The closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station will create a “significant gap” for the safety of Vancouver residents and visitors, according to a report presented to city council today (September 18).
Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston told council the scheduled closure of the station could also put a strain on city resources if police and fire boats are required to respond to more “vessel of opportunity” calls as the closest ships to a rescue situation.
“The current activities of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base are clearly within the legislated mandate of the Government of Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard,” Johnston told council. “We believe that people’s safety will be at risk as a result of this closure, and we do not have the resources nor the mandate to fill this gap in the City of Vancouver assets that we have.”
Johnston said the city didn’t find out about the base closure until the news was reported in the media.
“There was no consultation,” he said. “We didn’t know it until we read it in the newspaper, that this closure was being announced, and that’s the same for our fire and police staff that are on the water on a regular basis.”
Staff have since met with federal government representatives, but Johnston told council there "doesn’t seem to be a plan to mitigate this gap that’s being created".
Council voted to send today’s report to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, members of Parliament and all affected municipalities. The city is also requesting a meeting with the prime minister’s office and with Vancouver MPs to review the report and urge a reversal of the decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.
“This looks like a potential disaster in our waters here off Vancouver that the city does not have the ability or the responsibility to respond to,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said.
Vancouver fire chief John McKearney told reporters that as directed by council, his department will also send a letter to the prime minister's office in conjunction with Vancouver police, and request a retraction of the decision to close the station.
The report delivered to council today indicates the closure of the Kitsilano base will lead to a 25-percent drop in staff and a 30-percent decrease in the number of Coast Guard boats in the region.
The Kitsilano Coast Guard Station receives about 75 to 100 distress calls out of about 300 calls a year, according to the report. Two-thirds of those distress calls occur during the winter months.
The federal government has said it will launch an inshore rescue team comprised of six post-secondary students during the summer months. It has also indicated further investments will be made in the Royal Canadian Marine Volunteer Search and Rescue.