SAR changes get mixed reviews in N.L.
Fisherman says changes are a start, politicians say it's not enough
Changes to Canada's search and rescue system have been met with mixed reaction by people who work on the ocean and politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"It's a sad day, but then, it's a happy day," said Ken Ryan, a fisherman in St. John's.
Ryan's brothers Dave and Junior Ryan died nearly nine years ago after their fishing vessel, the Ryan's Commander, capsized. The brothers made it into a life-raft, but did not survive the wait for a search and rescue helicopter.
"They say that time heals all wounds, but even nine years after it's still no problem to get choked up," said Ryan. "At least it makes me feel like my brothers' deaths weren't for nothing."
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Thursday that six improvements will make search and rescue crews more responsive to emergencies on land and at sea.
Some of the changes will involve technological improvements, while others will be about how military search crews are managed and deployed.
The most anticipated change will involve crews being on 30-minute standby around the clock during peak seasons, instead of only Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Premier not satisfied
However, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the changes announced by MacKay are not good enough.
"Nor does it, I think, restore the confidence, more importantly, of the people who work on the sea," said Dunderdale. "And that's critical, that we do that now in the face of the auditor general's report."
Dunderdale said the federal government failed to address some of the bigger problems identified in the report released this week, such as staff shortages, faulty and old equipment, and the need for better training.
"These are very clear actions that can be moved on right away and that's what we're calling on them to do," she said.
Randy Edmunds, the Liberal MHA for Torngat Mountains, agreed the new measures are not enough.
Edmunds was one of the people who searched for Burton Winters near Makkovik last January. The 14-year-old's frozen body was found days after he went missing on a snowmobile.
"If you don't look at every angle of search and rescue in our province, there's always going to be a doubt," said Edmunds. "And I use the land and I use the sea and I use the water. And my confidence in our search and rescue is shaken."
Dunderdale said she still plans to table a letter to the federal government, asking when all of the recommendations made by the auditor general will be implemented.