Dunderdale 'extremely frustrated' dealing with MacKay
N.L. premier says questions about province's influence in Ottawa 'on the table'
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale is singling out Defence Minister Peter MacKay for failing to deliver on past federal election promises to the province.
"I’m extremely frustrated with Minister Mackay," Dunderdale told reporters at Confederation Building in St. John’s Thursday.
The premier was responding to a CBC News story about past Conservative election promises to station a battalion of troops and an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron at 5 Wing Goose Bay in Labrador.
MacKay's recent written response to questions tabled in Parliament reveal that those 2006 pledges are no longer part of the military’s plans. Neither is a territorial defence unit planned for St. John’s.
Dunderdale said the province has had some measure of success dealing with other federal ministers.
"But we seem to be having a significant challenge around having Minister MacKay respond to the commitments made to the people of the province," the premier told reporters.
As for past Conservative promises on 5 Wing, Dunderdale acknowledged that "if they’re not dead, they’re on a sick bed."
Support for Harper
In a sharp U-turn of provincial Tory policy, Dunderdale campaigned with the prime minister during last year’s federal election, appearing on stage with him at a rally in St. John’s.
In 2008, the Danny Williams-led provincial Tories launched the so-called ABC campaign — Anything But Conservative — aimed at shutting out the Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador. It succeeded.
Dunderdale acknowledged the province has tried a number of different approaches in dealing with Ottawa.
"What is it that we have to do down here to get your attention?" she said. "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?"
Asked whether the issue was bigger than just MacKay, and also involved Harper, the premier said: "The amount of influence we have is certainly now on the table for examination. There is no question about it."
Question period grilling
Opposition Leader Dwight Ball grilled the premier on the 5 Wing issue during question period at the legislature.
"What we’re seeing really is a disturbing trend of those broken promises from the Harper Conservatives, and really we see this government as being much too passive in its response," Ball said.
The Liberal leader referenced a number of recent federal cuts, including the closure of the search and rescue sub-centre, along with job losses at DFO and Parks Canada.
"Why would you sit idly by while the Harper Conservatives are continuing to break promises and making cuts to this province?"
Dunderdale denied the charge.
"The one thing that this government has not done is sit idly by," she said. "We have used every opportunity available to us —politically, and as a government — to influence the federal government.
"We believe strongly, as do all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that the federal government has a responsibility to the people of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, regardless of whether we supported them or we didn’t. They made commitments to the people of this province. They have a responsibility to live up to those commitments."