Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says he doesn’t believe federal assurances that marine safety can be maintained despite cuts to coast guard services, announced this week, that include closing a search and rescue station in Kitsilano.
“I am not at all convinced by their argument given the current system has been serving us well,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview Friday.
“It’s brutal and comes as a real shock. This is a vital life-safety service for Vancouver’s harbour and it’s hard to fathom why they would take drastic action like this.”
The mayor said he is urging the public to protest Ottawa’s decision to close the station as well as close three coast-guard communications centres in Vancouver, Tofino and Comox over the next three years.
“People need to speak out directly to the federal government if they’re concerned about changes like this. I’ll certainly do so as mayor,” he said.
Mr. Robertson said all of the operations are crucial to marine safety in Vancouver waters.
“I am concerned about life safety on the water with our busy beaches to the complex harbour operations. This is a real blow to having quick service that’s centrally located and can respond in minutes to an incident at our key beaches.
“We have a ton of recreational boating and a huge commercial operation mixed together with that so it’s a bizarre and, I think, a high-risk step from Ottawa.”
He said there was no consultation with the city or the Vancouver Police Department marine squad, who work closely with the coast guard.
“It will take some major convincing that this somehow improves marine safety in Vancouver,” he said.
The federal government has said it will amalgamate the Kitsilano operation with the Sea Island Station in Richmond, which is 17 nautical miles apart and that levels of service will remain consistent and actually be augmented by a new hovercraft to be delivered next year.
Mr. Robertson, who has taken a high-profile stand against increased oil tanker traffic through Vancouver waters, said there is a contradiction in reducing the services as there is a push for more tanker traffic.
Kinder Morgan has advanced a plan to twin a pipeline in the Lower Mainland, which brings crude oil from Alberta to a Burnaby-area processing centre for shipment to Asia and the United States by tanker. The plan would mean a hike from about 70 tankers in all of 2010 ferrying oil to 25 to 30 tankers per month.
In response, the mayor and his Vision Vancouver party have raised concerns about the impact if an oil spill occurred in Vancouver waters.
Mr. Robertson declined to disclose specific measures the city might take in response to the closures, but said Vancouver will oppose them. “We’ll look at whatever angles we can work on this,” he said.