Newfoundland Liberal MPs say they are perplexed by Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s comments blaming them for a lack of effort in lobbying Ottawa to keep the St. John’s search and rescue sub-centre open.
“I’ve got to believe ... the premier is feeling a heck of a lot of pressure, because the truth is she did put a lot of weight into a partnership with Stephen Harper,” Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne said.
“Some would say she sold her soul. I don’t agree with that statement, but she did indeed vest an awful lot of her own political capital with Stephen Harper in the last election campaign. It’s not paying off.”
Byrne says he believes the premier “probably went over the top” in her criticisms of the province’s four Liberal MPs.
Random-Burin-St. George’s MP Judy Foote was equally surprised.
“I really didn’t know what to make of it,” Foote said. “I have no idea where that came from, why she would go down that path.”
Foote says it’s important for all politicians in the province to work together on what she calls a “life and death issue.”
She says she is “at a loss for words” after hearing Dunderdale’s comments.
“For the premier to turn [it] into a political football, I’m surprised, I’m shocked, and I have no understanding at all why she would have done that,” Foote said.
Both Byrne and Foote made the comments on CBC’s On Point Radio.
‘What are they doing?’
In the legislature Thursday, Dunderdale parried opposition attacks over the search-and-rescue sub-centre by shifting blame to the province’s four Liberal MPs.
“What are they doing?” Dunderdale asked. “What are they doing, because ... we are doing everything that we can at every opportunity, and we will continue to press this matter every day on a go-forward basis, as we have every day since the decision was announced.”
In a testy exchange with Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones, the premier accused the MPs of “political posturing,” and being ineffective on the search centre issue.
“The only time we hear from them is on Open Line shows here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Dunderdale told the legislature.
“What kind of an impact are they having in Ottawa? That is what they are paid to do ... that is their job – do it.”
The Harper Conservatives announced the closure of the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John’s not long after last year’s federal election.
The centre communicates with military, coast guard and civilian ships in rescue responses.
That work will be handled on the mainland after the St. John’s facility's closure, set for the last week of April.
The pending closure has put Newfoundland and Labrador Tories at odds with their federal cousins.