Hon. J. W. Pickersgill (Minister of Transport):
Mr. Speaker, on May 6 the hon. Member for Queens-Lunenburg asked me if I would be in a position to say something about the urgent need for larger and properly equipped coast guard ships on the east coast. I indicated I hoped to make a statement very shortly. This statement is a little longer than an appropriate answer to a question, so I thought I should make it on motions.
The statement is regarding an increase in the facilities and equipment of the Canadian Coast Guard of the Department of Transport for marine search and rescue work in Atlantic waters.
General co-ordination of search and rescue activities is the responsibility of the Department of National Defence which has established search and rescue co-ordination centres for this purpose. Traditionally and by law, all vessels available, whether owned by the Government or privately owned, must assist when needed under the direction of the search and rescue co-ordination officers. At the search and rescue co-ordination centres the Canadian Coast Guard provides special marine advisers to assist in matters relating to marine operations. In addition the Coast Guard some years ago put into service three small and five medium sized cutters solely for the purpose of providing search and rescue competence and doing general patrol work in this connection. Two of the medium sized cutters, which were designed for coastal and sheltered waters work rather than either deep sea or close inshore work, have been stationed in the Atlantic area.
As a result of continuing study of requirements in the Atlantic area, it has been decided that the Canadian Coast Guard capability will now be expanded by the provision of four large new cutters, possessing full capabilities for deep sea work. These cutters will be approximately 200 feet in length and will cost around $4 million each to build. They
will operate primarily in the offshore areas frequented by our deep sea fishermen.
In addition, to meet conditions in which neither the large nor medium sized cutters can operate, several shore based lifeboat stations will be developed. It is planned to develop five new stations of this sort in addition to the one that already exists in the Bay of Fundy. The Canadian Coast Guard will provide the lifeboat, but it is intended that the manning will be based on the voluntary part time support of the local community, possibly somewhat similar to the system which applies in Great Britain. These lifeboats will cost about $150,000 each.
No decision has as yet been taken on the location of the lifeboat stations. Further field investigation will be necessary, including consultation with local groups as to how best the voluntary type of organization mentioned can be set up under Canadian Coast Guard supervision.
The full implementation of the program which I have mentioned in Atlantic waters will probably take four to five years. It will do a great deal to strengthen and improve our ability to provide patrol and assistance for search and rescue work not only in our immediate coastal waters but even farther afield, and will be of great benefit to fishermen and other marine operators in the Atlantic provinces as well as to international shipping.
Similar studies of requirements with regard to both the Pacific coast and the Great Lakes are to be carried out to see what further expansion of Coast Guard capabilities in these areas is required.
I should emphasize that it is not intended that the provision of these vessels should in any way imply that marine rescue should become solely a Government responsibility, or should weaken the prime responsibility for rescue at sea which traditionally and in law is a matter of mutual help among seafarers of all kinds.
Subtopic: ATLANTIC COAST-PROPOSED IMPROVEMENTS IN SERVICE