Duncan defends the fleet

Conservative MP answers NDP critics after oil spill in Vancouver

Conservative MP John Duncan says the Canadian Coast Guard was a “bucket of bolts” before his party won office in 2006.

Duncan was responding to criticisms from the New Democratic Party and others after an oil spill in Vancouver last week. Duncan’s NDP opponent in this riding, Gord Johns, is urging the federal government to stop its planned closing of Marine Communications and Traffic Centres in Ucluelet and Comox as the NDP promises to reverse cuts to Canadian Coast Guard services across B.C.

Duncan told The NEWS his government has pumped money into the coast guard since taking office.

“When we came in in 2006 the coast guard fleet was a bucket of bolts,” said Duncan, who lives in Qualicum Beach. “We’ve basically refreshed most of the fleet.”

Last week, B.C.’s 12 NDP MPs wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to stop the closure of coast guard services in Comox, Ucluelet and Vancouver, and to re-open the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. The NDP also started an on-line petition campaign to increase public pressure on the federal government.

“A federal NDP government would immediately restore these essential coast guard services, although it would be better for everybody if we didn’t have to wait until the next election for action,” said Johns. “That why we’re pressing the Harper government to learn from the Vancouver oil spill and reverse its cutbacks to marine safety.”

“Last week’s oil spill in Vancouver Harbour showed how much damage could be done with a larger spill,” said Johns. “Instead of defending the response we saw in Vancouver, the Conservatives should start listening to British Columbians and restore coast guard services.”

Duncan said the federal government has no plans to close currently operating coast guard facilities on the Island, including the ones in French Creek, Campbell River, Port Hardy and Bamfield. He also agreed with the premise that if there are going to be more oil tankers in the waters around Vancouver Island there should be more, not less, services for responses to spills or other safety concerns.

“We absolutely agree with that, but we don’t agree that government has to do everything,” said Duncan, pointing to conditions imposed by the Conservatives that proponents must meet related to spill response and other marine safety issues.

On the weekend, the NDP released the wording of a related motion it says it will introduces in the House of Commons during the next opposition day. It reads: “That, in the opinion of the House, the recent toxic bunker fuel spill in Vancouver Harbour represents an urgent reminder of the fragility of our coastal waters and, therefore, the government must reverse its cuts to marine safety, oil spill response, and environmental clean-up capacity in Vancouver and elsewhere on the coast of British Columbia by: (a) re-opening the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station; (b) re-opening the recently-closed Ucluelet Marine Communication and Traffic Service Centre; and (c) halting plans to close the Vancouver and Comox Marine Communication and Traffic Service Centres.”

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