Another View: Coast Guard hysteria sinks lower

Tom Fletcher is a columnist and the legislative reporter for Black Press

B.C. Views

 

The Vancouver media’s frantic coverage of the Great Bunker Spill of 2015 has just about run out of fuel.

By late last week, the usually serious Globe and Mail was reduced to quizzing a U.S. expert who had at first told the CBC he thought the spill response was pretty good. But then he heard that it might have taken up to 12 hours until the leaking grain ship was completely under control, which would be not so good.

This U.S. expert admitted he has not “followed the Vancouver spill very closely,” and was basically speculating. But that’s OK, because the main purpose of this media frenzy is to feed the established narrative that the Harper government is gutting the Coast Guard while trying to ramp up heavy oil shipments to Asia.

Yeah, that makes sense. A University of Toronto philosophy prof recently suggested that Stephen Harper likes war. Maybe he likes oil spills too.

A retired captain from the now-closed Kitsilano Coast Guard station became the latest of a series of disgruntled ex-employees and union bosses to serve as the media’s go-to critics. He contradicted Coast Guard management at every turn, dismissing them as political appointees with little operational experience.

His claims about loss of spill response capability from Kitsilano are questionable at best. There was no talk of spill response when Kitsilano closed two years ago, because it was a search and rescue station.

Former B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair held almost daily news conferences as it closed. People are going to drown, warned a parade of union spokespeople.

It’s been two years, and nobody has.

Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson were quick to summon TV cameras as oil-sheen angst spread through condo towers. They declared the Coast Guard response a failure before they had any real understanding of it.

Unifor, the union representing Coast Guard employees, has vowed a full-scale election advertising attack on the Conservatives this year. On federal budget day, Unifor protested the closure of the Ucluelet Coast Guard ship monitoring station. Similar stations in Vancouver and Comox are also closing this year, replaced by a new monitoring system run from Prince Rupert and Victoria.

I asked Industry Minister James Moore, the federal minister responsible for B.C., if this is a reduction in service. He said 1970s-era ship tracking equipment is being replaced with a new system that has already been deployed on the East Coast, to improve safety.

“These fears were also raised back in the ’60s and ’70s, when lighthouses were de-staffed,” Moore said. “I remember people saying, oh my God, this is going to be the end. And it turned out to be complete nonsense.”

Unifor operatives rushed to the media again last week with dire news of a half-hour outage of this new system, portraying this as evidence of a high-tech disaster waiting to happen. (Ships were told to monitor an old-school emergency radio channel for that uneventful half hour.)

What the union is really doing is ramping up its election propaganda, and intensifying efforts to protect redundant positions that are being replaced by new technology.

There was a similar media campaign last year targeting the consolidation of Veterans’ Affairs into Service Canada offices. There are serious problems with services to veterans, but union featherbedding would not help them.

The B.C. government is also introducing digital technology, eliminating hundreds of paper-pushing jobs in the process, with a mostly realistic response from unions.

But in this federal election year, realism will be in short supply.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP say police presence in Esquimalt Lagoon Saturday was not related to the shooting death of a 37-year-old man in Metchosin Friday night. (Black Press Media File)
West Shore RCMP says presence in Esquimalt Lagoon Saturday was not related to death in Metchosin

Police continue to investigate what they describe as ‘targeted incident’ in death of a 37-year-old man

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Ronald Schinners, owner of The Cabbie in the #YYJ, opened his taxi service in the West Shore last month. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
‘One man show,’ The Cabbie in the #YYJ cultivates 45,000 followers on Instagram

New taxi company brings unusual spunk to the West Shore

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past warned of Öffnungsdiskusionorgien (translated as an orgy of discussions about openings), one of one of the 1,200 words added to the German lexicon as reported by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
German lexicon grows by 1,200 words, many inspired by COVID-19 pandemic

Öffnungsdiskusionorgie (orgy of discussions about openings) among new entries

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read