Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members on both sides of the House who participated in this debate. A lot of people took the opportunity to talk about search and rescue in general, and I am very glad to see it given that attention in the House. It ought to be a greater priority, we believe, for Canadian Forces. Therefore, the attention being given to it from all parts of the country is certainly valuable and worthwhile.
I did not really hear any rationale for not supporting this motion. We know that SAR involves many elements, but the Canadian Forces' response time with helicopters and fixed wing is extremely important in getting to an emergency, particularly at sea. The position of the double standard of 30 minutes during the 8:00 to 4:00 period and two hours afterwards, when about 80% plus of the taskings take place, is really unsupportable.
The Kitsilano Coast Guard station, which was closed down by this government, with 12 people, provides a rescue crew of 3 people at any one time who can respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the whole year round, and they can do so within 1 to 2 minutes of being tasked.
Coast Guard ships on SAR standby duty are able to embark within 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In St. John's if someone is in a helicopter being transported to the Hibernia, or any other oil platform off the coast of Newfoundland, there is another SAR helicopter required to be wheels up in 15 to 20 minutes. This is a result of the recommendation of the Wells inquiry into the Cougar crash of March 2009. If there is an emergency, especially at sea, we need the rescue to “get there fast”, to quote the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I agree with him, getting there fast means getting into the air fast, to get there.
Therefore, why do we continue with a system that says we can have a SAR aircraft in the air within 30 minutes between 8:00 and 4:00 on weekdays, but outside that, when as I mentioned over 80% of the tasking takes place, the standard required is two hours?
Members opposite said that we are unique and that this is the reason why we must have our own standard. Well, we certainly are unique in the world. We are in fact the second largest country in the world, which is all the more reason we need to get into the air faster. We also have the longest coastline in the world. We have to remember we are going from only four places for primary aeronautical SAR for all of Canada: Gander, in Newfoundland and Labrador; Greenwood, in Nova Scotia; Trenton, Ontario; and Comox, B.C. There are four places for all of Canada, including the Arctic. Getting there fast means getting into the air fast and that requires a better standard than we have.
Other countries have set a better standard. The United States and Australia have 30 minutes to wheels up, 24/7, 365 days. Norway has a 15-minute standard for getting a helicopter into the air, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have an elongated day, 15 minutes in the daytime up until 9:00 or 10:00 at night and 45 minutes overnight. Even Mexico has around-the-clock 40-minute wheels up, in the air.
These countries can do this; why can we not? Why can we not give the priority to search and rescue that it deserves? Why can we not have a 21st century rescue service that can respond quickly, as other countries can? Even the United States, for example, has not only the 30-minute standard but a standard that says they have to be at any place in their area of responsibility within a total of 90 minutes. A country like Canada should be looking at standards like that to be sure we can meet our commitments to our citizens, in particular the Canadian Forces, whose job it is to defend Canada and protect Canadians.
I urge members opposite who have considered voting against this motion to change their minds. We would sure like you have their support for improving search and rescue standards in Canada, to help save lives, particularly for those who are in desperate emergencies that require search and rescue to get there as soon as possible.