Prescott Coast Guard ill-equipped says senator

In this August 2015, file photo, a motorcyclist drives by the Canadian Coast Guard office in Prescott, Ont. Senator Bob Runciman says the office is ill-equipped and understaffed to deal with a disaster on the St. Lawrence River. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

OTTAWA – Sen. Bob Runciman believes the Canadian Coast Guard base in Prescott is not equipped with enough manpower or equipment to deal with a spill or other disaster on the St. Lawrence River.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, Runciman blames a shrinking workforce at the base – mainly in the skilled trades – and the moving of resources.

“These people were trained to save lives, to deal with hazardous materials, to work on the water, to use emergency radios. They knew how to deploy a boom. Those positions are now long gone,” he said.

According to the senator, the base now has 40 workers in a workplace that used to employ 120.

He also points to lost resources – two helicopters and the CGC Simcoe – that have been moved elsewhere.

“The Coast Guard now has multiple reporting lines, a lack of connection between decision-makers in regional offices and the front-line workers, and a serious lack of resources where they are needed most,” he said.

According to Runciman’s office, there have been 40 mishaps on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Lake Ontario in the last nine years.

There is no action that will be taken based on Runicman’s statement in the Senate. Members have an allotted time to make statements to draw people’s attention to matters in the public interest.

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