Premier cancels meeting with dead boy's grandmother

James McLeod
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Burton Winters' family angry after some questions redirected to minister

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to the media following question period at the House of Assembly Thursday afternoon. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

What was supposed to be a meeting between two grandmothers turned into a political flare-up between Premier Kathy Dunderdale and the family of deceased Labrador teen Burton Winters.

A meeting that was supposed to happen between Dunderdale and Winters' grandmother, Charlotte Winters-Fost, was cancelled after Winters-Fost asked to have a retired search and rescue (SAR) co-ordinator come with her to the meeting.

As plans for a meeting were coming together, Winters-Fost said she wanted to bring Clarence Peddle, a retired SAR co-ordinator, with her, to provide support and to clarify or expand on any information that may be put forth.

As it became clear that Winters-Fost and her family had specific questions about the search and rescue operations, the plans for a meeting with Dunderdale fell apart.

Dunderdale told reporters Thursday she was happy to speak with Winters-Fost, but she's not the right person to ask technical, specific questions about search and rescue issues, and that those questions would be better directed to Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O'Brien, who is in charge of fire and emergency services for the province.

"I guess that's why the system had fallen apart in the beginning, because people are passing the buck. She's the one who makes all the decisions in all matters within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador," Winters-Fost said. "She's the one who's ultimately responsible."

Fourteen-year-old Burton Winters got lost in late January on his snowmobile on the sea ice off Makkovik.

When his snowmobile broke down, Winters walked 19 kilometres trying to get home, but he walked in the wrong direction.

Questions have been raised about the search and rescue response in the days after Burton went missing. It is unclear why the military did not dispatch a Cormorant helicopter to aid in the search, and it seems there were communications breakdowns be - tween the RCMP, provincial officials and the military.

The Liberals have been pressing in the House of Assembly for a public inquiry on the issue, but Dunderdale has said that wouldn't be the best way to figure out what went wrong.

Winters-Fost said she also wanted to make her case to Dunderdale for a public inquiry, and she wanted to get some specific answers on some of the search and rescue issues that have cropped up in the months since Burton's death.

Dunderdale said she's fine to talk about some of that, but not all of it.

"If you want to talk to me about Burton and tell me about Burton, I'm happy to do that, and I'm happy to tell you why I'm satisfied that a provincial inquiry will not serve a purpose at this point in time," Dunderdale said. "But if you're bringing an expert with you on search and rescue who you want to propose question on his own behalf and on behalf of the family, and you want specific information as to why the search failed, then you have to go where you can get that information, and that information would be provided through the Department of Municipal Affairs, and the minister."

Winters-Fost said she wishes politicians would move past the blame game and take responsibility for the failures earlier this year.

"Neither one of those levels of government want to take responsibility for the failings of search and rescue that their government was responsible for," she said.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: RCMP, Burton's, Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Makkovik

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Recent comments

  • Concernedmom
    May 11, 2012 - 14:24

    To David: You sound like a very angry person. People are here giving their opinion and there is really no need for name calling. I was not trying to lay blame on anyone here, simply giving my opinion as a mom. If you don't like it, then don't read it. Plain and simple. Not need to bash anyone over the internet, it's absolutely ridiculous.

    • David
      May 11, 2012 - 15:58

      You are apparently not bright enough to read others' opinions...even when they agree with yours, as mine does. So don't quit your day job.

  • Ugh
    May 11, 2012 - 12:38

    You know, I was surprised she agreed to the meeting in the first place. Certainly the circumstances surrounding his death were very hard to swallow. There has been more noise about all the things that WEREN'T done right by this boys family, and now they're asking the Premier to go meet with them to discuss his life. I think anybody could have seen this coming from a mile away...the motive for calling this meeting has never seemed clear to me. And now that it's become clear to the Premier I don't blame her for stepping aside. I think they should go ahead and meet with the appropriate minister and let that person do their job - bring back what's necessary to the Premier and then decide collaboratively if further action is needed. It would be like me calling the CEO of my employing company, asking to discuss something that SHOULD have been handled at my manager level. I doubt the CEO would even meet with me unless I had tried that avenue first.

  • Concernedmom
    May 11, 2012 - 12:05

    No offence meant against anyone here and I don't know the full circumstances surrounding this poor boys death. However, I have a 14 year old boy myself and I cannot fathom allowing him to ride a snowmobile by himself and unattended under any condition.

    • David
      May 11, 2012 - 13:37

      And do you know what, Concerned? If Dunderdale had offered to attend this 'set-up' of a meeting with her own stooge in tow.... say, someone from Social Services who could possibly give them a bit of a lecture in how to be more attentive parents......well, that would be just incredibly evil of her! How dare she! These poor people are grieving! How could you possibly turn this into a political stunt!? The double-standards of idiots are amazingly predictable.

    • Mike
      May 11, 2012 - 14:06

      To Concerned mom, I don't think you understand life on the coast of Labrador. Snowmobiles and quads are as common for children as bicycles are in majority of Canadian communities. Do you let your 14 year old ride his bicycle without direct supervision? Probably. The circumstances here involved him taking the snowmobile, and I believe this was the first time he went alone, to his grandmother's home. Apparently he took a wrong turn in the blowing snow and ended up on the sea-ice. There is no issue on parenting in these sad circumstances. The only idiot commenting here with amazingly predictable ignorance is "David".

  • Pat
    May 11, 2012 - 10:53

    Mrs. Winters-Fost said she wanted to bring Clarence Peddle, a retired SAR co-ordinator, with her, to provide support and to clarify or expand on any information that may be put forth. Dunderdale could have brought Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O'Brien with her to the meeting, if she was afaid she couldn't answer any of the questions. Maybe they were afraid that he couldn't answer the questions either. To cancel the meeting for the reason stated is unacceptable. Just another PC showing their true colors.

  • Harold
    May 11, 2012 - 10:52

    inquiry. inquiry. inquiry. the people of Newfoundland Labrador are screaming for an inquiry on this sad tragid incident. what seems to be the problem in calling one?

  • David
    May 11, 2012 - 10:35

    Newfoundlanders have got to be the most vindictive, thin-skinned, juvenile peole on Earth. Whatever Dunderdale's sins and limitations, and there are plenty, she was being set up top be embarrassed by a family that put crass politicking ahead of what should be a period of private grief. This was pre-meditated, it was opportunistic, it was manipulative, and it is an affront to the life of an innocent child. The least damning possible scenario here is that that the family was unduly influenced and encouraged by others to engage in this heinous ambush, but that hardly excuses them. Dunderadlae may not be a good premier, but please get your arses out of the political mud you love long enough to be fair on at least ONE issue.

    • Jack
      May 11, 2012 - 11:14

      David, I'm originally from Nova Scotia but now live in this province, which technically makes me a "Mainlander" Newfoundlander, but I can tell you that not all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are thin skinned. Think about Danny Williams as a good example. As a former Premier, he was definitely not thin skinned and made a great effort to stand up for this province's future. In addition, he handled the critics and stood up for us very well, think about the time he embarrassed Sir James Paul McCartney on CNN over the seal hunt. Therefore, he was not thin skinned, but definitely thick skinned. Kathy "Ms. Selfishness" Dunderdale and her history of juvenile like behaviour such as the time she suspended Conservation Officers without pay for doing her job, submitting to Stephen Harper's abusive political tactics (something Danny Williams never did), and backing out of a meeting when things don't go her way and displaying unsportsmanlike/unprofessional behaviour definitely makes her thin skinned. Eventually, Premier Dunderdale will pay the price for her juvenile and unprofessional behaviour.

    • Mike
      May 11, 2012 - 11:18

      I want to start by stating that my political stripes run Liberal red. That said, I had a great deal of respect for Williams as a premier. I may not have agreed with his methods or all of his decisions, but everything he said or did, I believe was said or done with the best interests of this province as his guiding principle. He is intelligent and he is not a coward. Dunderdale is an embarrassment. She has no pull in Ottawa, she cannot stand-up for the electorate on any issue, she lacks intelligence and based on the decision to not meet with the Winters family, she is a coward. I am embarrassed to have her as a premier. To "David", the family is not engaging in crass politicking nor was this a heinous ambush. The family wants answers, not rhetoric or political spin. In order to make sure the right questions are asked, they asked someone to join them who was experienced in SAR. If Dunderdale was intent on meeting "grandmother to grandmother" then she would show Burton's grandmother the respect she deserves by showing up prepared to answer questions. Bailing out and sending O'Brien is a clear sign that this premier is afraid, too afraid to face a grandmother and too afraid to be questioned outside the immunity from the truth that dominates the House of Assembly. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can tolerate a great deal from our political leaders, but cowardice, in any form, is unforgiveable.

    • David
      May 11, 2012 - 11:52

      Jack, you appear to be a serious kool-aid addict You should hurry to get some methadone for's in limited supply right now.

    • David
      May 11, 2012 - 11:58

      Mike you are a quintessential example of the exact political fool, a person incapable of sticking to the facts of an issue, to which I refer. Well done.

  • Wanda
    May 11, 2012 - 10:25

    If this was the only way the family could possibly get some answers about the delays causing Burton's death, then this is what they had to resort to, and it should never, ever had to come to this. They've been wondering and waiting in agony for four long months! Wouldn't you.....if this was your young child?

  • Jeff
    May 11, 2012 - 09:29

    I can't blame the Premier for not attending the meeting. This was a set up to say the least! I wonder what time CBC was going to show up? Time to stop playing politics and getting media time with this story. Can we let the poor boy RIP?

    • David
      May 11, 2012 - 10:41

      So...we're apparently two out of 511,000, Jeff. For a citizenry who live and breathe nothing but politics, this place is full of absolutely, pathetically clueless lunatics, complete with foam at corners of their mouths.

  • Randy
    May 11, 2012 - 09:22

    This premier has to be the most gutless person ever in nl politics. She's scared to death of Harper, but why ignore the pleas of a dead boys grandmother for answers??Discusting

  • Fred Penner
    May 11, 2012 - 09:12

    The premier is absolutely correct....obviously. She wanted to meet with the family as a gesture of compassion but that was not the family's intention, they wanted to bring a retired SAR tech and that clearly changed the tone and purpose of the meeting. If you want to talk tech, then engage the right people! What is the purpose of asking tech questions to the wrong person if your intention is to get answers? Clearly, if you want answers then ask the right questions to the right people. The premier deals in policy not particulars.

  • William Daniels
    May 11, 2012 - 08:14

    Pawned off on O'Brien. What a slap in the face to the family.

  • Banish Dunderdale
    May 11, 2012 - 08:03

    In light of Kathy "Ms. Selfishness" Dunderdale's continued selfish, ignorant, insensitive, and heartless attitudes towards a grieving family, time for every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian, including Baymen, Townies, and Mainlanders, to stand up for Newfoundland and Labrador and remove this sorry excuse for a Premier once and for all. Her behaviour proves that she is not fit to represent the socially liberal culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the sooner she leaves, the better this province will be. That said, banish Kathy Dunderdale from this province.

  • Scott Free
    May 11, 2012 - 07:37

    Kathy Dunderdale has now stooped to the lowest level; here's a paritial list of your legacy low points: during your ministerial days, you were front and center in the Abitibi fiasco, a monumental blunder costing us untold millions; then, the Quebec Innu slaugher of the George River herd and your proclomation to prosecute to the fullest extend of the law; and, as a Provincial Conservative minister, you campaigned publically for then Liberal MP Coady; then, as appointed-interim Premier, you lied to the people by flip-flopping on your intentions; you supported Con PM Harper in the last federal election, knowing full well the oncoming cuts to this province, particularly in search and rescue; your stubbornness on Muscrat Falls could bankrupt this province for generations; you've deserted your own on the Burin Peninsula; fish plant closures are mounting; and, now, you've turned your back on a lost child's family; you've hit rock bottom. Do the honourable thing, Premier Stunderdale, and resign before you cause any more damage to the good people of NL & Labrador.

  • Joe
    May 11, 2012 - 07:34

    "Premier cancels meeting with dead boy's grandmother"? Completely inflammatory headline, Telegram editors. And not at all reflective of the actual content of the article.

  • roy
    May 11, 2012 - 07:34

    This meeting between the Premier and Burton Winters grandmother smells of a set up that only ther liberals could think off. Burtons death has been used by the opposition parties for political purposes to make points on the boys death. The premier had every right to cancell, she was being set up. Maybe meeting Burtons grandmother was political, i hope not, but it wasn't about to be one grandmother to another, its was a setup. I feel the liberals had something to do with it. Al you hear from the liberals is a public inquiry on this that and the other. If they were in power and had these public inquiries the province would get nothing done and be bankrupt

  • ed crane
    May 11, 2012 - 07:26

    What a rotten premiere we have. She's a coward and useless .... everyone in this province now has a good understanding of how Mrs Cowardly Kathy.. stands with this issue. just admit the government made a mistake.

  • Robb
    May 11, 2012 - 07:11

    ....????...Dead boy's mother.....????......who in the hell writes this stuff....???....could you just have said the boy's name....we all know what happened......have some compassion you people....!!!