Mayor Gregor Robertson is urging more public and political pushback of the federal government's plan to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard base in the spring.
Robertson said he is not satisfied with the government's alternative solution to emergency response that includes one rescue boat operating from the Royal Canadian Navy's facility at Deadman's Island, off Stanley Park.
"There's going to have to be more and more pressure on the members of Parliament for the region so they understand this is absolutely unacceptable to close the Kits Coast Guard base," he told reporters Wednesday.
The Kitsilano base, which has 12 staff and two search and rescue vessels, is slated to close this spring as part of an estimated $700,000 cut announced last year by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The mayor's comments came shortly after the federal government announced a seven-metre, rigid hull "inshore" rescue boat will be stationed at Deadman's Island.
The move was done without consulting the mayor or city hall staff. Vision Coun. Kerry Jang, who attended the government's press conference at Deadman's Island, said he "snuck in" as a member of the Asian media and relayed the news to the mayor.
City council have repeatedly outlined their concerns that the closure of the Kits base could lead to lost lives in the waters around Vancouver.
Coast Guard crews at the Kitsilano base respond to 75 to 100 "life-at-risk" calls per year, with approximately two-thirds of those occurring in the winter months.
The mayor reiterated how he was concerned rescue work will fall to the city's police and fire departments, whose mandates are not search and rescue.
"They're not trained to deal with Coast Guard-based emergencies," he said. "So again, it's putting lives at risk and it will potentially create costs for our fire and police services."
The rigid hull, twin-outboard engine boat, which will be staffed by a Coast Guard employee and paid students, will operate from the May long weekend until September.
When the base closes, the government says, it will rely on the Sea Island hovercraft stationed near the Vancouver International Airport and the rescue boat during the summer, and will continue to work with the five Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue units.
At Wednesday's press conference, Conservative MP Randy Kamp, parliamentary secretary of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said the realignment or rescue services will "improve response times and ensure that we are well equipped to deal with emergencies on the water."
Jody Thomas, the Coast Guard's deputy commissioner of operations, said the location of the inshore rescue boat made "operational sense" and response times won't be affected.
"Is it as good as Kits? It's an excellent facility," said Thomas in answering a reporter's question. "For response time, we will be in English Bay within a very good standard of time and we're not concerned that by relocating here that we are reducing response. In False Creek - yes. But we could locate it anywhere and you're not going to be exactly where the incident is."
Thomas said the Coast Guard is not buying a new inshore rescue boat but using the existing one based at the Kits base, near the Burrard Street Bridge.
Last month, the chiefs of the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire-Rescue wrote letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper requesting the federal government reconsider closing the Kits base. Police Chief Jim Chu said Wednesday he received a response but told the Courier he wouldn't discuss it until he and his department had an opportunity to review the details of the Coast Guard's latest announcement.
© Copyright 2013