If he could turn back time, it appears Labrador MP Peter Penashue would not attempt to change the federal government's mind in closing the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's.
"We would never jeopardize the safety and security of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, or Canadians across the country," said Penashue, speaking after a news conference held Friday morning in St. John's. "We're very confident in our program. We feel very confident that we have not put at risk the security and safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by downsizing our process in terms of search and rescue."
Calls that once would have gone through the St. John's rescue sub-centre have been sent to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax as of Wednesday.
As an act of defiance over the decision - which saved Ottawa approximately $1 million annually - the City of St. John's lowered the Newfoundland and Labrador flag in front of City Hall to half-mast Wednesday. The move was made in recognition of the potential for future lives to be lost as a result of the closure.
'We have a responsibility as a government to build relations'
"He's obviously making a point," Penashue said, referring specifically to St. John's mayor Dennis O'Keefe, "and it's seen and it's heard. But I think we have a responsibility as a government to build relations, and I think they have a responsibility to build relations as well, because only if we all work together can we build a good strong economy, and I think that's what it's all about."
Penashue was in St. John's on Friday to talk about the federal government's plans for a trade agreement with the European Union.
The centre's two-man watch was scheduled to continue until April 30. Beyond that date, employees were set to either be transitioned into retirement or moved to new positions. The sub-centre had 12 employees.
According to the Canadian Coast Guard, the rescue sub-centre handled an average of 500 incidents involving 2,900 people annually. Of those, 28 per cent were classified as distress incidents.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: TeleAndrew With files from The Canadian Press