Let’s turn up the heat on Ottawa

Gerry Phelan
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A few different words would have changed the story and the headline.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale has been asked several times if she regrets endorsing Stephen Harper in the 2011 federal election. Last week was the closest we’ve seen to an admission that her support for Steve has failed to curry favour.

She delivered a verbal tongue-lashing to one of his ministers, but imagine for a moment if our Kathy had taken her rightful tirade one step further. What if the quote had been, “Yes, I do. I regret supporting Stephen Harper and his government.”

The Saturday editions of newspapers across the country would have carried the headline, “N.L. premier withdraws support for PM.”

On the very day Stephen Harper headed to the United States to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders, his aids would have had to tell him Dunderdale isn’t happy and is making a stink about it.

It took the apparent empty promises over Goose Bay to get Kathy’s dander up. While Ottawa insists it has plans for the base, a battalion of troops and an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron for 5 Wing are not in the cards. I’m sure we will see some announcements to pacify MP and cabinet minister Peter Penashue, but for years military brass have appeared to be less than fond of Goose Bay.

Penashue will have to call in a few chits to have anything meaningful happen. He told the House of Commons, “I can reaffirm that our government is working to fulfil our commitment for an operational mandate for 5 Wing Goose Bay that takes advantage of a unique location and enhances the protection of Canadian sovereignty, including in the Arctic.”

The base issue is just the latest in a string of federal decisions that are prompting people to wonder when the punishment will stop.

I can’t even remember where it all began, except perhaps it was May 3 of last year, the day after the federal election that gave Harper and his crowd a majority government. We gave him one seat, and that wasn’t good enough. Canadians gave him the country and we’ve been paying ever since.

The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre closure was the first black mark. Since then, in no particular order, they announced closings of the food safety lab in St. John’s and the Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook and changes at the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Then it was Parks Canada, where several dozen positions were eliminated. Last week we heard of further cuts at DFO — close to 60 jobs in our province. Ottawa has also taken another blade to fisheries science and research. There are Canadian Coast Guard reductions, as well, including the marine traffic centres in St. John’s and St. Anthony.

There’s also frustration over the changes to the Old Age Security plan, which many of us hope the next government will reverse. And again this month, trial balloons have been launched about changes to employment insurance. Better get ready for another ouch.

Provincial Liberal Leader Dwight Ball is correct when he says the provincial government has been too passive. It is not OK for the Dunderdale administration to simply argue that the federal government made commitments and has a responsibility to live up to those commitments. The premier sounded exasperated as she asked what we have to do to get the feds to live up to their promises for Goose Bay. She told reporters, “We tried to get along, it didn’t work. We didn’t talk to them, we launched an ABC campaign, we ripped down flags, it didn’t work. People didn’t vote for him, that didn’t work.”

Some suggest nothing will change the Harper agenda, but that’s not good enough. The federal government seems to subscribe to the sick practice of breaking the will of a child.

In an ABC News documentary, a pastor made the comment, “if you are not bruising your child, you are not spanking the child enough.”

We’ve got the bruises. The spanking has to stop.

Good for you, Kathy. Now turn it up a notch. It’s time to give ’er.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster.

He can be reached at gerryp@bellaliant.net



Organizations: House of Commons, ABC News, Veterans Affairs Canadian Border Services Agency Parks Canada Canadian Coast Guard

Geographic location: Ottawa, Goose Bay, United States Arctic Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Lane
    May 29, 2012 - 12:09

    Phelan, your argument doesn't hold water. Not one of the federal cuts you refer to is targeted to NL - these are nation-wide cuts. And there are many cuts to other federal departments that impact other provinces far more than NL. The federal government is cutting costs everywhere, not just in our province. And I actually believe that Minister Penashue and the Conservative government are going to announce something major for CFB Goose Bay. Otherwise, why would Penashue keep the issue alive by constantly making vague promises of good things to come? It would not make sense politically for him to do that if he didn't know something good was coming.

  • Cyril Rogers
    May 25, 2012 - 10:06

    Mr. Phalen, do you seriously think Harper loses any sleep over events down here in this remote corner of the world? He will keep Ms Dunderdale dangling, in terms of a meeting, just as he did last year when she so pathetically waited to get to speak with him on the phone about the MSRC. We are a nuisance to Harper, but a minor one, and he will keep sending his pathetic lackey minister down here to utter his trivial nonsence. Penashue has the sensitivity of a louse and fits in quite well with Harper, so who do you approach on these issues? He and Harper will not review or ever admit to making a mistake so how can our Premier realistically expect a one-on-one to produce any results. This province needs an effective strategy, and a long-term game plan, if they hope to make any headway with Harper or, for that matter, the Ottawa mandarins who effectively keep putting the boots to us. The grave issues facing this province's rural communities will not find a champion in Kathy Dunderdale, and the fishery will never prosper as long as it is controlled by the folks residing on the Rideau Canal. We need a Crisis Coalition in this province right now but we are so divided and so intent on sniping at each other that we can never effectively take on Ottawa, unless we can overcome our own petty politics. For that, we have to take responsibility, as we have, for far too long, confined our thinking along the lines of party politics.