Halifax base will stay open and serve larger area
By Julian Renaud
HALIFAX—The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has announced the closure of 10 of its 22 Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Service (MCTS) Centres. The MCTS Centre in Inuvik has already been closed, leaving Iqaluit as the only one left in the territories. The centres in St. John’s, St. Anthony, Saint John, Rivière au Renard, Montréal, Thunder Bay, Tofino, Comox, and Vancouver are slated to be closed before 2015. The Halifax MCTS Centre will remain open, but will need to expand its duties to cover work currently done by its counterpart in Saint John.
The base closures are a result of deep cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) made in the 2012 Conservative budget. For the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the federal government reduced the DFO’s budget by 8.3%, which equates to $150.9 million. By maintaining fewer MCTS centres and employing fewer Marine Communications and Traffic Service Officers (MCTSOs) to staff them, the DFO will save money. The cost of saving money has raised concerns among those who work to ensure mariner safety, however.
Chad Stroud represents Coast Guard MCTSOs as the President of CAW Local 2182. He explained that MCTSOs respond to Mayday calls, co-ordinate search-and-rescue efforts, monitor vessel movements by radar, warn mariners about potential hazards, direct boat traffic, monitor marine radio channels, and perform other services to ensure the safe and efficient flow of marine traffic. They are the “eyes and ears” of the Coast Guard.
There are currently 350 MCTSOs in Canada. On May 17th, 2012, 184 of those received letters indicating that they would be affected by the cutbacks. Some were told that they would be relocated to another Coast Guard base, while others will be laid off or reassigned to other positions in the Coast Guard. Rather than relocate themselves and their families, some MCTSOs have chosen to retire early with a reduced pension.
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