OTTAWA — Big improvements are needed to sustain Canada’s federal search-and-rescue system, said Auditor General Michael Ferguson.
In his spring report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, Ferguson indicated "ongoing staffing and training challenges are impacting the sustainability of SAR operations."
Ferguson’s latest audit found SAR activities have been affected by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s "continued use of older planes that require extensive maintenance" and the use of "helicopters that are either insufficient in number of less capable of responding to incidents."
"We are very concerned about the sustainability of search-and-rescue services in coming years," Ferguson said.
The report also notes the information system used to manage search-and-rescue cases is "nearing its breaking point" even though a replacement is not expected until 2015-16.
"Moving forward, federal partners need to work with each other and with the provinces and territories to better co-ordinate search-and-rescue services at the national level," said Ferguson. "At the federal level, they need to address challenges regarding equipment, personnel and information management system."
Ferguson’s audit notes there is no overall federal policy, planning framework or clear expectations for federal SAR services, and ongoing efforts to carve out a framework have been unsuccessful.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said his department would look into the recommendations.
"We have to do more," MacKay told the Commons Tuesday. "We have to obviously continue to invest in certain areas, but there are areas in which our SAR techs continue to perform brilliantly."
Search-and-rescue activities have met established minimum standards of readiness, the audit states.