Mr. Speaker, it being 12 o'clock at night, this is the very late show. This is a question I raised on March 12 this year regarding the adequacy of search and rescue services in Canada. The question at the end was this. When will the Conservatives finally make search and rescue a real priority in this country?
It is after 12 o'clock at night, but there are ships at sea on the west coast of Canada, on the Great Lakes, in the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There are ships at sea off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are fishermen fishing as we speak off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are approximately 600 workers working on oil platforms and drilling rigs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador as we speak. Not only at this hour of the night but 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, there is a need for search and rescue services in Canada.
What we have seen from the government in recent times, including in this budget, are changes to Coast Guard search and rescue services, for example, in my home city of St. John's, Newfoundland, in Quebec City and in Vancouver harbour. We have seen the cancellation of a search and rescue coordinating centre in St. John's and one in Quebec City, and we have seen direct front-line search and rescue services in the port of Vancouver cancelled by the government. What kind of priority is search and rescue receiving?
We had a motion before the House. It has not been voted on yet, but the motion for the House to vote on tomorrow, at least in theory, is to bring Canada's search and rescue response time standard up to international standards. The method chosen was a 30-minute response standard from tasking to getting airborne. It is known as “wheels up”. Every indication is that the Conservatives will vote against that. In their speeches they said they would vote against it, but nowhere in their speeches was there any rationale as to why we could not have the same standard of 30 minutes wheels up for helicopters and fixed-wing search and rescue as the United States or Australia do, not even the 15-minute one that Norway, Ireland and England have for the majority of the day.
The only response we received from members opposite was that Canada is different, is unique, and we should have our own standard, our standard being 30 minutes from 8:00 to 4:00 on weekdays and two hours thereafter, and that is at the time when 83% of the taskings occur, outside this window of 30 minutes. However, there was no explanation given as to why they could not support that.
We have an inadequacy of helicopters for the Trenton area. They were supposedly temporarily put there in 2005. They are still there. We have an inability to work in the Arctic and gain access to the Arctic fast. We have a fixed-wing SAR program, which is based on developing airplanes to meet the status quo with no improvement in service expected, and that has been criticized by the government.
Therefore, we do have an inadequacy of priority. The question is this. When will that be changed? Is the government serious at all about search and rescue in Canada?