Criticism grows over rescue centre closure
A fisherman who spent decades fighting for improved safety in the fishery can't understand why the federal government is cutting marine rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador.
George Chafe spent more than 20 years representing the province on a federal standing committee on safety. Chafe told CBC News confirmation that the federal fisheries department will close the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's as part of budget cuts comes at a time when more safety measures are needed, not further erosion.
"It can't be done from Halifax. It just can't be," he said. "I can't see how it's going to work. I don't know. It's unexplainable."
Chafe said he's especially concerned that the cut comes just weeks after the Conservatives under Stephen Harper were re-elected.
"I'm upset over that, I must say. For a government to get in with a majority and then try to destroy the people, because that's what they're trying to do."
Chafe, like Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman, is calling on all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to oppose the closure of the marine rescue centre.
The federal fisheries department has spent the last few days defending the decision, with officials saying the consolidation of services will allow the department to "provide more efficient delivery - including in marine search and rescue." The move - part of an effort to save more than $50 million dollars - will see search and rescue co-ordination services in St. John's moved to existing Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centres in Halifax and Trenton, Ontario.
Provincial Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones said it's unacceptable that the Conservatives are closing the centre and cutting 12 jobs and accuses Premier Kathy Dunderdale of not doing enough to fight the closure.
"Everyone knew that major cuts were coming to DFO before the federal election," Jones said, "yet Premier Dunderdale decided to ignore that and threw her support behind the Harper Conservatives."
Jones said she believes the premier stayed silent about the federal plan to cut marine rescue services in hopes of securing a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill project.
Dunderdale wasn't available for comment Thursday. Her office said she was out of cell phone range.
In the House of Commons, opposition politicians again questioned Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield about the decision, saying it would jeopardize safety. Ashfield disagreed. "Safety and operational needs will not be compromised by the closure of these call centres," he told Parliament.