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.”