Even as the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) in St. John’s is entering its final days of service, rescue co-ordinator Merv Wiseman is in Ottawa, continuing his fight to save the operation.
Wiseman is attending a meeting of the Canadian Marine Advisory Council today, hoping to be allowed time to speak during a meeting of the council’s standing committee on fishing vessel safety, to raise the issue of the St. John’s sub-centre’s closure one more time.
He brought the same issue to the council last fall.
“I don’t have a formal presentation because they won’t allow me a formal presentation,” he told The Telegram, but said he was optimistic he would have time to raise the issue.
Wiseman said the trip will be “his last formal engagement as a union rep.”
“The sub-centre is closing as of Wednesday in effect,” he said, explaining employees have heard calls will start to be re-routed to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax at that point. He said the centre’s two-man watch will continue until April 30.
After that, employees will be transitioning to retirement or to new positions. One will be working marine communications, for example, while another will take up a posting as a ship’s officer.
Wiseman said he and three other employees at the sub-centre will retire. His final day is May 8.
None of the rescue co-ordinators will be making the move to Halifax.
Wiseman said he will be continuing efforts to draw attention to the loss of the sub-centre even after his retirement and will continue to seek its return. He is planning an event for early May, as part of his continued efforts. “Exactly what that’s going to be at the moment, we just haven’t put together,” he said.
Meanwhile, he has called upon the Premier to provide “a symbolic gesture” and lower the flags at the House of Assembly to half mast, in recognition of lives he claims will be lost in future as a result of the sub-centre’s closure.
That claim has repeatedly been shot down by representatives for the federal government, including MP Peter Penashue, who have stated there will be no reduction in the ability to conduct search and rescue operations as a result of co-ordinating rescues from Halifax.
“It’s a very sad occasion for everyone,” Wiseman said of the closure. “They’re actually going to go through with this. It just seems so unbelieveable.”
He said since the announcement the sub-centre would close, the provincial government has refused to meet with him to discuss the subject.