OUR VIEW: Keep lines of Coast Guard communication open

It's time federal government made safety of coastal waters a priority

Closing marine communications and traffic centres in Comox and Ucluelet seems like a dangerous idea.

Local New Democratic Party candidate Rachel Blaney issued a news release this week, on the heels of an oil spill in Vancouver Harbour, urging the federal government to halt the planned closure of these facilities.

“I have extreme concerns that an event like this could happen in the Salish Sea and Johnston Strait,” said Blaney, the NDP candidate for the North Island-Powell River. “Instead of defending the response we saw in Vancouver, the Conservatives should start listening to British Columbians and restore coast guard services.”

We are fortunate here to have a Coast Guard station. It’s situated at Discovery Marina, an ideal location to help those in distress in Discovery Passage and the surrounding waters.

The number of boats on the waters off the Island’s coast during the herring spawn and fishing and tourist season is staggering and, at least to the layman’s eyes, it looks dangerous.

Add to that the number of commercial boats that move up and down the Strait of Georgia every day, the cruise ships and the pleasure craft that enjoy the waters off what’s been called Canada’s Riviera, and we cannot imagine a place more in need of a Coast Guard presence.

If it comes to pass that more oil tankers are using the Strait, it would make sense to add, not subtract, marine communications facilities.

If you have ever stood near the lighthouse on the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, looking down and out at what has been called (for good reason) the Graveyard of the Pacific, then you would agree that modern, reliable communications between ship and shore seems essential to the preservation of life and cargo.

Conservative whip and Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan needs to make this a priority. While Blaney and others have decided the federal election campaign has already started, Duncan has been doing his job as whip and MP.

Part of that job is protecting the safety of his constituents and the safe movement of goods and people in the waters of his constituency.

The NDP is trying to force the issue politically. Fair enough, but if there was no federal election on the horizon, this is something we would need Duncan to address, to go to bat for B.C., as part of his MP duties.