The coast guard says it took them just over 20 minutes to reach the scene from their Sea Island base.
But Bill Tieleman, the spokesman for the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, says that was too long.
"We believe a minimum of 15 minutes would have been saved if the Kits coast guard station was still open, they would have been immediately dispatched from here," said Tieleman.
"We keep saying that 15 minutes for a heart attack victim. Fifteen minutes for somebody in the water is an enormous difference. It's a life and death difference, potentially. We don't know in this case, but we do know there was a delay because Kits is closed."
The Canadian Coast Guard's Kitsilano Life Boat Station was considered the busiest in Canada, but was closed earlier this year as a cost-cutting measure by the federal government.
The service is being replaced with a seasonal inshore rescue boat service based in Stanley Park and the hovercraft at the Sea Island coast guard base in Richmond.
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