12/19/2013 08:27 EST | Updated 02/18/2014 05:59 EST

Quebec rescue centre reprieve unfair for N.L., says MP

The federal government has decided to keep the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre​ in Quebec open. The centre was slated to close along with the one in St. John's, but it was given a one year reprieve.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans admitted it could not find enough bilingual staff, so it decided to keep the Quebec centre open.

But New Democrat MP Jack Harris said citizens in Newfoundland and Labrador deserve the same benefit.  

"Language in Newfoundland and Labrador is an issue as well," said Harris, who represents St. John's East. 

Listen: Quebec AM speaks to longtime employee Hubert Desgagnes

Harris said local knowledge is critical to rescue efforts, and there should be a rescue centre in Newfoundland for that reason.

"There are fewer people who know the local conditions, who know the currents, who know the people, who know the language, who know the dialects — and I think people are going to suffer as a result.”

The closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's more than a year ago has meant distress calls have been redirected to Halifax and Ontario.

Former rescue coordinatorMervWiseman said the provincial government should have fought harder to keep Newfoundland’s centre open.

"This province is very weak in Ottawa, in terms of our ability to make changes in the face of this particular government," said Wiseman.

"We had a very weak minister in Peter Penashue representing the province. There was no study, there was no analysis."

The Rescue Sub-Centres in Quebec and Newfoundland were intended to be the 9-1-1 for emergencies at sea. But Wiseman said without a rescue centre, Newfoundland and Labrador is not equipped to handle marine disasters.