NEWS
11/07/2016 13:39 EST | Updated 11/08/2017 00:12 EST

Liberals make good on promise to reopen St. John's maritime rescue sub-centre

HALIFAX — The Liberal government has made good on a promise to reopen the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, N.L., as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's $1.5 billion ocean-protection plan.

Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc made the announcement Monday in St. John's as details of Ottawa's plan for Canada's coastline was unveiled at simultaneous news conferences in Newfoundland, Halifax and Vancouver.

Newfoundland and Labrador politicians of all stripes joined forces four years ago to protest when the former Conservative government under Stephen Harper shuttered the centre, which co-ordinated search and rescue efforts off the province’s coast.

Ottawa at the time defended the move, saying technology allowed for money-saving consolidation of services without cutting safety.

Under the ocean-protection plan, two new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat stations will be constructed in Newfoundland and Labrador. The lifeboat station in St. Anthony, N.L. will also be refurbished.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna touted the government's plan to strengthen responses to marine oil spills while speaking in Halifax, a city with heavy marine traffic. She said the government will increase funding for the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research in Halifax.

"We know that we need efficient, safer and cleaner marine transportation," said McKenna at a Canadian Coast Guard facility just outside of Halifax. "Our improvements to marine safety will be based on science, technology and traditional knowledge to protect Canada's marine environment."

McKenna said emergency enforcement officers will be added on the East Coast.

She said funding will be increased for the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, a 54-year-old government ocean research facility located on the shores of the Bedford Basin in the Halifax suburb of Dartmouth.

McKenna also said new legislation would hold owners of abandoned and derelict vessels accountable. There are roughly 600 in Canada.

"This includes new measures to help prevent vessels from being abandoned as well as a new approach to vessel cleanup," she said. "We will put in place new legislation that puts the responsibility and liability on vessel owners to properly remove and depose of their vessels."

In Vancouver, Trudeau said the plan will make Canada a world leader in protecting the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

He announced the funding over five years, which includes creating a marine safety system, restoring marine ecosystems, and spending on oil spill cleanup research and methods.

The prime minister says because Canada has the longest coastline in the world, it's vital to have a plan to ensure protection in modern and advanced ways.