The Hawaii Mars in action over Sproat Lake in Port Alberni. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

B.C. cities vote against 10-year Martin Mars contract

Port Alberni delegates had fought to ask new NDP government for new deal

Cities across B.C. chose not to stand behind Port Alberni and the city’s beloved Martin Mars at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Thursday.

Coun. Chris Alemany brought a motion asking delegates to support urging the province to enter in a 10-year contract with the Coulson Group and “ensure [the] Coulson Group upgrade the aircraft to meet operational requirements.”

“We thought the fires couldn’t get any worse… they did. Along came 2015, 2017 with unprecedented fire activity and impact on our province and communities,” said Alemany.

The resolution has been brought to the UBCM twice before but Alemany said that this year’s was different, citing the section that required the province and Coulson to work together on keeping the plane’s technology up-to-date.

Alemany said that with a new NDP government in Victoria, it was time to try again to ask for the Mars, “not because it’s better but because it is one more tool in the toolbox.”

Earlier this summer, the now-former BC Liberal government told Black Press that “there are more modern and cost-effective aircraft available for use in B.C.’s varied terrain.”

READ: Province says no to Hawaii Mars

The Martin Mars planes have been the subject of much debate over the years with supporters claiming that nothing packs the same punch as the large waterbombers, while those against claim that the planes are expensive and unable to draw water from the province’s smaller lakes.

Several delegates spoke out against the waterbombers.

Caribou Regional District director Dylan Cash told the convention that wildfire fire crews told him that the Mars was “no longer strategic in what they are doing” with the large fires that covered much of B.C. this summer.

More to come.