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B.C. Premier Christy Clark responds to media questions after speaking at the official opening of the Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 8, 2013. (Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark responds to media questions after speaking at the official opening of the Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency department in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 8, 2013. (Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail)

Federal pledge to build coast guard ships a good sign for B.C. spill response, Clark says Add to ...

Days after raising concerns about Ottawa’s support for marine-spill response on the B.C. coast, Premier Christy Clark says she is “thankful” the federal government is committed to doing better.

Ms. Clark offered the supportive comments Tuesday when asked about a federal plan to spend $3.3-billion on up to 10 Canadian Coast Guard ships that are being built in B.C.

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“For decades, the federal government has been withdrawing support for Coast Guard on the west coast – the busiest port in this country. For the first time in decades, we have a federal government that is interested in fixing that problem,” Ms. Clark told reporters following an unrelated event.

“I am very thankful we have a federal government that seems to be interested in helping us do that because we can’t do it without them.”

During an interview with CBC broadcast last weekend, Ms. Clark said the federal government would not have the resources to deal with a major spill disaster, noting “we are woefully under-resourced.”

Ms. Clark has made “world-leading” marine-spill response one of B.C.’s five conditions for approving such pipeline projects as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway initiative, which would deliver oil from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast.

The environment critic for the B.C. New Democrats said Ms. Clark’s comments on Tuesday suggest an inconsistent position.

“The position is as clear as tar sands oil,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert.

“She’s trying to be both leader of the opposition and premier. One day, nothing is going well. The next day, everything is going well,” he said.

He said he was surprised by her comments. “You don’t go on national TV and say, ‘We’re woefully under-resourced,’ then the next day say, ‘Things are going good.’ ”

Mr. Chandra-Herbert also noted that the new coast-guard ships announced this week are years away from being built and deployed. The federal government says the $3.3-billion will allow for up to five multitask vessels and five offshore patrol vessels. Environmental response would be among the roles of the ships.

“What if there was a spill tomorrow? Those ships wouldn’t be ready; the province wouldn’t be ready; the federal government wouldn’t be ready.”

Follow on Twitter: @ianabailey

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