A new formal petition on the Parliament of Canada’s website is calling on the federal Liberal government to reopen Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres shut down under the Harper regime.
It specifically requests that the government stop the closure of the Comox communications centre, review the closure of nine other Coast Guard communications centres since 2012, and “reopen centres where practicable”.
The petition was filed by a Coast Guard union member and sponsored by Rachel Blaney, the NDP Member of Parliament for the riding of North Island-Powell River. It argues that the communications centres were closed without consulting stockholders, conducting a risk assessment, considering the increased threat of marine accidents, and considering the reduction in redundancy of coverage.
Furthermore, it states that once the facility in Comox is closed, it could leave the entire West Coast vulnerable after a seismic event as the two remaining centres in Prince Rupert and Victoria are located within tsunami zones.
With over 600 signatures at the time of publication, the petition has already passed the required 500 signature threshold to be considered in the House of Commons.
In May 2014, the communications centre at the 23rd floor of Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver was closed to save $700,000 in annual operational costs. Critics argued against the closure on the basis that it monitored Canada’s largest port and the high marine traffic that passes through English Bay and Burrard Inlet.
With the Vancouver closure, all monitoring responsibilities of Vancouver’s local marine traffic were diverted to the communications centre in Victoria, through the use of cameras, radar, and transponders. The Harper government spent $64 million to outfit 12 remaining stations with equipment that can monitor marine traffic in distant waterways.
At least one major Coast Guard facility closure in the region will be reversed as Justin Trudeau’s government has confirmed its plans to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base “as soon as possible”.