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Prime minister asked to reconsider removal of coast guard vessel from Cape Breton

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald wants the prime minister to reconsider the move of a coast guard training vessel from Cape Breton to Quebec.


HALIFAX - Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald wants the prime minister to reconsider the move of a coast guard training vessel from Cape Breton to Quebec.

MacDonald wrote a letter to Stephen Harper Wednesday to voice concern that the loss of the Cap Perce will have a "detrimental impact" on the training of new recruits at the Canadian Coast Guard College in Sydney, N.S.

"We want to see that vessel stay in Nova Scotia. We want to make sure that those who are attending the facility are getting the proper training and everything they require to do so," said MacDonald.

However, Phil Jenkins, a federal Fisheries Department spokesman in Ottawa, said Wednesday night that the vessel's departure will have "almost zero effect" on training at the college.

Jenkins said about 33 training vessels, of various kinds, remain at the college including a couple that are similar to the Cap Perce.

In his letter, the premier pointed out that it was the third vessel to be moved from Nova Scotia.

Last year two ice breakers, the Louis S. St. Laurent and the Terry Fox, were transferred from Halifax to bases in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Any time you lose an asset, we see that as not a positive move," said MacDonald.

Although the premier was quick to credit Ottawa for military investments in Nova Scotia, he said the latest move didn't make sense.

"I'm certainly questioning on what basis should they be moving a training vessel out of that training facility."

The premier said that in addition to his letter, Transportation Minister Murray Scott had contacted Defence Minister Peter MacKay's office and written to Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.

Meanwhile, provincial Liberal Manning MacDonald, who represents the riding where the college is located, wasn't as diplomatic.

He said the move by the federal Conservatives was nothing more than a "political play."

"They're moving it from a Liberal riding to a riding they've targeted in Quebec as a possible win for their party in the next election," said MacDonald.

Hearn issued a statement late Wednesday night saying "comments from Liberal politicians in particular" were off the mark.

"The federal Liberals for years threatened to force a closure of the college by not providing enough funds," said Hearn. "In fact, this year there will be no graduating class at the school, because funding restraints prohibited the college from admitting new students.

"Everyone should be aware that our government injected $3 million per year - on a permanent basis - to keep the college going, while the local Liberal MP stood by while his government made cuts."

In announcing the decision this week to move the vessel, Ottawa said the transfer was based on a continuing review of requirements.

In this case it was to bolster search and rescue capabilities along Quebec's lower north shore.

Provincial NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said he expected the province to fight to keep a vessel that's "fundamental" to the work of the college.

"This is a very bad decision, one that's going to affect our province, but also affect the operation of the coast guard itself."

 
 
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