by Stephen Harper's Conservatives in early 2013, in a move criticized by experts and local city councillors. Since then, the closest fully established base has been in Victoria.

"I do not know to this day why anyone would even close it. It's just unbelievable," said the station's former commander Fred Moxey.

"Everything was done in secret. We went to the Coast Guard base one day and it was just shut, they moved out in the middle of the night, everything was taken away," said Jang. 

"I had to sneak into a Victoria press conference to find out what was going on."

Faster response times

Now the station is slated for recommission, Jang expects emergencies like the fire at Port Metro Vancouver in March, and the oil spill that darkened Vancouver waters in April will be handled much faster.

A spill response boat secures a boom around the bulk carrier cargo ship Marathassa after a bunker fuel spill on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday April 9, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

When bunker fuel leaked from the MV Marathasa into English Bay, the response was criticized as "embarrassing" by industrial emergency response expert Anita Burke, who later called for Kitsilano station to be re-opened.

"That was just a kilometre from the station. We would have been on scene in minutes and we could have had a boom wrapped around the vessel that was anchored there within an hour," said Moxey.

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