Closing Kits Coast Guard base called 'sheer madness'
Kitsilano Coast Guard workers say they saved nine lives over the holiday weekend, but warn that hundreds could be lost if the federal government goes ahead with plans to close the search-and-rescue base.
Ottawa announced last week that the Vancouver station will be shuttered at the end of the boating season, leaving all rescues to the Sea Island base in Richmond. At a press conference Tuesday, city officials and representatives from the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees came together to plead with the Conservatives to change their minds.
"Closing this Coast Guard base is sheer madness. As my sons said to me over the weekend, let's put the prime minister and his cabinet out adrift in the harbour for 30 minutes and see how they like it," city councillor Kerry Jang told reporters.
Officials at the station say they've rescued 55 people so far this year. City council and the Vancouver Park Board hope to pass motions calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change his mind about shutting the base down.
Retired station commander Fred Moxey says he's convinced the government didn't think the decision through properly.
"I have to tell you, I'm just absolutely shocked," he said.
He believes that Richmond is simply too far away for help to come in time for Vancouver boaters in distress.
"If somebody has fallen off their vessel and they're unconscious, 30 minutes is not going to make it," he said.
Premier Christy Clark, who has just returned from a trip to Asia, says she hasn't had a chance to talk to the prime minister about the base closure.
"We're in the middle of a pretty difficult economic situation in this country and our province, so cuts are a disappointment, but the bottom line has to be, are people going to be safe?" she said.
Federal government representatives have said that the Richmond station should have no problem picking up the slack, pointing out that it is just 17 nautical miles away from Kitsilano.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's St. John Alexander