It was the most intense shouting match this year in the House of Assembly, even though Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Liberal House Leader Yvonne Jones basically agreed on the issue at hand.
Jones and Dunderdale both want the federal government to reverse its decision to close the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s.
In question period Thursday, though, Jones said Dunderdale isn’t up to convincing Ottawa to change its mind.
Dunderdale fired back that the real problem is Liberal MPs who aren’t getting the job done.
“The only time we hear from them is on open-line shows here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Dunderdale said.
“What kind of an impact are they having in Ottawa? That is what they are paid to do, Mr. Speaker; that is their job — do it.”
Jones fired back, “Face the reality, premier. Your efforts are not working with Stephen Harper and his government. Your efforts have not been able to deliver the services to the people of this province.”
It was nearly a year ago when the federal Conservative government announced it would close the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s and move its operations to Halifax.
The centre is now slated to be closed later this spring.
Following the announcement a coalition of groups, including both opposition parties, held protests and lobbied heavily to keep the sub-centre open.
Dunderdale and her government didn’t join the coalition, but she publicly objected to the closure, made her case directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and offered provincial money to help keep the centre open.
Jones has been asking about the closure of the sub-centre all week. Thursday, Jones called for an all-party committee to press the federal government.
Dunderdale dismissed that idea pretty quickly.
“I’m not particularly interested in an all-party committee,” she said. “I’m doing my job as premier of this province. What Ms. Jones wants me to do is her job and the MPs’ job as well, and I’m not interested in that.”
Dunderdale said she doesn’t see federal MPs — especially the Liberals ones that Jones campaigned for — doing enough to press the government in Ottawa.
“That’s all just a bunch of foolishness,” Jones said. “The decision is resting with the federal government — her cousins — the decision rests with the prime minister of this country, the same prime minister that she stood shoulder to shoulder with.
“Where’s the stronger working relationship, and where’s the influence that she should be having on the federal government today on behalf of the people of this province? It’s nonexistent.”
NDP MP Jack Harris happened to be in the House of Assembly galleries Thursday afternoon. He said he thought Dunderdale was “deflecting” the issue, adding that the NDP has been bringing petitions to the House of Commons on the issue “practically daily.”
Liberal MP Scott Andrews was also pretty dismissive of Dunderdale’s comments.
“We have been bringing this up on countless occasions,” he said. “Jones must have hit a nerve with Dunderdale, and the best response she can drag up is to drag us into it? I don’t get that.”