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A former federal Conservative MP and now leader of the BC Tories has taken pen to paper to tell the Prime Minister that closing Kits Coast Guard base is a mistake.
John Cummins says he has told Prime Minister Stephen Harper that closing Kits base will risk lives, affect safety of boaters, and is an all round bad idea.
Cummins says his hope is that Harper will listen to a former colleague from B.C. instead of buying into bad information.
"I think to often what happens is he gets that briefing from senior officials in Ottawa and you tend to believe your senior officials I think that is the problem and you have got a Minister who is not from the West coast and you have got bureaucracy in Ottawa the information that people like the Prime Minister get, at times, is not accurate and it is not helpful."
Cummins says it is also "not realistic" to rely in the Sea Island Coast Guard base to pick up the slack.
"Richmond base is 35 minutes away and the proposed summer relief program is simply not adequate people boat in British Columbia year round and the waterways in English Bay and in the harbour are just as busy or almost as busy in the winter as they are in the summer."
Cummins says the cost savings, what little there might be, is also not worth shuttering the base.
"We are talking about a 700-thousand dollar saving but if you subtract from that the cost of the summer relief program and then the cost of coverage from Richmond base the savings are insignificant and they pale in comparison to the risk the boating public will be faced with the closure of this base."
The letter from John Cummins to the Prime Minister is in full below.
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
I write to you today with regards to the impending closure of the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue station at Kitsilano.
You have demonstrated over the course of your career, as both a Member of Parliament and as Prime Minister, a clear understanding of, and sympathy for, issues of concern to British Columbians. It is with that knowledge in mind that I request you reconsider the federal
government’s decision to close the Kitsilano station.
All of us are aware, of course, of the great fiscal challenges that today face the Government of Canada. We also are fully supportive of the efforts initiated by you and your government to keep
spending under control, to eliminate the deficit and to reduce our national debt.
It is my sincerest hope that provincial governments across the country – including my own province of British Columbia – follow your lead in having the courage to make difficult, and sometimes unpopular choices so as to restore Canada’s fiscal health and prosperity.
That said, some public services are so vital, so essential to the safety and well-being of Canadians, that they should receive special consideration when funding reductions are contemplated and implemented.
One such public service, I believe, is the Canadian Coast Guard station at Kitsilano.
There are many compelling reasons why the Kitsilano station must remain open and operating.
1. The Kitsilano search and rescue station each year responds to an average of 350 distress or emergency calls, saving many lives.
Moreover, tens of thousands of British Columbians who traverse or otherwise utilize the waters of False Creek, English Bay, Burrard Inlet and/or the Strait of Georgia on a daily basis have reassurance for their safety because of its presence with a professional rescue
crew and vessels available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
2. The public – and particularly mariners whose livelihoods depend on the sea, as well as recreational boaters – are overwhelmingly supportive of keeping Kitsilano Station’s
lifesaving resources intact.
They do not agree with the senior management of the Canadian Coast Guard’s view that a hovercraft based on Sea Island in Richmond – approximately 35 minutes travel time away from Vancouver – is an adequate way of protecting Canada’s busiest harbour.
In favourable conditions, a delayed or lengthy response by Sea Island hovercraft can easily be the difference between life and death.
3. The travel-time between Sea Island in Richmond to False Creek English Bay, Burrard Inlet or the Strait of Georgia is vitally important – and especially so during ‘out-ofseason’ months – because of the low survivability rates in extremely cold water.
Many fatal boating accidents occur in the winter when boating or water-accident victims find themselves suddenly plunged into water at temperatures considerably lower than those in summer-time.
Individuals in distress are hit quickly by panic and shock, and many succumb to cardiac arrest or hypothermia. Cold water, it has been noted, can rob the body of its’ heat 32-times faster than cold air.
Accident victims and their rescuers are advised that all efforts must be given to getting out of the water by the fastest means possible.
The hovercraft based at Sea Island in Richmond, which does not have all-weather capabilities, is incapable of responding as promptly to accidents or other events of distress as the existing Kitsilano station.
4. It has been argued by your government that part-time members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary – aided by summer-students with two months of training – are an adequate substitute or replacement for the highly-skilled and professionally-trained personnel with the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue force.
This is patently untrue. Moreover, the proposed replacement of a year-round, professionally-trained, 24-hour search and rescue service, with a May-to-September, three-person inshore rescue team is plainly inadequate to the proven needs of British Columbia’s boaters, mariners and other water users.
5. Will there actually be any cost-savings achieved by the closure of the Kitsilano search and rescue station? This assertion is highly-debatable – and even if true, small potatoes in
the grand scheme of things.
Some estimates are that the station’s closing will be as little as $700,000 – before accounting for the costs of the May-to-September part-time service. And that means actually savings for Canadian taxpayers may be as low as $500,000.
Yet even that estimate does not include additional expenses – operating and capital – for the new hovercraft based at Sea Island in Richmond. It not only is possible, but very likely, that closure of the Kitsilano station will have no – I repeat, no – cost savings for
You and your government – our Government of Canada – has done much for B.C. in recent years. Across our great province, British Columbians are deeply appreciative of the federal government’s stewardship of the national economy, as well as your personal and on-going attention to the needs of British Columbians.
But the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station has become an enormous concern for our province, with political representatives from all B.C. parties united in calling for it to remain open.
Prime Minister, I urge you to as you have done in the past, in the best interest of British Columbia, intervene and keep the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station open. I believe the B.C. public will thank you for it and time will show that it was the right decision.
I would be pleased to speak to you privately about this issue at anytime, with you or your staff.
B.C. Conservative Party