Gimli search and rescue not on the chopping block, minister tells Parliament

The future of the coast guard's search-and-rescue operation in Gimli, Man., seems safe for now.

Union representing coast guard employees announced the end of services in 3 areas on June 1

Dominic LeBlanc, Canada's minister of fisheries and oceans, told Parliament this week that in-land bases where there are coast guard search-and-rescue programs will not be cut. (CBC)

The future of the Canadian Coast Guard's search-and-rescue operation in Gimli, Man., seems safe for now.

On June 1, the union representing coast guard employees announced the end of services on Lake Winnipeg, the Red River and Lake of the Woods in Ontario, sparking concerns about the future of navigation and search-and-rescue services in the areas.

Earlier this week, Dominic LeBlanc, Canada's minister of fisheries and oceans, told Parliament that in-land bases where there are coast guard search-and-rescue programs will not be cut.

"I can tell the House that on in-land waterways where we're currently providing a search-and-rescue service, there will be no cuts," LeBlanc said Tuesday.

"In fact, there will be increases in the capacity of the Canadian Coast Guard to provide these search-and-rescue services."

LeBlanc tells Commons no inland coast guard cuts 1:12

That has not been officially announced, though. LeBlanc was responding to a question from James Bezan, Conservative MP for the Manitoba riding of Selkirk-Interlake.

Bezan says he personally appealed to the minister, telling him in a meeting that Lake Winnipeg is the sixth-largest lake in Canada, serving communities throughout Manitoba, and that it needs the coast guard's presence to continue to be a training site for Royal Canadian Air Force search-and-rescue teams.

"I believe the pressure that came from us as the Opposition, the province of Manitoba and, of course, the communities around the south basin of Lake Winnipeg, had all complained about this decision," he said.

"I had personally met and talked to Minister Leblanc [about] how important it is that we have search and rescue on Lake Winnipeg, and how it would be a waste of money to actually have gone through and have two-thirds of the new station built and then turn around and walk away from it."

Bezan said he still wants to see the commitment in writing, and he wants an answer from the minister about the future of navigational services on Lake Winnipeg.

Change core mandate: Bezan

Bezan also wants a commitment from the federal government on the status of the the coast guard on the Red River and Lake of the Woods.

"I'd still like to see the Department of Fisheries and Oceans change the policy of their core mandate [to] include all inland waters that are federally navigable waterways," he said.

"The Red River, Lake of the Woods and Lake Winnipeg [would] fall in that mandate and should be entitled to coast guard services like the rest of Canada."

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson