Premier expects few federal job cuts

James McLeod
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Not pleased with Ottawa's stance on search and rescue

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to a Telegram reporter during an interview at Confederation Building Friday afternoon. She spoke on a variety of issues, including search and rescue and her dealings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

For Premier Kathy Dunderdale, there are things the federal government does that she likes, and things she doesn't like.

On Muskrat Falls, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a valuable ally; on search and rescue, not so much.

In both cases, though, Dunderdale makes it clear that for her it's not about personal relationships - it's about getting things done.

"I'm not friends with the prime minister. Stephen Harper and I don't know each other that well," Dunderdale said.

"It's not about being buddies with the prime minister. It's about how do I ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians get everything that they are entitled to from our federal government."

Dunderdale sat down with The Telegram in her office Friday morning, the day after the federal budget was tabled in Ottawa.

It's unclear how the $5 billion in budget cuts will affect the province exactly, but Dunderdale said she only expects a handful of job cuts.

"We've got about 600 federal jobs here in the province," she said.

"If the cuts are going to be about five or six per cent, then that'll translate into between 20 and 30 jobs for us."

As far as broader budget cuts go, Dunderdale said when the details come, she expects opposition politicians will try to use them against her.

Dunderdale endorsed Harper in the federal election last spring. Since then, provincial Liberal and New Democrat politicians have tried to blame her for federal decisions on everything from fisheries regulation to search and rescue funding.

"There has been a lot of politics played around search and rescue," she said.

"There's been a real stretch going on, particularly in the House of Assembly from the opposition, to try to lay all of this at our doorstep."

Dunderdale argues the only thing she can do is talk to the federal government and try to make convincing arguments.

"As premier, I have to advocate on behalf of the people of the province and I've said time and time again, in terms of the federal government, you only have two arrows in your quiver - it's the power of the ballot box and it is the power of persuasion," Dunderdale said.

"The power of persuasion is the only tool, in fact, that I have at this point in time. I have to use that as effectively as I can."

Sometimes persuasion is more effective than at other times, though. On the one hand, Dunderdale said she's happy to see the promise of a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, plus the resolution of the New Dawn land claim for the Labrador Innu.

Search and rescue is a different story.

"In terms of search and rescue? Not happy. Not happy at all," she said.

Over the past week, Liberals have argued in the House of Assembly that poor choices on the part of federal officials led to the death of 14-year-old Burton Winters, a Labrador youth who got lost on his snowmobile on the sea ice.

The mistakes are in addition to the controversy surrounding the Marine Rescue Sub-centre in St. John's - a search and rescue asset which will be closed this spring and have its operations consolidated with the centre in Halifax.

Liberal House leader Yvonne Jones has argued Dunderdale should be more vocal and join with opposition leaders to go to Ottawa to protest the federal government's search and rescue decisions.

"Does anybody think for one minute that that's changing his mind about anything?" the premier said.

"What is our chance of success of reversing a decision or preventing something else from happening by doing that?"

Dunderdale made it clear she doesn't have any time for the suggestions coming from her political opponents. She said she finds it worrying that they are "taken so seriously" and sometimes it seems they aren't held responsible for what they say.

"Sometimes it's a bit troubling to me that you can get up and say what you like about anything," she said.

When it comes to the federal budget cuts, she said she's sure the Liberals will try to use them as a political weapon.

But she's been clear in the lead-up to the federal budget that she won't brook any downloading of responsibilities onto the provinces. If that's what the Liberals or the New Democrats suggest, Dunderdale said, that amounts to the same sorts of disasterous policies they put in place when they were in government.

"You were spending money hand over fist, driving us down into the ground with debt. But what were you spending it on? What were you doing? Where were the good decisions?" she asked.

"They haven't changed their ways at all - you know, they keep talking spend, spend, spend." Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: New Dawn

Geographic location: Ottawa, Labrador, St. John's Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Harold
    March 31, 2012 - 14:50

    PC supporters standup for Dunderdale.. Liberal supporters standup for Liberals. does anyone standup for Newfoundland?? the oil off our coast is in decline.. we better get our house in order. all those highly trained young newfoundlanders will be welcome anywhere in the world..

  • Brad Cabana
    March 31, 2012 - 12:27

    "Sometimes it's a bit troubling to me that you can get up and say what you like about anything," she said. Spoken like a true champion of democracy and freedom of speech. You can't make this stuff up.

  • Graham
    March 31, 2012 - 12:07

    Well Randy as I see it Dany should have been given the finger a long time ago. Dunderdale has a full time job trying to show people thats she is not the arrogant self centred ego maniac Danny Williams was and still is. Though I dont necessarily agree qith a lot Premier Dunderdale is doing ie: Muskrat Falls...I would take her over Danny THE EGO Williams any day.

  • Marty
    March 31, 2012 - 11:30

    The number of federal public service employees in the province is much higher than 600. DFO / CCG alone has double that in the St. John's area. Check your facts Premier.

  • tom
    March 31, 2012 - 10:59

    She endorsed him and now the ballot box is a weapon? really? Muskrat Falls is of no worry to the Feds as we will be able to pay the loan back. SO in reality, thus far, the fed have taken the search and rescue. I don't know of anything else that has been done for us.

  • Renee
    March 31, 2012 - 10:29

    You can never please some people! Some were complaining when Danny took down the flags, oh you need better communications with the Feds. Now Dunderdale has tried to communicate with the Feds and not be at odds everytime something happens, but no now this is not good enough! If i were the Premier i would do what i could, i wouldn't be kissing up to any of the opposition who are only in it to make the govt look bad. And to the silly people who think Dunderdale was in 'bed' with Harper because she supported him in the Fed election. Get real...i remember when alot of the Libs were in bed with Cretien and Martin a few years back...and they were not so good to NL.

    • Cat Pike
      March 31, 2012 - 11:52

      Dunderdale is doing a great job. The liberals assume we are all idiots. Search and rescue is federal and no matter how many inquiries we have it means nothing. The Sar center in the province is a call center thats it, they dont rescue, and the Pub has had since last June to do that report 10 months seriously if they cant do it maybe they need someone new to head them up. Yvonne Jones is the one who is an embarrasment to our province.

  • Justin
    March 31, 2012 - 10:15

    Watch the integrity of the Harper regime crumble with each passing day! The time for revolution is at hand! Let us rise up and take back our country!

  • Randy
    March 31, 2012 - 10:05

    Now Dunderdale says she's not freinds with Steve. This premier is not just embarrasing she's pathetic. Last year dunderdale and ministers like susy sullivan hugged and kissed them all, They gave Danny Williams the finger,now they're asking us for forgiveness.. Get real

  • Harvey
    March 31, 2012 - 08:41

    I can still see the smiles at the Delta and the Harperian smirks!!!Come on Ms Dunderdale, get a life. Harper and his lieutenants are doing to you what they do to everybody. If you can't figure it out, I can't help you here.

  • Mary Benedict
    March 31, 2012 - 08:11

    Mr.Daniels, why don't the opposition leave her alone and let her do her job, personally I think she is doing the best she can. Premier keep up the good work and try to turn a deaf ear to the opposition. If they were in your place, God help us. All this bickering is getting you nowhere, Opposition, just let her do her job.

  • Harold
    March 31, 2012 - 08:00

    so dunderdale and harper work together to get things done for Newfoundland?? pleas miss Premier, give us 1 example and dont say musrat falls.

  • Terry Nicholls
    March 31, 2012 - 07:56

    600 federal jobs in the entire province?? I think you should revisit that number as it appears to be entirely inaccurate.

    • george w
      March 31, 2012 - 08:40

      must be 6000 instead of 600.

  • William Daniels
    March 31, 2012 - 07:44

    "I'm not friends with the prime minister. Stephen Harper and I don't know each other that well," Dunderdale said." She is backpeddling trying to save some face after dancing with Harper onstage backfired on her. Harper has already been slashing and burning in NL before this and she never said a word.