Newfoundland and Labrador's federal cabinet representative says the Liberals still plan to reopen the St. John's Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre, even though that wasn't spelled out in Tuesday's budget. 

"We are as committed as we ever were.The closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre should never have happened. We committed to reopen it," said Judy Foote.

"I'm not going to preclude that we might even enhance that compared to what existed there before."

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Judy Foote

Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote says her department is hiring 100 people to get to the bottom of the pay problems. (CBC)

'I'm a bit nervous'

"I have to say I'm a bit nervous," said Merv Wiseman, a retired maritime search and rescue co-ordinator and one of the most vocal supporters of the rescue centre.

"I have a a feeling of disappointment but I've tempered that with the fact that reassurances have been there a number of times." 

The centre was closed in 2012 by the former Conservative government amid outcry from local politicians and maritime industry workers.

The current federal government's mandate letter to the minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard was clear last fall about the ministry's "top priorities:"

"Reopen the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John's and the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver," it said.

merv-wiseman

Merv Wiseman, retired maritime search and rescue co-ordinator, spoke out against the closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in 2012. (CBC)

Budget language not clear

But the federal budget brought down Tuesday doesn't match that commitment.

"The reopening of the Kitsilano Base is an important investment in a stronger Coast Guard and …options will be developed over the coming year to enhance search and rescue capacity in Newfoundland and Labrador," it said.

'I have to be encouraged by the fact that it is still being talked about'
- Merv Wiseman

"I have to be encouraged by the fact that it is still being talked about," said Wiseman.

"But I really need to get an answer from this outstanding question that emanates from the budget." 

Wiseman stands by his previous statements that the centre is necessary.

"I question seriously whether we have the capacity to manage a major marine disaster which we haven't seen since the rescue centre closed — of the kind like the Cougar Helicopter crash for example, or the Ocean Ranger disaster — and it's bound to arise. There is no question about that," he said.

Foote said the federal government will take steps to protect the safety of fishermen and offshore workers.

"We are committed as ever to search and rescue and to making sure that the mariners in Newfoundland and Labrador have the kind support they need to ensure their safety.