Bob Jackson: Cutbacks Kill

The following is re-posted from Headwinds, a blog written by the PSAC Alliance Executive Committee – the National President, National Executive Vice-President and seven Regional Executive Vice-Presidents. Read more of their thoughts on the issues that affect PSAC members and all Canadians at and watch for more from Bob – we plan to make this a regular feature here at the regional website.


A sailor on a cargo ship in English Bay may be the first casualty of the Harper government’s ill-advised decision to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station this past February.

The sailor suffered a heart attack aboard ship. In the absence of the Kits station, which could have reached him in 10 minutes, first responders took 25 minutes to get there and start CPR, and paramedics arrived 20 minutes after. It was too late.

Bronwyn Barter, president CUPE Local 873 who represents workers at the Ambulance Service of BC, said paramedics relied heavily on the Kits Coast Guard.

“(The closure) is very unfortunate. Generally, minutes and seconds can make the difference between life and death.” she told the Vancouver Sun. “Kits Coast Guard was a huge resource for us. They were more set up for paramedic transport than the VPD boat.”

The base served a heavy-trafficked area–Canada’s busiest harbour, in fact. In 2011, the Coast Guard at Kits answered 271 calls, 36 of which were marine distress calls and 40, humanitarian distress.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP, Jim Sinclair of the BC Federation of Labour, and many others have called for reconsideration of the closure. Vancouver’s police and fire chiefs both wrote to the PM calling for the Coast Guard to “keep it open”. But the Conservatives didn’t listen. Harper said at the time that the closure was to enhance public safety. He might want to reconsider that now.

My thoughts are with the family of the sailor who died, and I can’t help but wonder if things had been different if the station were still open.