Fin in the News: "Trudeau accused of breaking promise on West Coast marine safety"

By Kent Spencer, The Vancouver Sun

Longtime Quadra Island politician Jim Abram says he heard Justin Trudeau promise one thing before the election and something else after it.

Abram, vice-chair of the Strathcona Regional District, said the prime minister has broken a "face-to-face" promise he made to Abram concerning commitments to marine safety on the West Coast.

"I truly believed Justin Trudeau when he said he would take care of our safety concerns," said Abram, a onetime lighthouse keeper at Cape Mudge who served as president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in 2000-01.

The talk with Trudeau occurred in an Edmonton restaurant last June when the Liberal leader was hosting a reception to seek support for his election campaign.

Abram said there was "no doubt" that Trudeau was promising support for the ferries, marine safety and marine communications.

"As far as I'm concerned Trudeau promised the West Coast he was going to look after us, and he's not," Abram said.

Critics say( http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/petition-draws-16000-signatures-against-coast-guard-cutbacks ) Liberal cuts to maritime safety include the closure of an emergency Marine Communications and Traffic centre in Comox on May 10; reducing the number of "safety" desks at the remaining Canadian Coast Guard centres in B.C. from five to four; cutting the number of supervisors and trimming the national budget for the centres from $49 million to $42 million.

Trudeau's press secretary Vanessa Hage-Moussa said the Ministry of Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard is "responsible" for the file.

Fisheries spokeswoman Carole Saindon said the government's commitment to safety includes the May 1 reopening the Kitsilano rescue station, where $10.6 million will be spent this year, including renovations to the building, a new rescue boat, 24-7 crews and an oil spill response team.

A contract has not been signed to build the new boat, said Fred Moxey, a former coast guard commander, and in the meantime rescue capabilities are not as good.

"They're using rubber boats, which are limited in heavy weather, patient care and long searches," Moxey said.

Former Kitsilano Coast Guard station commander Fred Moxey, left, stands with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau during a news conference in North Vancouver, B.C., after touring the harbour on a boat on Friday May 29, 2015.

Concerns about the coast guard are shared by Liberal MP Ken Hardie (Fleetwood-Port Kells), who served on a parliamentary committee( http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/Committee/421/FOPO/Reports/RP8241083/421_FOPO_Rpt03_PDF/421_FOPO_Rpt03-e.pdf )which decided on May 6 that Comox should be closed "with caution."

Hardie said he has "radio buddies" who were troubled by the quality of the new radio system, where there have been several instances of garbled or broken transmissions.

"The radio system to me is a problem," Hardie said. "The coast guard said it isn't and I didn't buy it. That's why the committee recommended that the performance of the communications system in B.C. be monitored for 24 months. This will allow for resolution of issues related to technology, mariner safety, workload and training."

"The Liberals certainly haven't broken any promises," he added. "The Kitsilano station has reopened and there will be a training program for mariners to assist in rescues up and down the coast."

Abram said the "most galling" part of the failed promises was that B.C. voters were used.

"The Liberals owe it to us to keep their promises. They need to fix these mistakes. We want our safety back," said Abram.

NDP MP Fin Donnelly (Port Moody-Coquitlam), who served on the committee with Hardie, believes the Comox closure was wrong.

"The Liberals are starting to show their true colours. They will say one thing and do another. We obviously hope there's no fatalities as a result," Donnelly said.

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