The federal government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station unexpectedly yesterday.
The government had announced the impending closure last year in an effort to save approximately $800,000 annually, but had not specified a date for the station to be shut down. The announcement provoked protests from several groups including marine safety experts, the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UTCE) and the City of Vancouver.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson issued a release yesterday saying the City had not been notified of the closure in advance.
“It is tremendously disappointing that the federal government has chosen not to listen to a broad consensus of marine safety experts who consistently expressed their concerns about the clear dangers posed by this closure,” Robertson said.
Christine Collins, national president of the UTCE, told Business in Vancouver that the union was not informed of the closure until yesterday afternoon, and that it had expected the closure to occur no sooner than late spring.
“Yesterday, the employer walked in and met with the employees and told them at the end of the day that Kitsilano was to close and gave them direction on where to report today.”
Collins said the union had actually been “guardedly optimistic” that plans to close the base would be reversed, given the opposition to the move by the provincial government, the Chamber of Commerce and the mayor, among other parties.
Collins added that the fact the closure happened yesterday was not a coincidence as most British Columbians would be distracted by the release of the provincial 2013 budget.
She believes the consequences of this action will be grave.
“People will die. It’s not even a question of if. It is when.”
The station handled over 300 calls per year in what is considered the most congested marine area in the country.