Dix wants unity with Liberals to fight coast guard cuts
Published Sunday, May 27, 2012 6:34PM PDT
Provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix wants to join forces with the BC Liberals to stop federal government cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard.
Both Dix and Premier Christy Clark have come out against Ottawa's plan to close the Vancouver station at the end of the boating season – a move that would leave one base to serve the greater Vancouver area.
On Sunday, Dix called for a united front to fight the closure and wrote a letter to Clark.
"I asked her to join with us in the legislature to support a unanimous motion opposing the cuts, calling on the federal government, in fact, to rescind the cuts," Dix told reporters.
He also suggested a legislative committee to assess the impact of the closure and a joint trip to Ottawa to plead their case.
The premier's office says Clark has not yet received the letter.
But Clark told CTV News she continues to push Ottawa for details and assurances people will be safe.
"I know everybody wants to save money. We're in the same position here in British Columbia.We're in some tough budgetary times. But you can't do it when you're putting life and limb at peril," she said.
The job cuts are part of the federal government's plan to reduce the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' operational budget by $79.3 million over three years.
Clark says Ottawa should focus on the bureaucratic level if cuts are necessary.
"If you want to try and save money, save it at the centre. Save it at the bureaucracy in the middle. Try to preserve the boots on the ground and the regional services as much as you can, and I think that's an important message that we want to send to Ottawa," she said.
While Dix agrees people's safety could be threatened if the coast guard base is shut down, he also fears the economic consequences.
"It doesn't simply make sense for those of us who know this coast, know these harbours and this coast, to be cutting coast guard services, which are so important to the safety and the economic life of our region," Dix said.
"It's something that once we do it, we won't be able to get back," he added.
When the Kitsilano Coast Guard base closes, the volunteer Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue is expected to handle the 300 annual calls the station now handles. However, RCM-SAR rescuers say they don't think they are an adequate replacement.
The nearest coast guard base will then be on Sea Island at the airport, about 17 kilometres away. The trip would take 30 minutes by hovercraft.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Penny Daflos