Premier Kathy Dunderdale
In a rare moment of unanimity at Confederation Building Thursday, both the Liberals and the Tories agreed more needs to be done on search and rescue.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters that federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay needs to do more to bolster the national search and rescue system; moments later, Liberal MHA Randy Edmunds emerged to tell reporters it’s really Dunderdale who should be doing more.
“The premier keeps calling for action. She’s in a position to take the lead,” Edmunds said. “She’s in a position to act. She has the mandate to call a public inquiry. She has the guidelines. She has the discretion.”
On Tuesday, federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson issued a report dealing with a raft of problems in the national SAR system. Aircraft are old, and the wrong type. He also pointed to a shortage of pilots and rescue co-ordinators as a serious cause for concern.
On Thursday, MacKay an-nounced millions of dollars for new satellites to bolster the country’s search system, along with other measures to make search and rescue more robust.
But Dunderdale said she’s not satisfied. She said there’s plenty of recommendations from Ferguson’s report that the federal government can move on right away, and she wants to see results.
“It isn’t good enough,” she said. “We need something around task times. We need something around scheduling.”
“There needs to be an immediate improvement to communications, and we need a plan for replacing aging vessels and aircraft,” the premier said.
Dunderdale said Minister Kevin O’Brien, who’s responsible for emergency services, has already written a letter to MacKay, and he’s looking for a meeting with his federal counterpart.
Meanwhile, the Liberals have been calling for an inquiry into SAR issues for more than a year. In the winter of 2012, Labrador teen Burton Winters died after getting lost on the sea ice near Makkovik.
Edmunds, who lives in the community, said an inquiry would go further, and give a better picture of the problems in the system.
“When is our province going to start taking a lead on this issue? Lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are very important. We need to show that we care and we’re going to look out for the best interests of the people of our province,” he said. “If you don’t look at every angle of search and rescue in our province, there’s going to be a doubt.”