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Lightkeepers receive more support

West Coast lightkeepers have received another vote of confidence from the federal government.

In March 2011, the Conservative government promised not to destaff B.C.’s 27 manned lighthouses, as well as those in Newfoundland, following a report prepared by the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Now, a year later, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield re-confirmed the government’s position in a letter to committee chair Senator Fabian Manning.

“The government has no plans to de-staff lighthouses and since this matter has been examined extensively, there is no need for further study on this matter,” Ashfield wrote.

Coast Guard executives have tried to get rid of lightkeepers since the early 1970s and replace them with automated stations. However, the brass has failed to convince that automation can provide the same level of protection. Those in favour of manned lighthouses say the lightkeepers provide up-to-date weather information and can assist in rescues in remote locations.

Jim Abram, the former lightkeeper at Cape Mudge on Quadra Island, was pleased to hear the latest news.

“This is a very, very important confirmation,” he said Monday.

Hearing the latest news was important, said Abram, because it comes from the minister who’s a member of a majority government.

“How much better can it get?” said a pleased Abram, who has battled Coast Guard executives for years over their intention to destaff lighthouses. “We went through this so many times…so much money was spent…I think this is fantastic.”

In its report to the minister, the standing committee stated lightkeepers are the “eyes and ears” of the coast.

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