The federal Conservatives’ planned closure of the coast guard monitoring station in Comox is not only ludicrous but could cost John Duncan his seat as Vancouver North Island MP, says the president of the BC Federation of Labour.
Jim Sinclair visited Friday with workers at the station, targeted for closure along with a marine communications/traffic services centre in Tofino and two stations in Vancouver.
“Even with the coast guard we have, people die out there. To suggest we need less is an insult to the people who work on this coast,” said Sinclair, who spent two decades in the fishing industry. “We should be expanding it, not contracting it.”
He considers a coast guard employee to be a combination paramedic/firefighter/police officer who knows the coverage area and how to direct people to reach places. With fewer staff members, Sinclair said service will decline.
Duncan has said government decisions are based on recommendations from experts at the Canadian Coast Guard, and that the Island will continue to be served by the same network of search and rescue lifeboats, and two helicopters.
“Name one other service where you shut down four of the major pieces and then the government tells you it’s better?” Sinclair said. “Sorry, people don’t buy it. This is the bare minimum that covers the coast…We’re not talking hundreds of millions of dollars.”
According to a federation poll, 80 per cent of Vancouver Island North residents oppose the planned closure.
“Is John Duncan representing (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper or is he representing the people in this riding?” said Sinclair, noting the poll suggests more than 70 per cent of the Island North riding is less likely to vote for Duncan at the next federal election. “I think that’s the message to Stephen Harper. This is really about life and death.
“Sometimes issues become symbols of a government that’s lost its way,” he added. “The set of values that Canadians have are that we take care of each other, and when people are in trouble we help them.”
Sinclair credits Nanaimo/Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney for opposing the planned closures.
“It’s too bad that Mr. Duncan hasn’t got the same fortitude that Mr. Lunney had,” he said.
Sinclair also met Friday with hospital and ferry workers.
The BC Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and 450,000 private and public sector employees in B.C.