If elected to form the government later this year, the Liberal Party of Canada will reopen the currently-closed Kitsilano Coast Guard base, effectively reversing a highly controversial Conservative government decision made in 2012.
Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made the election-year announcement earlier today in response to Wednesday’s bunker fuel oil spill in Vancouver’s English Bay.
According to the party, Harper’s Conservative Party cut Transport Canada’s funding for marine safety programs by more than 27 per cent since 2009.
Four Coast Guard stations in B.C. were shuttered in recent years including the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, which is said to have created $700,000 in annual savings for the government.
“I used to live in this neighbourhood, and I know that any spills of this nature are of serious concern to British Columbians and all Canadians,” said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in a statement.
“Stephen Harper’s cuts to marine safety resources and the closure of Vancouver’s Kitsilano Coast Guard Base each undermine our ability to respond to spills like this. A new Liberal government will re-open a full-service Coast Guard station in Vancouver and re-invest in marine safety and oil spill response capacity on the BC coast.”
On Wednesday, it took six hours for Richmond Coast Guard crews to respond to the situation in English Bay, although the federal government had previously claimed a response time to Vancouver’s local waters would only take about 30 minutes.
In stark contrast, the Kitsilano base would have been able to respond to the incident in just six minutes to begin the process of containing the oil spill, according to CKNW. It was also equipped with a conventional vessel capable of dealing with an oil spill whereas the Richmond base deployed a single rubber boat on Wednesday night as its hovercraft could not travel on an oil slick.
“Marine safety experts are highlighting how Stephen Harper’s closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base had a profoundly negative impact on response capabilities following this spill, and the consequences for Vancouver’s local waters and shorelines are deeply alarming,” said Dr. Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre.
Both the federal Liberals and NDP voiced their opposition when the Conservatives announced the closure.
— Justin Trudeau, MP (@JustinTrudeau) April 10, 2015