MacKay criticism intensifies over helicopter ride

James McLeod
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Search and rescue chopper from 103 Squadron/ 9 Wing Gander — Telegram file photo

Defence Minister Peter MacKay's use of a search and rescue helicopter is akin to the province's constituency allowance spending scandal, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Friday.

Dunderdale was reticent to comment on the controversy, except to say public officials need to be careful when it comes to using the taxpayers' resources.

"We learned very hard lessons here in this province about the appropriate use of government resources. It's not a lesson that I'm going to forget," she said. "It should serve as a good reminder to everybody else who does this kind of work that the resources that are here that belong to the people need to be treated appropriately."

Gander River ride

Documents obtained by The Toronto Star indicate that when MacKay was on vacation at a fishing lodge on the Gander River, he hitched a ride in a Cormorant search and rescue helicopter out of Gander.

When the story broke in September, MacKay said the ride was a demonstration of the unit's search and rescue capabilities.

However, a string of emails obtained by the Star seem to indicate the ride was primarily about convenience, and the "guise" of a search and rescue training mission was only established after the initial request was made.

NDP MP Ryan Cleary said MacKay was using the helicopters as "a taxi and a limousine."

Cleary called on MacKay to resign.

"It looks like he lied about it. That's how it looks," said Cleary, who represents St. John's South-Mount Pearl. "I think he has to resign."

'Government business'

Late Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper weighed in, defending MacKay.

Harper says "all use of government aircraft was for government business."

The prime minister said MacKay has already answered the questions and has been clear about it, as has his government.

Opposition members of Parliament have been hammering MacKay over the helicopter flight and demanding an apology.

But the government is fending off the attacks by saying it has slashed the use of government aircraft by cabinet ministers.

"I think the minister's been very clear and we've been very clear," Harper said at an event in Burlington, Ont., west of Toronto, where he visited a biotech firm and helped open an arts centre.

"The minister was called back from vacation and used government aircraft only for government business and that is appropriate," Harper said. Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: The Toronto Star

Geographic location: Gander River, Gander, Burlington Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Herbert Morrison
    December 05, 2011 - 07:38

    As i said in another post in response to a story written with regards to the Hon. Minister's use of a rescue helicopter, the crew of a disabled fishing vessel had to wait for four hours to be rescued from rough seas off our coast last week. I wonder how long it took for Mr. MacKay's chopper to arrive to pick him up for his little junt.

  • MANintheMIDDLE
    December 03, 2011 - 17:23

    This is not a simple matter of wasting money by inappropriate use of government resources. In the case of Challenger jet use, they are maintained specifically for government transportation. Improper use of these jets is a matter for Parliament, the media, and public opinion. SAR helicopters and crew are maintained for the purpose of providing emergency services. For this purpose, they are kept in a state of readiness for emergency response. Training exercises are planned in advance so that steps to maintain service levels may be arranged. Mr. MacKay voiced no concern that resources be managed to maintain service levels. By using the helicopter, its fuel was depleted reducing its range of operation. If equipment was needed for a specific response, the helicopter would have to waste time returning to Gander to equip. Peter MacKay has shown gross recklessness endangering life. This is criminal behaviour. Based on the Criminal Code of Canada, he appears to have committed mischief endangering human life. I have blogged about the finer points of the law in this case, here:

  • David
    December 03, 2011 - 14:26

    Poliiticans do worse than this all the time...MacKay just made a poor bet that Newfoundland, with it's long history of public apathy and political porkbarreling, and diversion of taxpayer money, would be the very last place he'd ever get caught. Having said that, Canada sure is a great place for politicians to survive such a scandal....when was the last time a politican did any more than temporarily resign their minister's job, likely get another portfolio within a few months, meanwhile continue to sit in the back and draw their juicy salary? And yes, Liberals, that certainly includes you...being as you were always the governemnt, you invented the scam. Democracy, Canadian style.