POLITICS

Feds defend plan to close BC coast guard station and communication centres

05/29/2012 05:08 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - The federal government says marine safety was at the centre of a decision to close a coast guard station and three marine communications centres in B.C.

Ottawa plans to close the Kitsilano search-and-rescue station in Vancouver, along with communications centres in Vancouver, Comox and Tofino, with those operations being consolidated in Victoria and Prince Rupert.

Premier Christy Clark is asking the feds to reconsider the cuts, saying she understands the need to reduce spending, but she doesn't want those cuts to endanger lives.

A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield says the coast guard is in the business of saving lives and the decisions were taken with the safety of mariners at their core.

Erin Filliter says the reorganization will bring Vancouver into line with services in other ports, and a new inshore rescue boat, a new hovercraft, the coast guard auxiliary and other services will be able to handle emergency calls in the region.

She says the consolidated marine communications centres will have more staff and upgraded equipment so they can do a better job of overseeing marine traffic on the coast, something that can't be done with outdated equipment in the existing centres.