11/26/2012 06:27 EST | Updated 01/26/2013 05:12 EST

Harper pressed for progress at Goose Bay, report says

A newspaper report states Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly asked Defence Minister Peter MacKay to develop a larger role for the Canadian Forces air base in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Harper wrote MacKay twice this year about 5 Wing Goose Bay – first in January and again in June – to ask the defence minister to find a way to expand the base.

Federal politicians have been promising to bring more military work to the area for years. Before the 2006 federal election, Harper spoke about the future of the base.

"I can assure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in particular that we will not be shutting down Goose Bay. We will be instituting an operational requirement that will keep that base viable for the future," he said.

Harper said a military rapid-reaction unit would be based in Goose Bay, and also spoke of the possibility of operating unmanned drones from the base – neither of which has happened.

Prior to the 2011 federal election, Labrador MP Peter Penashue said he was told at a meeting with Harper that the base would not close.

Penashue issues statement

Meanwhile, in a statement emailed to CBC on Monday afternoon, Penashue said he's working with MacKay, and is looking forward to making an announcement soon.

Penashue wrote that the Tories are committed to CFB Goose Bay.

"We made a promise to establish a sovereignty protection mission for 5 Wing, and we will fulfil that promise," he said.

Many empty buildings

There are fewer than 100 military personnel at the base in Goose Bay, which is a fraction of the number a decade ago when NATO nations used it for low-level flight training.

Dozens of buildings remain empty, while many others have already been demolished.

This summer, during a visit to Labrador, MacKay repeated that the base's future remains bright.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Monday some positive news for the base is overdue.

"It's long past time for something to be done and if there are indications that something will be done, that's only good news for people in Newfoundland and Labrador – particularly the people of Labrador," she said.