Ottawa office staying open: Dunderdale

Steve Bartlett
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Opposition says expect post-election appointment

In a swanky office tower, a half-dozen blocks from Parliament Hill, is Suite 1604, Newfoundland and Labrador’s office in Ottawa. — Telegram file photo

Premier Kathy Dunderdale intends to keep the Newfoundland and Labrador Office of Federal-Provincial Relations open.

“The office serves a great purpose when it’s functioning the way that it should,” she told a Telegram editorial board Wednesday. “And it’s important to me that we maintain that.”

The province hasn’t had a representative working out of the office for about 18 months, since John FitzGerald didn’t renew his contract and took a job with executive council.

Government has continued renting the location and paying for an administrative staff. It budgeted $388,000 to operate the office this year, after allotting $378,000 last year.

The opposition Liberals have called repeatedly asked government to close the office.

But that’s not in Dunderdale’s plan.

She says it’s important to have someone networking in the nation’s capital.

“You need someone who is on the ground, who’s talking to people, who has relationships with people within departments, who are on the ground, who know what the scuttlebutt is, knows who’s coming, who’s going, who’s talking to who. Someone who is able to facilitate meetings, general intelligence gathering on the ground,” she said.

The premier hopes to have that person in place this fall, and says she’s considering two or three candidates.

Told of her intentions, Liberal MHA Kelvin Parsons maintains there’s no need for the office. He wonders why it’s remained vacant for so long if the premier believes it’s so important.

“It indicates to me that … they’re probably very leery at this point of making an appointment because the appointment itself might be controversial,” he said.

He’s expecting it will be a patronage announcement, one government doesn’t want to make before an election.

“It seems to be a very hypocritical statement to say, ‘We think it’s valuable, we think it’s necessary, we’re paying for it, but we’re not going to put anybody there now until after the election.”

Parsons suggested an effective minister of intergovernmental affairs could be in Ottawa dealing with the important files.

For matters requiring a greater presence, he envisions designating someone from the minister’s office.

“But to have somebody on shift there full-time, and somebody who never reports to the public?” Parsons asked.

“The public have a right to ask what’s the value of this, other than someone telling us it’s valuable.”

During the editorial board, Dunderdale also expressed hope her improved rapport with Prime Minister Stephen Harper would help in dealing with Ottawa.

Answering a question about her support of Harper during the election and the closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre, Dunderdale explained she felt the prime minister was going to win and it was necessary to have a good relationship.

“It’s important that we be able to talk to him, to be heard,” she said.

The Telegram asked what happens if the diplomatic approach to federal-provincial relations doesn’t work.

Dunderdale pointed out she went door-to-door with Liberal  Siobhan Coady during the Anything But Conservative (ABC) campaign in the 2008 federal election and then said, “I have never shied away from taking a position, ever, and I’ve been on the leading edge.”

In a conversation with Dunderdale that same night, Harper stood firm on the centre’s closure.

The premier said the next day she was disappointed, but that the province would continue pursuing the issue and keep the lines of communication with Ottawa open.


Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Office of Federal-Provincial Relations, Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre

Geographic location: Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Eli
    June 26, 2011 - 16:38

    MBC...Terry French kick some butt? Are you serious? Of course not. Tom Hedderson's section of Route 60 will get it's second upgrading after Harbour Main was taken care of last year, now we have the Witless Bay Line getting three klicks worked over for the Southern Shore member. Nada for French's district of CBS. He's too busy throwing around cheques for $10 - $15,000 for sports and rec projects in his district. He's satisfied the expenditures will ensure enough votes in October. It's the constitutency scandal wearing another coat.

  • Bob
    June 25, 2011 - 15:16

    No trouble to spend money when somebody else is paying the piper. MHA donations to all kinds of frivolous district events have dried-up since John Noseworthy exposed it for what it was. But this Ottawa stupidity goes on. I'd love to see Kevin O'Brien's or Terry French's take on this.

  • bill
    June 25, 2011 - 14:38

    Maybe Kelvin Parsons is looking to get the position. But will his son run for the Liberals or the PC's That was a topic awhile ago...Kelvin was looking for a position and in exchange his son would run for the PC's. Guess he didn't get his way!! Maybe if we had someone in this position it would be to our benefit. Bill Rowe seems to think he played a big part in the 2 billion!! Lets give it a try...get someone in there who knows the system. Don't care if its an MHA from years long as they can use it to the benefit of the province. Sounds like Jim Morgan might be looking for a

  • Really, Now
    June 25, 2011 - 14:03

    Will Elizabeth Matthews get the gig?

  • Randy
    June 25, 2011 - 12:22

    This office is completely unnecessary.It's just another example of a wastefull government,that just doesn't care.Maybe Dunderdale will offer the job to John Noseworthy so he won't run for the liberals in october..Don't trust this provincial gov.anymore then harpers

  • Kathy Bandwagon Dun
    June 25, 2011 - 11:38

    Some current Tory MHA's aren't going to be re-elected in October, one of the defeated will get the office, similar to to Harper and Fabian Manning's Senate appointment. But it must be some important office if it's been vacant for years (plural)

  • Brendan
    June 25, 2011 - 09:46

    Seems to me that this article presents her as being far from the leading edge. She's been forced into a Premiership that she neither sought nor aspired to. But she was a great Cabinet Minister. Do as Danny recommended before his exit; let the real leadership candidates come forward to lead the Party in the upcoming election and let Cathy go back to her previous position; only the urban Districts are safe and even some of them might show surprises in October. Guys, it's not too late to wake up and smell the roses.

  • Fed up
    June 25, 2011 - 08:15

    This government spends our money like a bunch of drunken sailors with no vision for tomorrow. a 1/2 million here, a 1/2 million there, and meanwhile, groups and individuals have insignificant requests for funding to help people turned down every day. I wish that our government could see past themselves.

  • MBC
    June 25, 2011 - 07:02

    Another waste of money; almost $400,000 a year that could repair the road to eastport, a tourist destination. Come on Terry French, start to kick butt !

  • Jean
    June 25, 2011 - 06:51

    Another "token" job....the money could be used to safe lives...remember there IS a safety center shutting down!!