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Vancouver mayor calls for talks with PM over coast-guard station closure

VANCOUVER – City councillors in Vancouver want to discuss the closure of a local coast guard station with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

They passed a motion on Tuesday, calling for talks with the prime minister, while asking the city’s fire department and police to join the battle to keep the Kitsilano coast guard station open.

The motion passed just days after dozens of protesters, including local and provincial politicians, gathered outside the facility.

“As elected officials, we must continue to advocate, push hard, make sure that other elected officials in the federal government side … are raising their voices of concern,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson.

In an email Tuesday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans noted that once changes to the search and rescue network in Vancouver are complete, there will be no negative impact on the coast guard’s ability to respond to emergencies on the water.

DFO said that with a new inshore rescue boat and other resources, Vancouver will continue to have more federally funded search-and-rescue assets than any other Canadian port.

The department added that the first priority of the Coast Guard is the safety of mariners.

The federal government announced in May that it would close the station and three other B.C. coast guard communications centres because of budget cuts.

The station is considered the busiest coast guard base in Canada and responds to more than 350 calls a year.

Robertson said there’s a good chance people will die if the facility is closed and relocated to Sea Island in Richmond, B.C.

Critics have argued that it would take at least 30 minutes for rescuers from Sea Island to reach those in distress around the Vancouver harbour, while those at the Kitsilano coast guard station would take only five to 10 minutes.

Robertson said he wants the police and fire chief to write to the federal government, noting it’s not the city’s job to rescue people on the water.

The Kitsilano station is expected to be shut down next spring. (CKNW News 980/The Canadian Press)