‘Degrading, insulting and wrong’

Dave Bartlett
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All political stripes slam Conservative MP’s comments

Cheryl Gallant participates in the fourth annual Pembroke Pumpkin Weigh-in and Boat Race in October 2009 in Pembroke, Ont.

Politicians of all stripes from this province are furious over comments made by a Conservative MP about search and rescue.

Cheryl Gallant, who represents the Ottawa area riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, suggested Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who make their living from the sea should take more responsibility for their safety and not expect to be rescued by the coast guard if they run into trouble.

Gallant was in this province last week as a member of a Parliamentary defence committee looking into search and rescue response times.

During those hearings, she said people who operate boats on the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River don’t count on the coast guard for help, but look to local communities, the province and private companies. “I know it would be ideal to have the federal government be there in the 30-minute response time 24 hours a day, but in practicality, we do have to pool our resources,” she said at the meeting.

“Just as the oil companies are starting to pitch in because they’re profiting from the resources, so too perhaps should the province think about the benefits that it is obtaining economically from that sector, and figure out a way to pool our resources, federally as well as provincially, and from the private sector.”

But Gallant told the Ottawa Citizen this week she was not trying to compare the Ottawa River and Great Lakes to the North Atlantic.

“It was misconstrued,” she said in that interview. “It was not intended to be taken the way it was and I do regret that they took it the way it was.”

She also said in that interview there was no need to apologize for her comments.

St. John’s East MP Jack Harris, who is an NDP representative on the committee said Gallant simply did not have her facts straight.

“She’s simply wrong about Ontario,” he said. “The coast guard is extremely active in the Great Lakes. They do rely on search and rescue from the coast guard.”

Harris said Gallant’s comments about Newfoundlanders helping themselves was also contrary to information the committee had already gathered, which shows just how much the volunteer coast guard auxillary contributes to search and rescue.

“It shows a disturbing lack of understanding about what’s going on,” he said.

Harris said the chairman of the committee, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, told the same meeting he believes the time for improving search and rescue services is long over due.

The Liberal MP from Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor Scott Simms was also in the room when Gallant made the comments.

“It was almost like a comedy of errors,” he said. “What she was trying to do (was to) imply how this (issue) can be fixed with no understanding of how it works.”

Simms called Gallants comments “very condescending” and said he watched as smoke metaphorically came from the ears of many in the room who looked around questioning what they just heard.

Shawn Skinner, the province’s natural resources minister, told Gallant her comments were offensive minutes after she made them.

“Ms. Gallant was the last member of the committee to speak to us and my jaw dropped when I listened to her. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he told The Telegram. “We’re not talking about an inland waterway here. We’re talking about the North Atlantic.”

Skinner said Gallant doesn’t need to apologize, but should be better informed.

I would compare it to someone saying I don’t think we should have ambulances on the road to look after those car accidents.” Liberal MHA Marshall Dean

Gallant did call Skinner on Thursday afternoon to apologize and issued a news release.

“I want to offer my humble and heartfelt apologies for remarks made regarding search and rescue services. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for Canadians that make their living from the sea and in no way intended to minimize the dangers they face on a daily basis,” she said.

Before the apology was issued, Avalon MP Scott Andrews said one was needed.

“How can you not apologize?” questioned Andrews. “(She) insulted hard-working Newfoundlanders who depend on the sea for a living.”

“For this MP to come out and say this, it’s just typical of the Harper Conservatives,” he added.

Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne went so far as to call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to remove Gallant from the committee.

“She’s demonstrated a contempt and a prejudice that cannot be allowed to stand,” he said. “She needs to go.”

Byrne said Harper should replace Gallant with another of his caucus members, who has an understanding of and respect for the issue.

St. John’s City Coun. Tom Hann also heard Gallants comments first- hand. He told Gallant the province has been talking about this issue since the Ocean Ranger sank. The 29th anniversary of the sinking is Monday.

“It is offensive to be talking about budgeting when we’re talking about people’s lives,” Hann said to Gallant at the meeting.

Provincial NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said Gallant repeated her comments at a second public hearing she attended.

“She didn’t get it the first time did she?” asked Michael rhetorically. “How can an MP with such little knowledge sit on a Parliamentary committee and not gain the knowledge that’s needed?”

The Liberal MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl Siobhan Coady raised Gallants comments Thursday afternoon in question period in the House of Commons.

She asked if the Harper Conservatives were telling the people of this province they are on their own.

“My father-in-law was lost to the sea,” she told The Telegram afterwards. “Seconds count here.”

“I thought (Gallant’s comments were) degrading, insulting and wrong,” she added her voice shaking with emotion.

Coady said the fact of the matter is the coast guard needs more resources.

During a scrum with reporters Thursday afternoon, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Gallant’s comments were ill-informed.

“I just find that kind of attitude offensive,” she said. “What’s astonishing to me, you know, is we have people with such a poor analysis and poor understanding of this country involved in government. It’s remarkable.”

Provincial Liberal fisheries critic Marshall Dean also said he couldn’t believe Gallant’s comments.

“I would compare it to someone saying I don’t think we should have ambulances on the road to look after those car accidents. we should look after them ourselves. It’s almost as crazy as that,” he said.

 

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

with files from Post Media

 

Correction:

This version has been corrected due to typographical errors.

Organizations: Liberal MP, Ottawa Citizen, NDP The Telegram Harper Conservatives Parliamentary committee House of Commons.She Post Media

Geographic location: Great Lakes, Ottawa River, Ottawa North Atlantic Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Clarence Vautier
    February 14, 2011 - 20:48

    I live in St.John's and sailed on the Great Lakes for 15 years and it seems Ms.Gallant haven't spent much time in the St.Clair River, from May to October, the Coast Guard Patrol these waters constantly. Do Ms. Gallant have any marine background.

  • Meldercat
    February 14, 2011 - 08:56

    Hey Cheryl, can you see Newfoundland from your house?

  • Casey
    February 11, 2011 - 14:32

    Max...try your reverse psychology BS somewhere else. May you could ask Harper about that "Culture of Defeat" comment.

    • Max
      February 11, 2011 - 16:13

      Personally, I'm not a fan of Harper. Way too right wing for my liking. However, unfortunately, his comment about the "culture of defeat" was accurate. But guess what? Nfld is now a "have" province. I wish it would actually start behaving like one instead of spewing false bravado.

  • Kent
    February 11, 2011 - 11:25

    Max The negative posts on this board regarding Gallant have nothing to do with where she's from but rather with what she said. Perhaps your comments about NFLDer's being in love with feeling persecuted was a Freudian slip?

    • Max
      February 11, 2011 - 12:21

      The very first comment posted by "Casey" does indeed reference "the gang from Ontario." And I think it quite reasonable to point out the cultural love of feeling persecuted that exists in Nfld and how this matter will further feed same.

  • Max
    February 11, 2011 - 11:14

    The woman has issued an apology. That apology should count for something. But Newfoundlanders will nurse a grudge over this for generations to come, as they are IN LOVE WITH feeling persecuted. I worked in Ontario for many years, and some of my co-workers were from Nfld. In all those years, I never heard even one "Newfie joke" about those people. They were not made fun of behind their back. They were accepted wholeheartedly and genuinely by the rest of the staff. The fact is, anti-Newfoundland sentiment is on the mainland is virtually non-existent in this day in age. Too bad the reverse isn't true.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 11, 2011 - 10:07

    Almost two years after the tragic loss of 17 lives aboard Cougar flight 491, I can look out my kitchen window and see the Helicopters flying to and from the offshore. The memory of live cut short on that day in March of 2009 is etched in my mind. I can imagine how family members and friends of the victims of 491 must feel every time they see or hear a helicopter fly overhead. The uninformed, cruel, and insensitive remarks made by M.P. Cheryl Gallant have left me almost as dumbfounded as I am angry. While he is here in Newfoundland, The Prime Minister should instruct his M.P. to apologize to the families and friends of the victims of the flight 491 crash, and should do so himself on behalf of all descent Canadians.

  • stann
    February 11, 2011 - 09:24

    This is one of Harper's fine caucus members. Just shows Harpers view of Atlantic Canada (remember his reference to lazy Atlantic Canadians some years ago). A leopard can't change it colours. They hillbilly Pm figures if they don't need a coast guard on the Ottawa River or Bow River (Calgary), why one for the Atlantic ocean. This is the same conservative group that his nfld entrail (AKA Manning) is so proud off. Rememer ABC next election.

  • mel simmonds
    February 11, 2011 - 09:22

    concerning gallant's comments, its like me with only a class 5 drivers licence trying to tell a tractor trailer driver how to operate his big rig. it just goes to show some of the ignorant and stupid people we have in ottawa.

  • Frank Blackwood
    February 11, 2011 - 09:12

    This lady has absolutely no insight into the challenging risk factors when a fisherman gets aboard his longliner and leaves home to fish many miles away from home. This is also very insulting to the families that have lost loved ones at sea. An apology is fine but pure ignorance is something which many Newfoundlanders will not forget. The lakes around Ontario are very dangerous and the police are rescuing people often. However, you cannot compare the mysterious, unpredictable Atlantic ocean to Lake Superior and Simcoe in Ontario. The truth of the matter is that the Prime Minister has now put a gag on MP Gallant and perhaps ordered her to apologize which is like saying, I am sorry, but not sorry for making such remarks. She is now looking very stupid, even in the eyes of her own collegues. Frank Blackwood Newfoundland Writer Richmond Hill, Ont.

  • Steve
    February 11, 2011 - 09:03

    Ms Gallant is my riding MP. I'm from Newfoundland and have never met her. Unfortunately, people make stupid comments without thinking. Maybe it's time for a change here in my district..

  • Russell
    February 11, 2011 - 08:25

    Can somebody tell me what the word "metamorphically" means? Is it some sort of regional slang, or did the reporter mean "metaphorically?"

  • David Taylor
    February 11, 2011 - 08:25

    As both a resident of her riding as well as a Newfoundlander, I find her comments out of line, uninformed as well as unbelievable. Foot in mouth does not start to describe it. I would recommend to Mr. Harper that he make a political appointment. Gallant to be a lighthouse keeper where she can educate herself on matters of the sea. Perhaps an automatic one would be best!! RNPer

  • james kennedy
    February 11, 2011 - 08:19

    Its time we had a general election and got rid of this Harper Govt and had another ABC approach in Newfoundland. All the Harper Govt has done since they got in power is spent, spent and spent like kids in a candy store. They have no people morals and just want to hang on to power as the one in Egypt. Time to have an election and end the Harper Govt and place the priorities on people not jets and prsions. Come on Harper u afraid to call an election..and yes everyone get out and vote young and old and turn this country around and make us proud again

  • loving nl.
    February 11, 2011 - 08:06

    Strike sorry i lost count for the Harper reform sorry conservatives!

  • Steve
    February 11, 2011 - 07:59

    Wake up Renfrew Nippising It's time to dump this dead weight Harper parrot. This is the same MP that refused to support the designation of the Ottawa River as a heritage river and refused to support farmers.

  • Judith Carpenter
    February 11, 2011 - 07:50

    There is a vast difference between Ontario lakes and rivers and the North Atlantic and obviously, she doesn't know the difference. As well, she has absolutely no idea about the size of the Newfoundland coastline.. Maybe a few Newfoundlanders could give her a lesson in geography, something we did in Grade 5

  • P F Murphy
    February 11, 2011 - 07:35

    ABC

  • Kent
    February 11, 2011 - 07:33

    Comparing the Great lakes and Ottaawa River to the North Atlantic onyl illustrates this woman's stupidity. If dumb were a reiligion, she would be Pope

  • Kevin
    February 11, 2011 - 07:26

    As mentioned above the Canadian Coast Guard is like ambulance drivers and where I live, there is charges associated for such services which in turn gets billed to the insurance companies to cover or assist in the cost of the rescues/service which every vehicle should have coverage. I am sure if the coast guard was run like a business in this respect and collect for their services, there would be no conversation around where the Coast Guard should be stationed.

  • mark
    February 11, 2011 - 07:19

    This is the same woman who compared abortion to beheadings in Iraq. She's a Conservative. This type of behaviour is to be expected.

  • Casey
    February 11, 2011 - 07:10

    The gang from Ontario are not very bright. That is why they need to look down their noses at the people of NL. Don't laugh at their stupid and insulting jokes and call them on their ignorance every chance you get.