POLITICS

New Labrador MP hones in on search and rescue

06/05/2013 09:57 EDT | Updated 08/05/2013 05:12 EDT
After a bit of a bumpy start, newly elected Labrador MP Yvonne Jones used her first day in Parliament Tuesday to hammer the government's record on search and rescue.

Jones, a Liberal who defeated former federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue in May's byelection in Labrador, asked about an incident last month in which Innu leader Joseph Riche died at a remote lake.

None of the three Griffon helicopters based at the air force base in nearby Happy Valley-Goose Bay was available to respond to the emergency. All three were undergoing maintenance.

"This was days after the Minister of National Defence made a campaign stop in town to reassure people that adequate search and rescue was in place," Jones said during question period.

"Why does the government continue to ignore the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are crying out for help with search and rescue?" said Jones, who in a follow-up question alleged the governing Conservatives have "gutted" the search and rescue service.

Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the associate minister of defence, denied the allegation.

"We are extremely proud of our search and rescue teams that work with federal, provincial and municipal partners to respond as quickly as possible. They risk their own lives so that others may live," said Findlay.

"Each search and rescue operation is complex, and the victims' survival depends on many factors," she said.

Jones was escorted into the House of Commons by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Gerry Byrne, the MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte.

En route, Jones committed a faux pas by crossing between the Speaker and the mace.

Then, she almost sat on the wrong side of the House with the governing Tories, which brought chuckles from both sides.

"My apologies and my thanks for your tolerance today, Mr. Speaker," Jones said when she rose to ask her debut question.