Coast Guard Hysteria

Columnist Tom Fletcher discusses media coverage of a BC oil spill

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 spreading 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)

 

Just Posted

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Blueprints for the seniors housing project in Port Hardy. (North Island Seniors Housing Foundation photo)
BC Housing declines North Island Seniors Housing Foundation’s proposal to build units

BC Housing will be explaining why exactly the project was declined at a June 18 meeting

An aerial view of the marine oil-spill near Bligh Island in Nootka sound that the Canadian Coast Guard posted in a live social media feed in December. ( Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Oil from vessel that sank in 1968 off Vancouver Island to be removed

DFO hires Florida firm to carefully remove oil from MV Schiedyk in Nootka Sound starting in mid-June

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read