Premier to Harper: We need to talk

James McLeod
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to reporters outside the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Premier Kathy Dunderdale made it clear Tuesday that she thinks the federal government made some mistakes in the search for Burton Winters earlier this year.

A requested Cormorant helicopter was not dispatched to help search for the missing Labrador teen in early January.

On Tuesday, Dunderdale called it “a very bad judgement call” made by the military not to send the Cormorant and aid in the search, and she said it will be one of the items on the agenda of a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper she’s requested.

In recent weeks, issues have been piling up that have the provincial government criticizing Ottawa.

On Thursday, Dunderdale called out Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the wake of a revelation  the federal government has no plans to station a battalion at the Canadian Forces base in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, despite a 2006 election promise from Harper.

Dunderdale has also been critical of Harper for the way federal budget cuts have been rolling out across the country.

“We are not the only part of the country that is getting hit, although it feels like we are getting hit harder,” Dunderdale said in response to a question about federal cuts from NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.

As the issues have piled up — most notably the Burton Winters controversy — the Liberal party has been calling on Dunderdale to be more vocally critical of the federal government.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has accused Dunderdale of doing nothing but writing letters to her federal counterparts. On Tuesday, he welcomed the news Dunderdale has asked for a meeting with Harper.

“For months now we have been asking the premier to put aside her letter-writing campaign and actually take the initiative to organize face-to-face meetings with the federal government,”  Ball said during question period. “Apparently the premier has finally requested to meet with the federal officials in Ottawa at some point in the future.”

Dunderdale flatly dismissed the notion her request to meet with Harper has anything to do with anything that the opposition has been saying, though.

“Never in the last few months has the Leader of the Opposition or any of his colleagues asked me to organize face-to-face meetings with the prime minister,” Dunderdale said in the House. “I have done so on my own initiative and recently made the request for a meeting with the prime minister.”

Speaking to reporters after question period, Dunderdale said her letters to MacKay have produced some answers on what exactly happened with Burton Winters, but she’s not happy about the answers she’s received.

Dunderdale said no Cormorant helicopter was sent from Gander because if the aircraft was dispatched, there would not be another crew readily available.

“I believe they could have dispatched a Cormorant from Gander and could have attempted, at least, to try and search,” Dunderdale said. “It wouldn’t have left a crew on the ground in Gander in case of some circumstance occurring here. I just don’t find that acceptable rationale in this instance.”

Dunderdale was careful to note the provincial government has no formal agreement with the federal government that requires the feds to help with a ground search.

She said all requests are made on “humanitarian” grounds. She said, under the circumstances, there may be a call to change the protocols.

“It’s a longstanding practice that they respond as part of a humanitarian effort when their services are requested,” she said. “All you can do is reiterate the case to the minister and to the prime minister and ask for a change of protocol.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Canadian Forces

Geographic location: Labrador, Happy Valley, Goose Bay Gander Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Eli
    May 23, 2012 - 15:25

    If one were to take out the number of times the Premier called on "Mr. Speaker" in her deliveries answering questions in The House, there'd be nothing in what she says. There's nothing anyway, just balderdash! Kennedy or O'Brien wouldn't be any better.

  • McCadden
    May 23, 2012 - 14:59

    The Premier has many more issues to discuss with Ottawa: 1) the loss of our Search and Rescue subcentre; 2) Ottawa's decision to cut health care for refugees; 3) now the loss of funding to all Regional Economic Development Associations. Say "good-bye" to rural Nfld. Since the early 1970's rural development work has been funded by the feds, resulting in the creation of many cottage industries, such as crafts, tourism infrastructure, the creation of a new business selling kelp for medical purposes (Lamaline), science and technology infrastructure (business centres), the development of seasonal occupations including nurseries, cottages and Bed and Breakfast establishments. What will happen to our 19 regional economic boards when Ottawa cuts the funding? Harper wants to spend the money on EXISTING businesses. How will small businesses receive help and advice to start up? This is a tragedy!

  • Lynne
    May 23, 2012 - 10:25

    There's only one thing the Premier said that I agree with, since she's been in office I might add, and that's not having a relief crew left on the ground in the chance that something else might happen is NOT a valid answer for why the Comorant and aid where not dispatched. Imagine if we took that stance for everything here on the the island...for example..."oh sorry ma'am, we can't transport your daughter to the hospital in the ambulance for her broken femur, even though we're the only ambulance in the community, someone else might have a heart attack." See? sounds just as absurd.

  • Don
    May 23, 2012 - 09:48

    Anybody ever hear...if you try one thing, it doesnt work, try something else? We tried the ABC with Harper, this didnt work. So Dunderdale tried getting along with the PM...what is so wrong with that? Now she is looking for a meeting with the PM, thats what we want...right? You can't win for losing here in this province. Some people have too much time on their hands...

    • Tom Jones
      May 23, 2012 - 10:10

      Hey "Don", she should not have to wait till her hand is forced to request meeting with PMSH!! To defend her is really lame!!

  • Dundernan
    May 23, 2012 - 08:59

    Dundernan is a pathetic excuse for a Premier! Too little too late, Cathy. You should have been on top of this months ago, vocally and strongly. You are a weak and sorry excuse for a "leader". Resign!! You have no place or reason to be any way arrogant like you are!!! For shame! This is just a political stunt in a time of declining poll numbers!!

    • sammy
      May 23, 2012 - 09:05

      She only acted because 99.9% of the people in NL wanted something done !!! Bring along the next election.

  • Ya know ya know ya know
    May 23, 2012 - 08:58

    KFR - in Defence of Kathy Dunderdale, she was elected by an overwhelming majority of the population. Therefore she must be right. That's the logic we've had around here for a decade or so. And with respect to your comment about ''...can't even put together a full sentence without stammering and sputtering'' I think that is an unfair means to judge the current Premier. Did you ever listen to her predecessor try to blurt out a sentence?

    • Frank M
      May 23, 2012 - 09:12

      Her predecessor was Danny Williams. I might not agree with his policies, but he was a Rhodes scholar and articulated his point of view well.

    • Check your facts
      May 23, 2012 - 10:37

      Overwhelming majority of the population? Voter turnout was a record low 58%. Her party garnered just over 56% of votes cast. That's about 32.5% of eligible voters. That's not even a majority of the voting population, let alone an overwhelming one.

  • Feathering Her Own Nest
    May 23, 2012 - 08:50

    With a NL Senate seat becoming vacant in September with the mandatory retirement of Senator Ethel Cochrane, Kathy wants to talk to Harper about her own future. The PC knives are sharpening is what I am hearing.

  • Dan
    May 23, 2012 - 08:22

    Just another blunder to add to the list! Too little Too late! The damage is done, I guess you should have listened to the people that have said not to cozy up to Harper. His ship is sinking and so is yours Premier

    May 23, 2012 - 08:18

    I have to give Premier Dunderdale her due here, she gave the Federal Government the benefit of the doubt, while everyone around her was screaming that she should have unleashed everything in her arsenal that she knew created the huge inequality here. For 63 years the Federal Government had its free will of how the Newfoundland and Labrador natural and human resources of our province would be utilized to build economies in the other regions of Canada, and nobody said a damn word about it. The only thing we got out of the "honey" process was that Ottawa recognized us as being an "unaware" people and they could heap more destruction upon us by not treating us equally. Along came Danny Williams and he told it like it was, and delivered the "vinegar" process and then we were treated even worse than before. So people please don't say that there is more wrought with honey than vinegar. The only process that we need to utilize here is for our government to go to Ottawa and give the full accounting of what the most Eastern province of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, has given Canada. With our province, Canada gained its complete Eastern flank situated on millions of miles of the Atlantic Ocean, with a Continental Shelf of 2.5 million square miles and several thousand miles of coastline. We have not received our fair share of the Federal jobs and infrastructure that Ottawa has handed out since it fulfilled its dream of acquiring the most important part of the country in 1949 at a time when the Western World was poised to create 21 Great economies and did so, with the natural and human resources of Newfoundland and Labrador paying all the way on its own without creating an economy itself.

  • Stephen Harper
    May 23, 2012 - 07:58

    "Kathy who?"

  • Rick
    May 23, 2012 - 07:46

    Too bad Peter McKay wasn't ice fishing somewhere close to young Winters, then there would be no issue in sending out a Helicopter. Since that how he gets too and from his fishing trips. Just bad timing I guess. My advice to everyone is if you plan an outing check Peter's schedule and plan your event somewhere near him. Your safety may depend on it. (he wasn't too concerned about ground crews when he was air lifted). Isn't there anything we can do about this joke we call a government

  • Gerry
    May 23, 2012 - 07:42

    Too little--too late. Amazing how that much confidence in a government can be diminshed in a short period of time. Unfortunately Premier, you just don't have what it takes. Can't wait for the next election

  • holy smokes
    May 23, 2012 - 07:30

    Premier to Harper: We need to talk harper to Premier: We talked listened..We have nothing more to say!

  • William Daniels
    May 23, 2012 - 07:19

    I hope it was a strongly worded letter she sent. To little to late Premier but I am glad you have the initiative to request a meeting. Gimme a break.

  • KFR
    May 23, 2012 - 07:08

    Resign Dunderdale; you are not cut out or do you have the tools to be Premier of this province. This must have been a bad joke by Danny Williams to appoint you as premier, This women can't even put together a full sentence without stammering and sputtering; you are an embarrassment to the people of Nfld and Labrador.