Chorus louder over MP’s silence

By Dan MacLennan, Courier-Islander March 2, 2011

North Island MLA Claire Trevena is the latest to rip into MP John Duncan for his silence on the Point Race replacement issue.

“I’m shocked that John Duncan isn’t fighting tooth and nail to keep the Point Race,” Trevena told the Courier-Islander Monday. “We really have to be out there and doing everything what we can to make sure that we keep that Coast Guard vessel.”

As an opposition MP from Vancouver Island North, Duncan fought past federal efforts to replace the Campbell River-based Coast Guard cutter Point Race “with less capable 47-foot motor lifeboats”. But John Duncan, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, has had very little to say about the current plan to retire the Point Race and Prince Rupert’s Point Henry in favor of 47-foot motor lifeboats. So far his office has suggested inquiries should be directed to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. He’s also released a statement saying “fleet renewal and standardization is a national imperative of the Coast Guard.”

Point Race supporters are once again rallying to fight the replacement plan, repeating the refrain that Duncan once carried. They say the Point Race is the perfect boat for the area’s sometimes treacherous mix of fierce winds, tides, waves and narrow passages.

Trevena said it’s ridiculous to consider getting rid of the Point Race.

“This is the Coast Guard vessel for our area,” she said. “There’s no question, whether it’s dealing with the seas that we have or the capacity that it has.”

Last week federal New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) hammered Duncan’s stance, saying Vancouver Island North constituents somehow have less influence in Ottawa “even though they have a minister sitting at the cabinet table.”

“This is offensive,” Cullen said. “It’s a serious downgrade and the silence from the minister is deafening. He understands this issue. He can’t plead ignorance and this is a decision that’s going to put more lives at risk.”

Trevena agreed. She said Duncan has a duty to speak out against the Point Race replacement and a duty to use his influence in cabinet, particularly with Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.

“He sits across the cabinet table from her,” Trevena said. “He can say ‘hey look Minister, we’ve got this issue in my constituency, can you help me out?’ That’s what people in this constituency expect and I think that it’s really appalling that he’s not doing that for us.”

The Courier-Islander asked Duncan for comment again this week. There was no response from the minister at press time.

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