Feds miss boat in throne speech: MPs

Dave Bartlett
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Told to wait for budget for Marine Atlantic news

The federal minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador says people in the province should "sit tight" until today's federal budget to see if Marine Atlantic will get any money for improvements.

In September, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said the government should spend $1.6 billion on fleet renewal and onshore infrastructure for this province's link to mainland Canada.

Top photo, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, and the province's representative in the federal government declined to divulge any information as to whether the budget would provide new money for Marine Atlantic. However, he did acknowledge the importance of t

The federal minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador says people in the province should "sit tight" until today's federal budget to see if Marine Atlantic will get any money for improvements.

In September, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said the government should spend $1.6 billion on fleet renewal and onshore infrastructure for this province's link to mainland Canada.

But two MPs from this province told The Telegram nothing in Wednesday's throne speech suggests anything will be in the budget for the Crown corporation.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, the Nova Scotia MP who speaks for this province at the federal cabinet table, said the speech only outlined government's top priorities, including the economy and job creation.

When asked specifically about Marine Atlantic, MacKay said, "I think you saw a signal in the throne speech that shipbuilding remains an important priority for this government."

He followed that statement by saying Ottawa must show spending restraint as the economy continues to rebound.

MacKay said investments in shipbuilding are a positive sign for the navy, coast guard and shipyards across the country.

"Some of that work is clearly going to be done by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," he said.

But MacKay couldn't say if shipyards would be bidding on contracts for new Marine Atlantic ferries, only that the government knows the importance of the service.

"We're fully intending to keep that operation going," he said.

The Liberal MP for Humber-St.Barbe-Baie Verte Gerry Byrne told The Telegram last week he would be "livid" if there isn't something in the budget to address Fraser's report.

The throne speech didn't give him much hope.

"I am concerned," he said. "I'm in the process of becoming livid."

Byrne worries an announcement in the speech that federal departments and Crown corporations face a spending freeze implies no new money is coming for the ferry service.

Jack Harris, the NDP MP for St. John's East, shares Byrne's concerns.

"I wrote last week to the Minister of Transport John Baird and to (Finance Minister Jim) Flaherty saying that there must be a significant commitment to Marine Atlantic in this budget," he said. "There's no signal in this throne speech that we're going to see anything in this budget (for Marine Atlantic). I'll certainly be very disappointed and angry if we don't see that."

Byrne and Harris also said nothing in the throne speech warranted the prorogation of Parliament since the new year.

The government had stated the break was needed, until after the Vancouver Olympics, to recalibrate its policies.

"They spent two months basically doing nothing," Harris said. "What's here, basically, is a lot of massaging and rhetoric and we don't see any recalibrating at all, quite frankly."

But MacKay brushed the criticism aside.

"That's what opposition critics do, they criticize," he said.

He said ministers have been working hard during the last two months and the Commons will now sit for 11 weeks to make up any time which the opposition suggests was lost.

"I would argue that it wasn't lost. It was (a) very productive time," he said.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, The Telegram, Nova Scotia MP NDP MP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Ottawa St. John's East

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Recent comments

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Anyone who thinks Newfoundland is going to get anything from Ottawa needs to give their head a shake. What we need is a regime change.

  • briny69
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    i agree frank m. coady is just another politician waiting for her pension to kick in.you will never hear from her until she needs your vote.makes me sick

  • Frank M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    St. John's South - Mount Pearl MP Siobhan Coady is the Liberal party critic for the Treasury Board.

    The Treasury Board controls where spending will, or will not occur.

    This week, federal public service pensioners held a meeting to discuss a possible freeze to federal pensions in today's federal budget.

    Neither Ms. Coady, or anyone from her office attended. Not a word of support.

    Why are Gerry Byrne and Jack Harris commenting on Marine Atlantic when the purse strings are authorized by the Treasury Board Secretariat?

    Because Ms. Coady cannot do the job given to her.

    Shameful.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Anyone who thinks Newfoundland is going to get anything from Ottawa needs to give their head a shake. What we need is a regime change.

  • briny69
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    i agree frank m. coady is just another politician waiting for her pension to kick in.you will never hear from her until she needs your vote.makes me sick

  • Frank M
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    St. John's South - Mount Pearl MP Siobhan Coady is the Liberal party critic for the Treasury Board.

    The Treasury Board controls where spending will, or will not occur.

    This week, federal public service pensioners held a meeting to discuss a possible freeze to federal pensions in today's federal budget.

    Neither Ms. Coady, or anyone from her office attended. Not a word of support.

    Why are Gerry Byrne and Jack Harris commenting on Marine Atlantic when the purse strings are authorized by the Treasury Board Secretariat?

    Because Ms. Coady cannot do the job given to her.

    Shameful.