To the rescue

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Somewhere, David Orchard must be having a good chuckle. Orchard felt the sting of betrayal after making a pact with rival candidate Peter MacKay in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention.

To get Orchard’s endorsement, MacKay vowed not to make any political deals with the Canadian Alliance Party.

Before the ink was even dry, MacKay and the Alliance’s Stephen Harper had reached a deal to merge the two parties into the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

Ever since, MacKay has earned a reputation as the flip-flop king.

In 2007, MacKay, then foreign affairs minister, said this: “We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes as we saw with the Liberal government.”

Tell that to Bill Casey.

Casey, a Nova Scotia Tory MP, was not happy with unilateral changes to the Atlantic Accords contained in the federal budget that same year. He voted against the budget. He was booted out of caucus.

MacKay was also front and centre in the scandal over Afghan prisoners being tortured in their own country, and well mired in obfuscation over F-35 fighter jet costs. Both played a part in a historic ruling of contempt by the Speaker of the House of Commons in 2011.

“When you throw in getting hauled out of a Newfoundland fishing camp on the public dime in a search and rescue chopper, spending $47,000 on a photo-op posing inside a plywood F-35, and not seeming to know how much anything costs when it comes to military hardware, MacKay would seem to be toast,” Michael Harris wrote in iPolitics in December 2012. “So why isn’t he?”

Harris thinks he knows: “(MacKay) has merely followed the core of Stephen Harper’s communications strategy: the Conservatives aren’t bound by the facts, they create them. What they say is fact becomes fact.”

Which all leads to the latest somersault.

Faced with extensive criticism from federal auditor general Michael Ferguson’s report released this week, Defence Minister MacKay has suddenly seen the light.

Canada’s search-and-rescue system is “not good enough,” an apparently contrite MacKay told the House Wednesday. He said he accepted the AG’s findings of inadequate staffing, old equipment and shoddy communications strategy.

What a change a year makes. This time last year, MacKay fended off cries for change from provincial politicians, federal MPs, field experts and victims’ families following the January 2012 Burton Winters tragedy.

St. John’s East MP Jack Harris was not surprised by the AG’s conclusions.

“The protection of Canadians through search and rescue should be given more priority than it is,” Harris told reporters Wednesday.

On Thursday, MacKay announced some wide-ranging changes to the system. But can we expect real action this time?

It’s a little like Charlie Brown asking Lucy if she’s going to snatch the ball away again.

Organizations: Canadian Alliance Party, Alliance, Conservative Party of Canada.Ever House of Commons Conservatives

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Canada

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  • Maggy Carter
    May 03, 2013 - 11:03

    Errr...unSound Logic...you do understand that separation means you are no longer dependant on hand-outs from another level of government. What you may not understand is that, on its own, Newfoundland and Labrador would enjoy lower taxes and a significantly higher standard of income than as part of the Canadian federation. Not only is that evident from the fact that this province is now a net contributor to Canada's equalization system, but it would have full control and realize the full benefit of its own offshore resources. This includes the fish resources systematically destroyed and alienated under federal jurisdiction, and offshore oil and gas which provides at least as much economic benefit to Ottawa as it does to the province. Separation would also nullify the insidious decision by Canada's Supreme Court ( a court on which we have never been afforded representation in our entire 64 year history as a province) that rejected this province's legal right to remedy the unconscionable Churchill Falls contract. As far as getting "more stuff from Ottawa", you do realize that the mere threat of separation by Quebec has gotten it more stuff from Ottawa than any other part of Canada. In her defence, even Kathy Dunderdale has acknowledged the near futility of our dependence on Ottawa. It was almost a year ago that her exasperation in dealing with MacKay provoked the following comment: "What is it that we have to do down here to get your attention? We try to cooperate, 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? The amount of influence we have is certainly now on the table for examination. There is no question about it.”

  • Maggy Carter
    May 03, 2013 - 10:48

    Errr...unSound Logic...you do understand that separation means you are no longer dependant on hand-outs from another level of government. What you may not understand is that, on its own, Newfoundland and Labrador would enjoy lower taxes and a significantly higher standard of income than as part of the Canadian federation. Not only is that evident from the fact that this province is now a net contributor to Canada's equalization system, but it would have full control and realize the full benefit of its own offshore resources. This includes the fish resources systematically destroyed and alienated under federal jurisdiction, and offshore oil and gas which provides at least as much economic benefit to Ottawa as it does to the province. Separation would also nullify the insidious decision by Canada's Supreme Court ( a court on which we have never been afforded representation in our entire 64 year history as a province) that rejected this province's legal right to remedy the unconscionable Churchill Falls contract. As far as getting "more stuff from Ottawa", you do realize that the mere threat of separation by Quebec has gotten it more stuff from Ottawa than any other part of Canada. In her defence, even Kathy Dunderdale has acknowledged the near futility of our dependence on Ottawa. It was almost a year ago that her exasperation in dealing with MacKay provoked the following comment: "What is it that we have to do down here to get your attention? We try to cooperate, 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? The amount of influence we have is certainly now on the table for examination. There is no question about it.”

  • Harsh treatment by Ottawa to the province that gives it the greatest security in natural resources for economy building and strategic location that secures it as a complete country from Sea to shining Sea.
    May 03, 2013 - 10:10

    Maggie you have honed in on the operations of Ottawa as they relate to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador succinctly and accurately. How much longer are we, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, going to allow ourselves to be led like dogs on a leash? It is sickening how the most important province in Canada for 64 years, as it related to a ready supply of raw natural resources that were destined for use in creating Canada's great economy; and the strategic location it held, has been treated.

  • Sound logic
    May 03, 2013 - 08:40

    Yes Maggy, we'll get even more stuff from Ottawa if we separate from Canada.

  • Cyril Rogers
    May 03, 2013 - 08:37

    McKay's word is mud...he is clearly not to be trusted. He will say one thing while planning something else, even as he speaks, having been caught doing this again and again. No wonder politicians are held in more and more contempt. Our local PC's are tarred with the same "Do as I say....not as I do" mentality and are not to be trusted.If you the Open Line comments and motions in the HOA from their backbenchers, you have to wonder what kind of indoctrination process they are going through. These guys are nauseating in their pronouncements and their glorifying and edifying of their great leader. All the while, they and their leaders talk the talk but will not walk the walk.....just like Peter McKay. But, then again, she did get on the stage with PM Harper, who is no slouch himself when it comes to saying one thing and doing something else. In fact, Peter has probably learned a thing or two from him.

  • Maggy Carter
    May 03, 2013 - 08:05

    Is that anyway to talk about our former, soon to be again, regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador? The article omits the Harper/MacKay tag team promise to station a rapid deployment force of 650 Canadian troops at Goose Bay. Logistically it makes sense, given that Goose Bay is strategically located on the Great Circle Route for air travel across the Atlantic. But privately neither MacKay nor the military brass want anything to do with the plan. Mind you, that doesn't stop their repeated public insistence that approval is just around the corner - the corner being the next federal election or by-election in Labrador. When Penashue loses that by-election 10 days from now, is there any chance we could persuade Harper to appoint someone from Saskatchewan as our new regional minister? Another two years with MacKay in charge of the candy shop and there won't be a gum drop left in the place. Separation anyone?