05/24/2012 12:12 EDT | Updated 07/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Labrador base to get bigger role in future, Penashue says

Ottawa is planning to turn 5 Wing Goose Bay into a full-fledged military base, according to Newfoundland and Labrador's representative in the federal cabinet, Peter Penashue.

In an interview for this week’s episode of On Point with David Cochrane, Penashue said Goose Bay will have a role to play in Canada's Arctic sovereignty.

He said that will mean a change in Goose Bay's status.

“Previous governments, Liberals, have never turned it into an operational base,” Penashue said. “It’s a station. It’s a satellite office. And we’re committed to turning 5 Wing Goose Bay into a full-fledged military base.”

Pressed on when that may happen, Penashue said news will come soon.

“We’ll be making announcements in the next several months,” the minister said.

Penashue said a committee is looking for ways to expand the station.

He said the beefed-up role will likely be related to the protection of Canada's Arctic.

Last week, Defence Minister Peter MacKay issued a statement highlighting his support for 5 Wing without reiterating past Conservative promises to bolster staffing levels at the Labrador base.

MacKay said Ottawa was looking an “operational mandate” for the base.

The defence minister issued the statement after CBC News reported on his written response to questions tabled in the House of Commons.

MacKay’s written answers indicated that previous Conservative promises for the Labrador facility are now off the radar.

In 2006, the Conservatives promised to station a new, 650-member rapid reaction army battalion at CFB Goose Bay, plus a new long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron at the base.

Additionally, a promise to create a new territorial defence battalion of about 100 regular force and 400 reserve force personnel in St. John’s is now no longer on the table.