Kitsilano Coast Guard base will be re-opened but questions remain on when and for how much.
“You know we are committed to having this facility fully operational as soon as possible.”
Department of Fisheries and Oceans minister Hunter Tootoo says the base will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, when it re-opens.
“The facility has been shut down for almost three years now. There were mold issues three years ago. I have directed officials within the Coast Guard to assess what needs to be done to be able to make it a safe environment to have staff work in. That work is going to be commencing very shortly.”
Tootoo says he has asked Coast Guard brass to put together proposals on staffing.
As for how much this will all cost, Tootoo says there needs to be an assessment on the work needed, then they will have a handle on the bill.
Tootoo was flanked by Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson when he made the announcement.
It was one of the election campaign promises made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and was reaffirmed in a mandate letter to Tootoo last month.
Discussion of reopening the station, which was closed in 2013 as a cost-cutting measure, came about after last April’s oil spill in English Bay.
Coast Guard Commissioner changes her tune
Jody Thomas was a very vocal defender of closing Kits base.
“…That is the democratic process right. We make recommendations to government and we give advice and then we execute. I am very pleased to see more Coast Guard. “
Yet even in praising the re-opening of Kitsilano base, the Coast Guard Commissioner continues to downplay what role the base might have had in last summer’s fuel spill.
Thomas insists Kits base would not have made a difference in the spill response.
When asked how that can be true when no one from Richmond Sea Island base came to the scene in the hours after two different spill reports, she said they still wouldn’t have known who was leaking the fuel.
Those comments despite two people on the scene of the oil saying it was obvious where the fuel originated from.
“We were here. I don’t have the timelines in front of me but it wasn’t obvious where it was coming from until we had the overhead shots from the plane going over.”
Rob O’Dea who reported the spill and waited for hours for some kind of response says it was obvious the fuel was leaking from the MV Marathassa.
The Coast Guard faced heavy criticism for its response to the incident because it took 12 hours to install an oil-absorbing boom around the ship.
It also took about the same amount of time to notify the city.
MCTS remains shuttered
While the Trudeau government is fulfilling its promise to re-open the Kitsilano Coast Guard base it doesn’t seem to eager to walk back other Harper government Coast Guard cuts.
When asked about reopening the Marine Communication and Traffic Service centres in Vancouver, Department of Fisheries and Oceans minister Hunter Tootoo was notably cool tot he idea.
“This is about this facility here in Kitsilano. If you are talking about the MCTS stations I think the Coast Guard and the government has invested a significant amount of money into new technology and updating to provide more effective and efficient service.”
Tootoo insists Coast Guard communication services will offer the same coverage across the West Coast.
A Coast Guard MCTS centre in Comox is scheduled to close next year.