We are all affected profile: Mayor Dennis O’Keefe on removing decision-making positions

“The cuts to the Federal Public Services will affect us in a number of ways, not only in terms of the economic impact that comes with the loss of those jobs from our economies. In St. John’s a resounding impact in this case comes with the loss of executive decision making positions within our region. We’re losing individuals that have key positions in government who represent the needs of our region and this impacts on the whole province, not only St. John’s. These local people have a lot of experience and understanding of Newfoundland & Labrador. They make their decisions based upon their knowledge of local circumstances and when they are removed and the decision making ends up in another province, then not only is the decision making far away, but it’s also in the hands of individuals who don’t have the same level of understanding of issues in Newfoundland & Labrador and the industries that are important when it comes to the economy and development in our province. For example, the Regional Director from the Canada Border Services Agency was eliminated and the decision making now resides in Halifax. This is at a time when we have a lot of issues with the growth of the cruise industry, an extremely busy international airport, as well as a lot of economic growth and development that leads to more goods being shipped in and out of the province. At the same time we now have the decision making being moved to Halifax. This is going to be detrimental to the continued growth of our industries. We protested the removal of this position and I spoke with Peter Penashue. His reply was that the decision was made and that he wasn’t going to intervene. I thought he would say he would do what he can, but that was the answer.

The closure of the Search & Rescue Centre will impact safety. The Marine Centre in St. John’s handled more distress calls than anywhere else in Canada. At the same time that demand for this service is growing, our ability to respond is being diminished. Having people in Newfoundland & Labrador who are familiar with the geography of our province, our circumstances, our coasts, and the North Atlantic is important. Loss of understanding of the treacherous coast we have, that can be very unforgiving at any time. It’s the local knowledge and experience that sometimes makes the difference between life and death. A delay of 3-5 minutes while you’re trying to figure out locations can mean life or death. The cutbacks are so unfortunate and in this case can lead to tragedy. We saw what happened with the young man on the Labrador Sea and how he perished. That highlighted the inadequacy of Search and Rescue in Newfoundland & Labrador. You can’t underestimate the value of local experience and local understanding, you just can’t replace it. “

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe – St. John’s, NL