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Outages continue at coast guard stations during busiest month

PRINCE RUPERT. BC, Aug. 18, 2015 /CNW/ - The Marine Traffic and Communication Services (MTCS) centre in Prince Rupert experienced another outage last night. The affected area included the entire west coast of Vancouver Island—the area once monitored by MTCS base in Ucluelet closed by the Harper Conservatives in April this year.

"The Harper government's cuts have reduced the effectiveness of our coast guard," said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor's BC Area Director. "When our coast guard is compromised, the safety of Canadians is at risk."

Between approximately 12:50 a.m. and 3:45 a.m., the system for regulating shipping movements and detecting distress calls was inoperative.

"Keeping Canadians safe on our coastal waters is simply not a priority for the Conservative government," said McGarrigle.

The Harper government's cuts to the marine safety network have impacted services on both coasts. Six bases have been closed so far this year in Saint John, St. John's, Ucluelet, Thunder Bay, Rivière au Renard, and Vancouver. Two more monitoring stations are scheduled to close: St. Anthony in 2015 and Comox in 2016.

The MTCS base in Victoria experienced major outages on May 18 and June 23.

Restoring funding to the coast guard would cost $5.5 million per year, or 0.25% of the cost to the government of the income-splitting program introduced in 2015.

Unifor represents coast guard communication officers at MTCS bases across the country. Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.