Senator Manning says Gander's Search and Rescue Squadron has top talent, lacks tools

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Senator Manning says Gander's Search and Rescue Squadron has top talent, lacks tools

It's one of the busiest rescue centres in the country but the chair of a Senate committee studying Canada's search and rescue capabilities says Gander's infrastructure is not up to par.

The committee is touring Newfoundland and Labrador for public input with stops in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Gander and St. John's.

"Certainly what we're looking at here in Gander is the top-notch service. The personnel here is second to none," said committee chair and Conservative Senator Fabian Manning.

"The workplace itself is not, in my view, up to standards," he told CBC News after hearing a passionate presentation from the search and rescue centre. 

"We heard that frankness here in Gander," said Manning. "They laid out some of the serious challenges that search and rescue have right here in Gander itself in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Manning said he was presented with a number of issues that included infrastructure needs and personnel retention issues.

"We have people that are coming to the forces that are trained to be top-notch pilots, and in some cases we're not getting to hang on to those."

Manning and the committee held a full day of public meetings in St. John's on Wednesday.

Last September the federal government announced $2.3M to repave the airfield, with member of Parliament Scott Simms saying, "Let's assume that this will be one of many [announcements] for this particular squadron and this particular wing."

Report Presented This Year

The provincial tour comes after the federal government announced plans to reopen the St. John's Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre and build two new lifeboat stations in the province.

"We're delighted with the announcement," said Manning. "We're pleased with that as a committee but we're always concerned about the final details of anything and certainly we want to make sure that the service that is promised is delivered here."

Manning said the committee's mandate is to have a completed study presented before the Senate by November. 

"We're not out trying to find political points here," said Manning. "One of the positives I guess of being in the Senate is that you can take your time and do it properly and provide a constructive plan to go forward."