02/23/2013 01:12 EST | Updated 04/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Tories Defend Kits Coast Guard Closure

Ottawa insists mariners are still safe in Vancouver, despite the early closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station on Tuesday.

Closure of the Kits Coast Guard station was initially announced last spring as part of budget cuts and drew widespread criticism.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose was in Vancouver Friday to announce $15 million in government shipbuilding contracts for Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd.

Ambrose defended the closure of the Kitsilano base, the busiest Coast Guard station in Canada.

"Well, my understanding is that was a decision that was made some time ago and everyone in the region was aware of it, and of course this was on the advice of the Coast Guard," she said.

North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton, also at the announcement, denied Conservative MPs were avoiding the issue.

"This was a decision that was made over a long period of time, by experts," Saxton said. "There are resources in place and we expect those resources to make sure that boaters and mariners are safe in our waters."

Newfoundland investment

Two days after forcing the early closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station on Tuesday, the federal government announced $6.6 million for a Coast Guard base in Newfoundland.

Ambrose said it was the Coast Guard's decision to invest in the Newfoundland base over the Kitsilano station.

"In terms of the Newfoundland investment, that's an existing facility, and it's going to be rebuilt because of its age, from what I understand. It's not a new facility."

The Kitsilano Coast Guard station responded to about 350 calls every year.

Search-and-rescue services will now be handled by the coast guard base at Sea Island, in Richmond, which is 17 nautical miles away.

B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond plans to raise the idea of the province stepping in and running the Kitsilano base, when she meets with Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield next week.

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