Premier Kathy Dunderdale was angry Thursday afternoon after learning that the federal Conservatives have no plans to station 650 troops at the base in Goose Bay.
Speaking to reporters outside the House of Assembly, Dunderdale made it clear that she’s laying all of the blame at the feet of Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
“For me, at the moment, it’s a Minister MacKay problem,” Dunderdale said.
“I am very frustrated with the way the minister has been responding in terms of commitments made to the people of the province and not addressing fully the reasons for moving away from it.”
During the 2006 election campaign, then-opposition leader Stephen Harper promised that if elected, he would station a 650 troop army battalion in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Six years later, Harper hasn’t delivered on the promise, and in documents tabled in the House of Commons earlier this year, it looks like there’s nothing coming any time soon.
“There are currently no plans to establish Regular Force battalions in CFBs Comox; Goose Bay, Trenton and Bagotville,” the government said, in response to an order paper question written by a Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner.
In response to the news, Dunderdale laid into the Harper government — especially singling out MacKay — saying they just don’t seem to be paying attention to Newfoundland and Labrador.
“What is it that we have to do down here to get your attention?” Dunderdale asked. “We try to co-operate; it doesn’t work. We vote for you; it doesn’t work. We don’t vote for you; it doesn’t work. What is it?”
Late in the day, a statement from MacKay’s office was issued in which he said the government is still committed to finding some use for Goose Bay.
The statement did not specifically reference the commitment to station 650 troops at the base.
“I wish to reaffirm that the Defence team is working to fulfil our commitment for an operational mandate for Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay so that the Base, and the community, prospers for years to come,” MacKay said. “Our government is committed to ensuring a clear operational mandate for 5 Wing Goose Bay that takes advantage of its unique location and enhances the protection of Canadian sovereignty, including in the Arctic.”
In the House of Assembly, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball laid the issue at the feet of the PC government, saying Dunderdale needs to be doing more to press Harper and MacKay.
“You’ve got to go to the Prime Minister. It was his commitment,” he told reporters after question period. “At the end of the day, this is his decision, his attention needs to be brought (to) this.”