No way ‘super centres’ can replace Coast Guard stations

Dear editor,
Like other readers, I feel that our MP John Duncan, like many of his colleagues, has been ordered to toe the party line.

Dear editor,Like so many other readers, I feel that our MP John Duncan, like many of his colleagues, has been ordered to toe the party line when it comes to the closure of the Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centres in Comox and Ucluelet.Therefore, they are naturally making statements such as … “I do believe that public safety will continue to be served at the same or even improved levels given the technological improvements they are putting in.”Having worked as an MCTS supervisor for 25 years at the Tofino MCTS centre in Ucluelet before my retirement, I can assure you that the areas of responsibility (AOR) for the Comox, Tofino and Prince Rupert centres are too vast for officers at one single centre to be responsible to oversee.Operators at each centre are trained and familiar with the many hundreds of local place names that are referred to by mariners when times of assistance are required. How on earth can these enormous geographical areas be amalgamated into two “super centres” (Prince Rupert and Victoria) without compromising the safety of those on the waters?What ‘improved technologies’ can allow an officer sitting in Prince Rupert to assist a lifeboat out of Tofino or Bamfield to a vessel in distress off the west coast of Vancouver Island?As the union representing the Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) officers has stated, “The improved technological systems the government is applauding has been promised for over 10 years; however a working model has yet to be produced.”In 1979, the governments of Canada and the United States signed an international agreement for the traffic management of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This Co-operative Vessel Traffic Service (CVTS) agreement has worked flawlessly since its inception. However, to date, this decision by the Canadian government to close the frontline Tofino MCTS centre has not even been discussed with those in charge of the US Coast Guard.A meeting of the Joint Co-ordinating Group (JCG) for the CVTS is scheduled for this week in Ucluelet. No doubt there will be much discussion about the planned closure of the Tofino MCTS centre and the impact it will have on the signed agreement.Controlling the approaches to the Juan de Fuca Strait by officers at a station in Prince Rupert would be the same as the Vancouver International Airport being controlled from Edmonton. How absurd is that?Oh, wait a minute, perhaps that’s the government’s next move in cost savings. Perhaps we shouldn’t give them any ideas!Since it first opened in 1981, the MCTS center at Prince Rupert has had a problem with keeping staff levels. New employees posted to Prince Rupert usually only last a year or two before seeking a position at another MCTS center, or alternate employment.The remoteness and climate of Prince Rupert is not very appealing to many MCTS employees or their families. Of the 17 officers currently working at the Comox MCTS centre on Wireless Road at Cape Lazo, 13 transferred here from Prince Rupert. Similar numbers can be found at the MCTS centre in Ucluelet.It is highly unlikely that many will relish the idea of being transferred back to Prince Rupert; thus the loss of local expertise when these individuals either take a “golden handshake” or seek other employment.Oh, and if any of your readers are curious as to why there has been so little said about the closure of these MCTS centres, it is because all DFO employees have been reminded that they must follow the DFO ‘code of ethics’, which includes the provision that they cannot speak publicly about government policy, such as the closure of the Kitsilano CG Base or the MCTS centres, without the permission of the DFO.Punishment for doing so includes dismissal with loss of benefits!Dave Godfrey,Union Bay

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