House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was centre.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to try to get the government to use some common sense.

If the government had some sense it would support the motion of the member for St. John's East, as I plan on doing. The government must recognize that in order to protect the lives of Canadian mariners, we need an effective communication system.

Here are some facts for the Conservatives. Through operations carried out by the Canadian Forces, every year we respond to 8,000 incidents, save on average more than 1,200 lives and rescue more than 20,000 people. And 25% of these annual incidents are covered by the four centres that are closed or are being closed.

I want to talk about the Coast Guard's search and rescue centre in Quebec City, the maritime rescue sub-centre St. John's, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the Rivière-au-Renard maritime radio station.

Canada is in last place, far behind Australia, Ireland, Mexico, the United Kingdom and even the United States, in terms of response times for search and rescue operations. In the west, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station employs 12 people and received nearly 300 calls in 2011. Since the beginning of the year, the station has responded to 70 calls and has saved 55 lives.

In the east, the Coast Guard's maritime rescue sub-centre in Quebec City employs nine people and responds to some 1,400 maritime incidents every year. Most of the calls related to those 1,400 incidents are in French.

The centre's coverage extends from Lac Saint-François to Blanc-Sablon and includes the Gaspé peninsula and the Magdalen Islands, covering approximately 148,000 km2 and 4,600 km of coastline.

The Quebec City centre is the Coast Guard's only officially bilingual search and rescue centre in Canada. I repeat: this is the only officially bilingual centre in Canada.

The maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's was closed on April 30 even though it responded to over 400 distress calls every year, 25% of which were emergencies at sea. The centre covered over 900,000 km2 of ocean and just over 28,000 km of coastline.

This means that safety in over one million km2 of ocean and along 32,000 km of coastline in eastern Canada will be compromised despite the fact that many people participate in marine activities in the area aboard recreational craft, fishing vessels and transatlantic ships. The area is also home to gas and oil exploration and development. The Conservatives have clearly abandoned the region.

We see this with the changes to employment insurance: the Conservatives are severely punishing the Atlantic provinces. Closing the search and rescue centres will put the lives of Atlantic mariners at risk.

In my riding, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, people are worried about this change in marine safety and are wondering why the Conservative government is abandoning them.

In situations of distress, the language of the caller must be understood by the search and rescue centre. It is not a good time to get out one's French-English dictionary. When the centres were transferred to Halifax and Trenton, the impact this had on the staff was obvious. We already know that the Coast Guard search and rescue station in Quebec City cannot close, precisely because the government cannot find people who can respond to the needs of fishers and mariners in my region in both official languages.

The Coast Guard search and rescue sub-centre in Quebec City is the only one that is officially bilingual. I have opposed this closure from the beginning, because I knew it would be very dangerous for the people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, who are primarily francophone.

Furthermore, I am not the only one who feels that way. Recently, the Commissioner of Official Languages indicated in his report that this service must be provided equally in both official languages and at all times. The commissioner is wondering how bilingual anglophone employees will be able to maintain their French when the francophone populations in Trenton and Halifax are only 3% and 4.7% respectively.

However, language is not the only problem related to these closures. All of the knowledge of the local environment is also being lost. This local knowledge is very important. It means being familiar with ocean currents, tides and the geography of the sea bed and the land. In addition to this geographic knowledge, there is also the knowledge of local people.

They have to know who is nearby for the rescues, and intervenors such as the staff at all 35 of Quebec's 9-1-1 centres with which the Quebec City maritime rescue sub-centre has maintained close ties over the years.

The closure of the Rivière-au-Renard marine radio station is a good example of the type of expertise being lost. The closure affects 16 employees, including 12 communications officers who know the region. This is an essential service that has been offered for more than 100 years, a service that provides help with navigation and rescues, and marine traffic communications management. This centre was responsible for a dozen or so stations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These will be transferred to Les Escoumins where the already very busy centre will be responsible for 18 stations. It is hard to imagine how people can listen to so much marine traffic and still be able to provide first-rate service.

The closure of the Rivière-au-Renard centre will result in the loss of roughly $1.5 million in payroll and other spinoffs for my region. The people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have faith in this centre's ability to rescue them in an emergency. The loss of this payroll will be heavily felt in a region that is already struggling.

With the government's policy, we do not know what will become of this expertise. The fact is that this local, bilingual expertise will be hard to maintain from Trenton or Halifax.

My question is as follows: why are they doing this? Why save money at the expense of fishers and mariners? They are putting the lives of mariners at risk to save how much money? How much are mariners' lives worth to this government?

It seems that endangering the lives of thousands of Canadian mariners is worth $1 million to the Conservatives. It makes absolutely no sense.

The Conservatives claim that they are saving money. They talk about saving $1 million just by closing the Quebec City centre. But they have not disclosed how much they will spend on relocating employees. What are the actual savings?

Closing all these centres will result in the consolidation of search and rescue operations under the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton, Ontario.

This means that these centres' caseloads will increase by the number of incidents normally covered by the centres that are closing. If the Trenton and Halifax centres do not receive additional resources, staff will be overworked. An increase in resources will result in an equivalent reduction in the expected savings. I believe that the savings will be paltry compared to the risk posed to thousands of mariners, fishers and recreational boaters.

I am therefore asking the Conservatives to support the motion of the hon. member for St. John's East because marine safety must be a priority, because the savings pale in comparison with the safety of mariners and because the Minister of Finance misled Canadians by saying that the cuts would affect only “back-office operations”. He even went so far as to refer to the rescue co-ordinating centres as call centres.

It seems clear to members of the NDP that marine safety is definitely not a back-office operation. The rescue co-ordinating centres are not call centres. On the contrary, these are front-line operations that save lives. It seems that the Conservatives do not realize that thousands of people rely on the sea to make a living and that their jobs are very dangerous.

This government is responsible for protecting these people. The maritime rescue sub-centres in Quebec City and St. John's, the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano and the marine radio station in Rivière-au-Renard are essential for ensuring these people's safety.

The federal government has an obligation to provide services in both English and French, particularly when people's lives are at risk. It is true. It is part of Canadian law. The risks associated with communication problems are simply too high.

Local expertise is essential for a quick response time and increased protection for thousands of Canadian mariners. Relocating these jobs puts this expertise and thus the lives of mariners at risk.

We absolutely must support the motion that is before us today. We know full well that the lives of the mariners and fishers in our region are being jeopardized in order to fulfill the Conservatives' ideological obligations.

Life is much too precious to allow something like that to happen. I urge all members of the House to support the motion before us.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague's concerns, particularly about the consolidation of the Quebec City marine sub-centre into Trenton.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on the concerns he has raised in terms of the linguistic ability, for example. We are concerned about that, and that is why we are moving more slowly in terms of that consolidation. In fact, we have said that will not be an operational transition until we are convinced that all of the necessary abilities and qualifications are in place, including the ability to have bilingual communications.

We do not have a date for that, but the one on the east coast has already happened. This one is at least several months away, while we get those in place. I wonder if the hon. member is aware of that.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question. It truly is an important and very interesting question.

It is true that in the Trenton region, there is a huge lack of workers with the linguistic abilities to meet the needs of a rescue centre like the one we have now in Quebec City. The government thought that some workers would transfer from Quebec City to Trenton, but that did not happen. Trenton is not a bilingual city. There are very few francophones in that area. It is not an area we should ask francophone federal public servants to move to. They know very well that their children will lose their French.

I would also like to point out that in the centre that was closed in St. John's, there were so many language problems that apparently a doctor in Rome is be better able to respond to distress calls than an anglophone or francophone in Halifax. In short, I would like the parliamentary secretary to comment on the fact that we are now offering services based in Rome to serve Canadians. Is that where the cuts have gotten us?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for explaining so well the impact of the closures in his community, because we are facing the same thing in the city of Vancouver with the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

What is really surprising, listening to Conservative members, is that they are ignoring all of the local expertise on the ground, people who know the trade, who know the marine life. It is really quite shocking that it has somehow gone out the window, despite the fact that we have had Conservative members who have claimed they had consultation.

I wonder if the hon. member could inform us whether he is aware that there was any consultation in his community, because there certainly was not in ours.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, there certainly was a serious lack of consultation in eastern Canada, and I think it is probably equivalent to the consultation that happened in western Canada. Fisheries associations, sailors associations, even fisheries industry people, have commented very clearly that they were not consulted.

The fact that they were not consulted, I think is reflected in the laws the government is proposing. They do not reflect the needs of the communities, and they imperil the lives of our fishers and our sailors.

If the Conservatives had bothered to consult, they would have understood that. They should probably take a step back and restart their consultation process and have a real one, where they are actually meeting people instead of just setting up pages on a website.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this motion and plan to vote for it, but my question is, why did the NDP not include in the motion the ten marine communication service centres, which will also be cut at the same time?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's debate is on search and rescue, and we are addressing that very clearly.

It is important that the member share with us all of his concerns. There will be ample opportunity to criticize the government on a number of its decision when it comes to fisheries, and when it comes to oceans and protecting the lives of fishers and maritimers.

Today, though, we are speaking about search and rescue centres. It is very important that we address that matter clearly and make it clear that the government has made some terrible mistakes. Imperilling people's lives is simply never acceptable.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from St. John's East, a motion to maintain the services provided by search and rescue centres, including those in Quebec City and St. John's. Several times now, I have asked the minister to reconsider his decision to close the Quebec City and St. John's East centres and to move them to Halifax and Trenton, literally splitting them in two.

Every time I have asked the minister about this, he has refused to listen. He has never come to Quebec City to see what goes on there and talk to Canadian Coast Guard employees.

I agree with my colleagues on the subject of public consultations. Clearly the government did not listen to local people at all.

I have been following this story for a year now. Since last June, I have asked several questions in the House, held several press conferences, met with the people who work at the Quebec City centre and visited the centre to see what goes on there every day. I have also met with several organizations, elected officials and associations. Municipalities along the river, associations and organizations have passed over 117 resolutions. That is a lot. I still remember the day when there were just a few and I was the one telling them what was about to happen. Since then, everyone I talk to, all of those different associations cannot believe this terrible decision.

We have the support of a range of sectors including associations of recreational boaters, fishers, police, firefighters, shipowners, boating clubs and the list goes on.

The Quebec City centre is the country's only officially bilingual centre. Closing it will certainly be a very bad decision. This is about respect for francophones.

When it comes to the French language, I cannot mince words. I cannot overstate how important it is to fight for the preservation of the French language. We French-speaking Canadians have the right to be understood in our language. For instance, when it comes to distress calls regarding something that has happened on the waterways of the St. Lawrence River or the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we French-speaking Canadians have the right to be understood in our mother tongue. Even if one is bilingual, in situations of distress, it is easy to forget one's second language and one may not be able to speak at the same level, since we are talking about situations of distress. It is important to understand this.

I heard my colleagues from Newfoundland say that, sometimes, even anglophones do not understand Newfoundland English. Understandably, it is hard to justify going ahead with this decision. I cannot help but think of all the regional accents we have in Quebec alone. The Gaspé accent is different than the Saguenay accent. With so many accents, how will someone who barely speaks French be able to respond appropriately to what is being asked? I am sorry for having doubts, but I am not the only one who has them.

In addition to all of the support I have received over the past year, I have received considerable support from the Commissioner of Official Languages. The government did not take into account the Official Languages Act, and we are still awaiting the commissioner's final report. However, based on his analysis of the staff available in Nova Scotia and Ontario, the commissioner believes that getting a response in French cannot be guaranteed at all times. This is extremely disturbing. The government cannot simply say that it is concerned; it must take action accordingly.

Apart from the safety of francophones, I would also like to talk about knowledge of the waterway. If these centres close, particularly the Quebec City centre, we will lose very precious knowledge about this waterway. We are talking about many, many kilometres of shoreline. Certain tiny islands in the St. Lawrence are unknown to everyone else. They are not indicated on any maps; they do not necessarily have names; but for the people in this sector, when you talk about a given island, they know exactly which one you are talking about.

“Oh, that small island next to the town of such-and-such. That is where you are. We are coming.”

It is that kind of expertise that we are losing because of this bad decision. We cannot put a price on this knowledge of the seaway.

Let us be clear: this is not just a call centre that we are losing. In addition to being a rescue centre, it is also an ice research service. People have told me that they are worried about the rescue service, but many others have said that they are worried about the ice research service. Shipowners have talked to me about this because they use this ice research service.

Allow me to say a few words about the Ice Centre. The ice watchkeepers, who are coordinators from the Quebec Ice Centre and ice experts from Environment Canada, provide up-to-date information on ice conditions, routing advice and icebreaker support where available and considered necessary, and they organize convoys if required. This work is extremely important for marine traffic.

The Ice Centre coordinators are in contact with icebreakers at all times and follow the progress of the ships they are monitoring. The ice watchkeepers also maintain direct contact with shipping agents, shipowners, charterers and port authorities as needed. In addition, the Ice Patrol aircraft and the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa both work with Ice Operations Centres on a full-time basis throughout the ice navigation season. They can therefore coordinate everything.

That is in fact why the search and rescue centre in Quebec City was working throughout the year and could be extremely effective. It had expertise in both rescue and research. This centre has done a lot and continues to do a lot today because so far, it has been spared.

Just the thought of closing the Quebec City centre takes us back 35 years. In 1977, the government decided that the Quebec City centre had to be established because expertise was needed to serve francophones and also to expand our knowledge of the seaway. These are the reasons that led to the establishment of this centre 35 years ago. Now, suddenly, this is no longer important to this government. Suddenly, we will go back in time 35 years for I am not sure what reason. And the government will not save more money, that is for sure.

I would also like to make another very important point. The people who work at the Quebec City centre have forged important ties with the staff of Quebec's 911 emergency centres. When they put out a call to a certain place, they know that a specific 911 centre in Quebec will pick it up. They are able to coordinate the response and take action. All this expertise will be lost.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that they have not found people to fill the positions in Trenton. No one wants to go to Trenton, and it is very difficult to find francophones who want to go there. The government has decided to launch competition after competition and to lower the qualifications. Even senior management is concerned by how few specialized and bilingual candidates have expressed an interest in going to Trenton.

What are the logistical costs? We have no idea. To date, we do not know how much this decision has cost the government. It is not working, because the move will be delayed by a year. How much more will it cost? The government claims that the closures will result in savings, but there will be changes to make and a great deal of work to be done. It is going to be very expensive.

You cannot really put a price on people's safety. I cannot believe that the government is making these cuts. You cannot play Russian roulette with these services.

For that reason, I urge this government to support the motion in order to keep services in St. John's and Quebec City. As the member for Québec, I believe it is very important.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have just one point, and then I have a question.

As I said to my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, we are well aware of the preliminary report of the language commissioner, and that is why we are moving more slowly on this and making sure we have the necessary people in place.

It is certainly not impossible to do that. It sounds as though they are quite pessimistic about finding those kinds of people with those abilities. Whether it is people who take the transfer and move, or whether it is people who are found or trained, this transition will take place when that capability is in place.

The member makes it sound a little bit as though the person who takes the call puts down the phone, heads out the door, gets into a boat and makes the rescue. Surely she knows that it does not work like that. This is a communications function.

The same people who responded to an incident a year ago are going to be the people who respond a year from now, after this transition. I wonder if the member is aware of that.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

After speaking with the people in the community and those who work at the centre, I believe that this is much more than just a call centre. It is insulting to say that it is just a call centre. These people coordinate rescue missions. They call the fire department, the police and anyone else who needs to be called to coordinate the appropriate response and save lives. It is really much more than a call centre. That is the first thing.

With regard to francophones, when enough bilingual people could not be found to work at the centre in Trenton, a decision was made to reduce the qualifications and experience needed, to reduce the skills and official language requirements. That is insulting.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I note, with the member from Quebec, that the centre in Quebec and the one in St. John's were set up 35 years ago, in 1977, as specific, separate centres because of the need for local knowledge, whether of geography, maritime conditions or language. I would say language applies in both cases, but more so, I suppose, in the member's case.

What has changed after 35 years, so that instead of having six coordinators at one time, two in each of Quebec, St. John's and Halifax, there are now only going to be three serving the same area?

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, what a great question. What has changed? That is indeed the question. I think that what has changed is that we now have a majority Conservative government that believes that it can do whatever it wants and that does not listen to the local communities or the experts in this regard. We members of Parliament are merely representatives. We are here to represent our communities. We are here to bring forward their concerns in this chamber. We are hear to listen to them and to share their concerns in this House through worthwhile debate. And this is a debate worth pursuing. We are talking about maintaining services in St. John's East and Quebec City. If the Conservative government wants to show good faith and maintain its investments in safety, it would be appreciated.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, if I remember correctly, our motto is “From sea to sea”. I think that what is going on now shows contempt for this beautiful motto that is so representative of Canada. It seems as though some nickel and diming is going on here. My colleague made an excellent speech, and I would like her to elaborate on the loss of expertise. I found it very interesting when she spoke about the loss of expertise when it comes to studying ice.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, so much direct and indirect expertise will be lost. We will lose the connections staff had made, as well as their qualifications and contacts.

I will conclude by reminding members that the universal marine rescue motto is “So others may live”. The coast guard in Quebec City is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In light of what is going on, this will be a very sad anniversary.

Opposition Motion—Coast Guard Search and Rescue Services
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.

To start, I would like to respond to my dear colleague, the hon. member for Québec. If it is simply a matter of mastering Canada's two official languages, does she truly believe that there are talented and qualified francophones only in Quebec City or in the province of Quebec?

In an Ontario riding like mine, about 7% to 8% of the population is francophone. The Trenton military base, in the Trenton region—very well represented by the member for Northumberland—Quinte West—has more than 2,000 people. There is a strong representation of francophones, with francophone families.

There are people with language abilities in all regions of the country, and especially in eastern Ontario, which is close to Quebec. This region is proud of its francophone roots, which date back to colonization. That is where the first villages and first forts were established under the French regime. Francophones are not found in just one province, the belle province of Quebec.

Now that I have answered that question, I would like to discuss the motion.

While the hon. members opposite are right to stress the singular importance of search and rescue to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Forces, they are absolutely wrong to suggest that the measures taken by this government are doing anything other than enhancing the safety and security of Canadians on the water and of mariners across this country, making our systems more effective and increasing the capacity of all the relevant agencies to meet the needs of Canadians, because—and this is my main point—it is this government that has invested in vessels for the Coast Guard, is renewing the Canadian navy and has given the Royal Canadian Air Force the aircraft that no party on the other side chose to invest in for well over a decade.

It is these capacities, platforms and tools that save Canadian lives on the sea, and not the fact that we have a dozen or half a dozen or three coordination centres across the country.

The members opposite are misleading Canadians in Vancouver, in Kitsilano and in Atlantic Canada. However, Canadians will not be fooled once they learn, as they have heard today from the parliamentary secretary for fisheries and oceans and as they will hear from many of us on this side, what is really happening with regard to the ability of these proud Canadian institutions to protect mariners at sea. The opposition must stop misleading Canadians.

Search and rescue is Canadian teamwork at its best, and I am here to talk about the Canadian Forces' role in that equation. However, there are many groups. We have heard about the Coast Guard. We have heard about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which does a superb job. There are also federal, provincial, territorial and municipal departments and agencies. There are first responders, community partners and industry partners, and more volunteers than ever because of this government's determination to promote a culture of volunteers.

I heard the member for St. John's East denigrating the capacities of our Coast Guard auxiliary, saying that it was not up to scratch compared to the full-time experts at Kitsilano.

I am sorry, and he is nodding his head, but that is shameful behaviour for a member for St. John's, for an island, part of a province that depends on the sea, where the culture of service and volunteerism has always been strong and where this government will remain absolutely committed to multiplying it, deepening it and bringing Canadians forward to look after their fellow mariners, because that is what every Canadian wants to do. It is a principle of our law and of our custom. It is in our history and our best traditions.

Harnessing what each of these actors has to offer can be complex, especially given the different stakeholders that are mandated to take the lead depending on the varying circumstances. Parks Canada leads rescue operations in our national parks and the Canadian Coast Guard takes the lead in maritime responses.

However, the Canadian Forces also plays a crucial role within this integrated system. It has primary responsibility for responding to search and rescue incidents involving downed aircraft. It also provides air support to the Canadian Coast Guard for incidents that occur at sea.

Given the size and diversity of this country, this division of labour makes perfect sense. It would be unreasonable to expect a single organization to be everywhere all the time or to have the assets and knowledge to deal effectively with every type of incident. By working in collaboration, each search and rescue partner contributes as it is best able and taking the lead in those areas where it has the most experience, expertise and resources.

I will emphasize again that the government has expanded the capacities, renewed vessels and is building new vessels for each of these institutions. We are supporting the police. We are giving tax credits to volunteer firefighters because we think that they are good, unlike the members opposite. Nevertheless, coordinating these various actors is a challenge, doubly so since each jurisdiction has its own mechanisms.

At the federal level, joint rescue coordination centres located in Victoria, Trenton and Halifax do excellent work in coordinating efforts. These centres are operated collaboratively by the Canadian Forces and the Coast Guard. We have found that having men and women from both of these organizations working shoulder-to-shoulder in the same location has been essential in ensuring that our military and Coast Guard assets are put to best use.

Do the members opposite understand what we are saying? The joint rescue coordination centre of the Coast Guard for Atlantic Canada will be alongside the maritime security operation centre where the lead is with the Royal Canadian Navy. We will have them co-located. What a novel idea.

In this day and age, yes, language and local knowledge play a role, but a much bigger role is played by technology, remote sensing and the networks that all of these organizations are part of but which need to be brought into play when someone goes missing at sea. We will not find all of these networks coming together and exchanging information, using all the technology available to them at 20 different locations in Atlantic Canada or 5 different locations in Ontario in central Canada. We need to integrate in one place.

I was at a conference in Halifax yesterday delivering a speech for the Minister of National Defence who, as everyone knows, was outside of the country, where flag officers from 15 different countries came to Halifax for the maritime security conference. This was the first time the conference was held outside of Europe and the first time in Canada. Our military maritime security operations centre was the envy of that group, which had representatives from the United States, several European countries and several from other parts of the world. They had never seen this level of integration that included the Coast Guard, naval assets and air assets to look after our huge territory of land and sea in any of their countries.

It is not happenstance that we are consolidating and integrating. It is with a drive to which we are absolutely dedicated to give better service to Canadians.

The Canadian Forces deploy assets in response to about 1,100 of the approximately 9,000 search and rescue incidents reported every year. We have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that it is much higher for the Canadian Coast Guard. However, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our search and rescue service as new technologies and capabilities emerge.

By investing in these new capabilities and training the brave men and women who day after day put their lives on the line so that others can live, we are making mariners safer. We are helping all Canadians who live off the sea, who work at sea and who do the selfless and dangerous work they do with more security.

The savings from the consolidation of search and rescue headquarters can be used for education and information campaigns and to multiply the actual capacity on the ground.

The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, as the parliamentary secretary pointed out, conveniently forgot to mention the fact that the auxiliary Coast Guard has more units in British Columbia than in any other part of the country and that there will be a new inshore rescue vessel right in Vancouver harbour, not be at Kitsilano, but where the most traffic is and where the most need is.

These sorts of enhancements are investments we have made over years, not just this year, which we are committed to keeping and to multiplying in the service of Canadians at sea, and in the service of that absolutely essential task of search and rescue to which all the agencies of this government are absolutely dedicated.