Madam Chair, I am pleased to stand this evening on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to discuss the important work done by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Our government recognizes the value of the Coast Guard and, as the estimates show, is investing in the modernization of its fleet and operations to meet increasing demand for its services.
The value of the Canadian Coast Guard is very clear to the 2,900 people the Coast Guard rescues each year. Its worthiness is evident to the crews of the 300-plus vessels it escorts through ice annually. Its importance is obvious to Canadians who live in the Arctic and for whom the arrival of a Coast Guard icebreaker is not just a welcome signal of spring, but a vital source of food and supplies. These people know first-hand the value of the Coast Guard, as do fish harvesters, pleasure boaters, shippers and others who use its services.
However, like an iceberg, with most of its mass below the water's surface, much of the Coast Guard's work is not immediately visible to Canadians, even though it has an enormous impact on them.
On an average day, 4,400 Coast Guard employees achieve the following: save 8 lives; assist 55 people in 19 search and rescue missions; service 55 aids to navigation; handle 1,127 marine radio contacts; manage 2,346 commercial ship movements; escort 4 commercial ships through ice; carry out 12 fisheries patrols; support 3 hydrographic missions and 8 scientific surveys; deal with 3 marine pollution reports; survey the bottom of 5 kilometres of navigation channels; and, do all the supporting work needed to accomplish these things each and every day.
That is quite the to-do list, carried out on three oceans, the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and other major waterways.
I will provide some details. Canada's maritime search and rescue system is one of the world's most effective. The Canadian Coast Guard agency responds to and coordinates the resolution of about 6,000 maritime incidents each year, making search and rescue the Coast Guard's largest single expenditure.
The Coast Guard is an integral part of the multi-department federal search and rescue program led by the Minister of National Defence. The agency is responsible for the 5.3 million square kilometre maritime component of the federal system. It is supported by the Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary, a dedicated group of 4,300 civilian volunteers and 1,200 vessels with whom the Coast Guard has a long and proud relationship and to which it devotes about $5 million in contribution agreements each year.
The Coast Guard also protects the marine environment. The Canadian Coast Guard is mandated as the lead federal agency for all ship-source spills of oil and unknown source spills into waters under Canadian jurisdiction. It monitors and responds to more than 1,200 spills each year.
Navigation safety, that is safe and accessible waterways and safe, economical and efficient movement of marine traffic, is a key Coast Guard preoccupation. The Coast Guard supplies and maintains more than 17,000 marine aids to safe navigation, from buoys, to radar, to GPS systems. Its maritime communications and traffic services program and its waterway management activities are also essential services that help ensure waterways are safe for vessels and mariners.
Of course, more highly visible are the powerful red and white icebreakers escorting ships, freeing vessels stuck in ice, maintaining open channels through ice, opening up frozen harbours, providing ice routing advice and resupplying isolated northern communities. They also provide important flood control for communities along the St. Lawrence by breaking up ice jams.
Although the Coast Guard does not have a direct mandate for maritime security, it supports departments and agencies, such as DND, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency in their security and enforcement activities, providing vessels, information, maritime expertise and traffic information, including conducting joint law enforcement patrols with the RCMP on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Coast Guard also contributes to maritime security through its automatic identification system, which enhances surveillance and the identification of vessels in the Great Lakes and offshore.
The Coast Guard and its precursors have supported Canada's northern sovereignty since 1903 when the department of marine and fisheries began sovereignty patrols in the Arctic. Today the Coast Guard deploys seven icebreakers to the Arctic each year. These vessels are typically the first to arrive in late June and the last to leave in November. They deliver not only Coast Guard programs, but also food, fuel and other supplies to remote sites and communities where commercial ships do not venture.
The Coast Guard also deploys several other ships in the Arctic to provide navigational services and to support scientific research. This Arctic presence is reinforced through the agency's base in Hay River, Northwest Territories, seasonal marine communication centres in Iqaluit and Inuvik, and storage sites in 14 communities for equipment to contain marine spills and other environmental hazards.
The fleet supports DFO efforts to fulfill its mandate in many ways. For example, DFO conservation and protection officers use Coast Guard vessels to patrol fishing areas and conduct inspections at sea. The fleet also enables a range of DFO scientific research, including fisheries population surveys, oceanographic surveys in support of climate research and hydrographic surveys for charting or providing platforms like the CCGS Amundsen, which returned from a 14-month Arctic scientific expedition last October.
A number of other government departments also turn to the Coast Guard for important vessel support to fulfill their own mandates. I have already mentioned the Coast Guard's growing role in delivering maritime security services in partnership with the RCMP and DND.
In addition, Natural Resources Canada conducts marine geology from Coast Guard ships and Environment Canada acquires much meteorological information from weather buoys launched from Coast Guard vessels. Canadian Coast Guard ships are critical to priority missions, such as seabed mapping. These commitments give the Coast Guard an even more prominent role within the federal government and on our waters.
I would now like to talk about the important investments our government is making in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet. Rising maritime traffic, technological advances, heightened national security and border security concerns, climate change effects on water levels and longer shipping seasons are placing new demands on the Coast Guard and its services.
After many years of neglect by the previous government, the Conservative government made an important choice to invest in this important asset. In the past three budgets, our government has invested $1.4 billion to acquire up to 17 new large vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard. Twelve will replace existing vessels that will be taken out of service and five will be additions to the fleet. All of these procurement processes are under way.
In February, the Government of Canada once again signaled the importance of the Canadian Coast Guard to both Canadians and to the federal agenda. As part of the Government of Canada's economic action plan, the Canadian Coast Guard received $175 million over two years for small boats and to conduct vessel life extensions and additional repairs on our larger vessels.
This means our Coast Guard will have more modern, safer equipment that it can rely on to get the job done. It means that there will be hundreds of jobs created or maintained in the shipbuilding industry as proud Canadian workers assist in the revitalization of our Coast Guard. It means that millions of dollars will be injected into communities that rely on shipbuilding as a means of economic sustainability, ensuring thousands of Canadians can remain in their home towns without having to look elsewhere for employment, which--