EDITORIAL: Coast needs guard

It makes little sense to reduce communications between ship and shore on and around Vancouver Island

Closing marine communications and traffic centres in Ucluelet and Comox seems like a dangerous idea.

Local New Democratic Party candidate Gord Johns issued a news release this week, on the heels of an oil spill in Vancouver Harbour, urging the federal government to halt the planned closure of these facilities.

“Last week’s oil spill in Vancouver Harbour showed how much damage could be done with a larger spill,” said Johns, the NDP candidate for Courtenay-Alberni, which includes the Parksville Qualicum Beach region. “Instead of defending the response we saw in Vancouver, the Conservatives should start listening to British Columbians and restore coast guard services.”

We are fortunate here to have a Coast Guard station. It’s situated at French Creek Harbour, an ideal location to help those in distress on the Salish Sea.

The number of boats off the waters of Parksville Qualicum Beach during the herring spawn is staggering and, at least to the layman’s eyes, it looks dangerous.

Add to that the number of commercial boats that move up and down the Strait of Georgia every day, the cruise ships and the pleasure craft that enjoy the waters off what’s been called Canada’s Riviera, and we cannot imagine a place more in need of a Coast Guard presence.

If it comes to pass that more oil tankers are using the Strait, it would make sense to add, not subtract, marine communications facilities.

If you have ever stood near the lighthouse on the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, looking down and out at what has been called (for good reason) the Graveyard of the Pacific, then you would agree that modern, reliable communications between ship and shore seems essential to the preservation of life and cargo.

Conservative whip and Courtenay-Alberni candidate John Duncan needs to make this a priority. While Johns and others have decided the federal election campaign has already started, Duncan has been doing his job as whip and MP. Part of that job is protecting the safety of his constituents and the safe movement of goods and people in the waters of his constituency.

The NDP is trying to force the issue politically. Fair enough, but if there was no federal election on the horizon, this is something we would need Duncan to address, to go to bat for B.C., as part of his MP duties.

— Editorial by John Harding

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