Pushing the Debate on BC Coast Guard Cuts
May 27th, 2014 - 12:00pm
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Mr. Fin Donnelly (New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP): Mr. Speaker, over the past year, I have stood up more than a dozen times in this place and challenged the government to back down from its reckless plan to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
Soon after the government first announced the closure, marine safety experts, former Coast Guard officials, the city of Vancouver and Vancouver's fire and police chiefs warned that this closure was reckless and would put lives at risk. This decision was undertaken with no consultation of its local search and rescue partners, and the government has ignored expert advice that the closure is irresponsible.
Let me remind the House that Vancouver is home to Canada's largest and busiest port. Proposed pipeline expansion projects, like Kinder Morgan, are projected to significantly increase tanker traffic in Vancouver, yet the government's record has been to slash funds for oil spill response services and Coast Guard search and rescue services.
Months after the closure was announced last spring, we found out, from testimony provided at the fisheries and oceans committee, that the Coast Guard expected to save $700,000 a year by moving ahead with this controversial plan.
I am reminded of the story of Mandip Sandhu, whose brother's life was tragically lost in 2001. One night, his car fell into the Fraser River, trapping him and another passenger inside. When Coast Guard responders arrived on scene, they told the fire department that they could no longer carry out underwater dives. In fact, their dive team had been cut just days before as part of a so-called cost saving measure by the federal government.
The Coast Guard is projecting an annual saving of a mere $700,000 by closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. As many have asked before, is it worth it? The Conservative government insisted that the decision was made after careful analysis. In fact, Coast Guard officials claimed that there was a completed risk analysis report.
Last summer, I requested a copy of this risk analysis report through an access to information request. I finally received a response last week, which claimed, “The Canadian Coast Guard has advised that there is no stand-alone risk analysis document”.
How can the government expect British Columbians to trust it as a prudent manager of both our country's finances and public safety when its decisions are not based on evidence or fact? How can the government and, in particular, government MPs who claim that they represent British Columbian ridings stand behind this reckless decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, when they cannot even produce a risk analysis report on this decision?
I find this unacceptable. It was a very controversial decision. There has been ample time for the government to respond to the public outcry, to reverse this reckless decision and do the right thing, yet we find that it is not doing that. It is not listening to experts, public safety experts or the public, in fact. British Columbians have said loud and clear that they want this station open.
I hope the government will actually listen and reverse this closure.