The Kitsilano Coast Guard base will reopen “as soon as possible,” Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Hunter Tootoo said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had announced in his platform earlier this year that he would reopen the Coast Guard base that was shut down by the Harper government in 2013.
In November, Trudeau sent a ministerial letter to Hunter Tootoo mandating he must reopen the base as part of his duties as DFO minister.
Since the closure of the Kitsilano location, the closest base to Vancouver was in Richmond.
“It’s about enhancing our ability to respond to marine emergencies,” said Tootoo.
“I want British Columbians to know I am listening to their concerns.”
When asked if there was a timeline for the reopening of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, Minister Tootoo said there are a number of issues that need to be worked out, including cost assessment and a mould issue within the facility.
“It’s been abandoned for three years. I’ve directed my officials to assess what needs to be done to make it a safe environment for staff to work in and that will be happening as soon as possible.”
Premier Christy Clark outlined the importance of the Coast Guard by referencing the Leviathan II whale watching vessel that capsized near Tofino and killed six of the 27 people on board.
“The Canadian Coast Guard was there within minutes and they saved lives,” she said.
“We need to be there for a quick response.”
The base will be staffed at similar levels to bases across the country and will be open and operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mayor Gregor Roberston said Vancouverites were heard loud and clear and the M.V. Marathassa oil spill in English Bay was a prime example of our need for a Coast Guard base in Vancouver.
“We saw a real challenge this past summer with the oil spill. Not having resources made a difference, it made things worse.”
He added we’ve learned a lot from that experience and the reopening of this base will increase the city’s capacity to respond to oil spills more promptly and minimize anything in the future.