05/23/2012 11:42 EDT | Updated 07/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Councillors join fight to save Kitsilano coast guard station

A Vancouver city councillor says he and his colleagues will do everything they can to keep open a Canadian Coast Guard station slated for closure under federal budget cuts.

Coun. Geoff Meggs was among a group of local politicians and union members who protested the planned closure outside the Kitsilano station Tuesday.

The station responds to about 300 calls a year, and the announcement to close the facility caught local officials off guard.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has said that the next-closest coast guard station, located in Richmond, B.C., at Vancouver International Airport, will be able to handle the Kitsilano's station's calls.

"We are very disturbed and upset at the decision of the federal government," said Meggs. "We're going to do everything we can, working with other elected make sure it's reversed."

Dave Clark, regional vice-president of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, said members are launching a campaign, which includes a Facebook page, to save the station.

He said the station has already responded to 55 life-threatening situations this year, including nine over the May long weekend, and urged the public to contact federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield to reverse the decision.

Fred Moxey, the former commander of the Kitsilano station, said lives will be put in danger by the closure, adding it would take at least 30 minutes-under perfect condition for the Richmond station to respond to a call from the Vancouver harbour.

"Somebody in Ottawa put a big 'X' through (the station), somebody who doesn't have a clue about what goes on here," he said.

The Kitsilano station has the only all-weather coast guard vessel in the region, said Moxey, and it would have to be "mothballed" if the station closed.

Fin Donnelly, NDP MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam, called the closure "reckless," and challenged Heritage Minister James Moore, the highest-ranking B.C. Conservative MP, to come to Vancouver and defend the 30-minute response time.

The federal government also plans to close three of the five coast guard communications centres along the B.C. coast, consolidating the centres in Victoria and Prince Rupert.