Premier won’t hold ‘mini-inquiry’ into death of Burton Winters

Daniel MacEachern
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to media Friday morning while visiting a Sportfest event at the Techniplex in St. John’s. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Premier Kathy Dunderdale says she will not have a “mini-inquiry” in her office over the death of Labrador teen, Burton Winters.

A day after it was revealed the premier’s office cancelled a meeting with his family, citing the family’s request to have a retired search and rescue co-ordinator present, Dunderdale said she hasn’t reconsidered her decision.

“I’m absolutely happy to meet with Burton Winters’ family. But I’m not going to participate in a meeting that is much larger than that. That has a different agenda than that was proposed to me,” the premier told reporters while she attended the annual Sportsfest Friday morning at the Techniplex in St. John’s.

The premier said she’s trying to direct Burton’s grandmother, Charlotte Winters-Fost, to the best person to answer the questions she has about search and rescue operations. Burton, 14, got lost in late January on his snowmobile on sea ice near Makkovik. After his snowmobile broke down, Burton walked 19 kilometres in the wrong direction from Makkovik. His body was found days later.

Dunderdale said she doesn’t want the meeting to turn into a “media circus.”

“In terms of sitting with me and talking with me about Burton and what a fine young man he was and why I don’t believe a provincial inquiry is required, and why a provincial inquiry won’t get us the kinds of answers that they believe from the federal government, I’m happy to do that,” she said, adding she wasn’t the one who went to the media to tell them a meeting had been set up.

“It was agreed that we wouldn’t do media. That it would be two grandmothers talking to one another around those parameters.”

Winters-Fost said Friday it wouldn’t be a media circus if Dunderdale would call a public inquiry into her grandson’s death.

“That’s what our meeting was designed to do, was to make a personal plea to her for that,” she said. “I guess that’s not her area of expertise. I guess she’s not a decision-maker. That’s why we wanted to meet with her, because she’s the one who makes the decisions.”

The premier suggested the family meet instead with Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien, who is responsible for emergency services.

Speaking to reporters Friday morning, she rejected the suggestion she could have had O’Brien accompany her in her meeting with Winters-Fost.

“I’m not going to have a mini-inquiry up in my boardroom. If you’re bringing experts or so-called experts or expertise from outside to ask questions on search and rescue, what was done, what wasn’t done, you want express answers on why the rescue failed, then you need to go to the appropriate ministry and the appropriate organizations to give you that information. That’s a completely different agenda than what was proposed to me. Not once, but twice.”

But Winters-Fost said she’s not accepting the premier’s recommendation to meet with O’Brien.

“If I wanted a meeting with Mr. O’Brien, I would have requested a meeting with Mr. O’Brien,” she said.

“He’s not the one who calls for an inquiry. She is. He’s got his own responsibilities and roles, but calling for an inquiry is not one of them, and that’s why we wanted to meet with Ms. Dunderdale. She’s our premier. … It’s really, really disappointing, because we had hoped that she was the person for us to speak to, to make our personal plea to get what we as a family want, and it looks like it was the wrong thing to expect.”

 Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Geographic location: Makkovik

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Recent comments

  • Linda Roberts
    May 14, 2012 - 18:30

    Ms. Dunderdale is still interested in meeting the family privately. If specific info about the search and rescue efforts are on the agenda, then a meeting with the responsible Minister would be more appropriate and effective. I think the family should meet for both meetings.

  • Lola Roberts
    May 14, 2012 - 18:25

    Why won't the family agree to meet in two separate meetings? I think that more is better in this case.

  • Bet
    May 13, 2012 - 13:40

    I wonder how many Nflders loves that lady now,she will never take the place of danny,that is for sure

  • Jerome
    May 13, 2012 - 11:37

    We all tried, and now we all might as well give up; Dunderdale is NOT going to help this family find any answers or peace or closure.

  • David
    May 13, 2012 - 09:16

    Yes, a cover-up. That's the obvious answer. Not that the Newfoundland public is largely so stupid as to not know a cover-up if it hit them in the face, or that there is another much simpler, entirely blatant explanation. No, it's a cover-up.....gawd help us, we are an island of simpletons with fatal politics syndrome.

  • bayman
    May 13, 2012 - 08:07

    Looks to me like there is a big cover up going on here. Where there's smoke there's fire and there is someone who had the last word on whether they send a rescue team out or not. Someone on here team screwed up and she's covering up for him/her.

  • tom
    May 12, 2012 - 23:41

    Dunderdale should be as upset as the rest of us and want to make sure it doesn't happen again. We still hear about the Cougar crash, god rest them, but why finding out why we let this young man die is not of any interest to Dunderdale is beyond me.

  • Harvey
    May 12, 2012 - 14:19

    Premier D. is out to lunch too often !!! I talk to no one who supports her !!! She will carry the rest of her caucus down with her!!!

  • Harold
    May 12, 2012 - 09:20

    does anyone know if there is anyway the people who want an inquiry can speak with "one" voice and get this inquiry started? it is the taxpayer who pays the cost so if the taxpayer wants an inquiry why is there a problem calling an inquiry?

  • Johnny Seven
    May 12, 2012 - 09:17

    Dunderdale is only "surprised" and "concerned" about NL fishers having to go thru a charity marine medical organization that provides services primarily to 3rd world maritime nations?? What's next? Doctors Without Borders setting up shop in rural NL? In view of the latest on all this, how out of touch with the sentiments of NLers is that? Dunderdale's "surprise" and "concern"? If Dunderdale was a real leader she'd be expressing the outrage of NLers, federal loan guarantees be damned. On a related note, if I was a PC MHA right now, I'd be "concerned" too. No doubt with Dunderdale's timid response to this latest travesty from her darling Harperites, her approval ratings are in free-fall throughout the province right now. And she'll drag the rest of her party down with her. Dunderdale is beginning to look as useless and weak as Penashue

  • John
    May 12, 2012 - 07:49

    Refusing to meet with the Winters family because Mr. Peddle was there and she didn't want Mr. O'brien with her. I think is a "Thank God" I got my excuse not to go up there to meet them. And she doesn't want her nice boardroom to be used for a mini inquiry. If she even thinks you can do a mini inquiry in a day, she obviously knows nothing about an inquiry. By trying to please Stevie Boy Harper to get the loan gurantee for Muskrat Falls, she was too afraid to even fight a tiny bit for the RCC. She said she was talking to this one and that one and wrote them. I would love to see them letters. As it stands we only have her word that the phone calls were made and the letters were written. Danny's one mistake was putting her in as interm Premier. Unfortunately for us, she's DEFINATELY NOT Danny. If Danny was still there, our SAR Coordination Center would still be operational. Love Him or hate him, he got things done and his only job was to do anything that was good for NL.