11/07/2014 04:20 EST | Updated 01/07/2015 05:59 EST

Rob Nicholson Blocked Our Tour Of Military Site: NDP MPs


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Two New Democrat MPs are accusing Defence Minister Rob Nicholson of playing politics after they were denied a tour of a new Canadian Forces station in St. John's, N.L.

Ryan Cleary and Peter Stoffer planned to visit the new military site Friday but say they were notified the visit was off because it's just outside Cleary's riding.

"From my riding you can hit the station with a rock," Cleary, who represents St. John's South-Mount Pearl, said in an interview.

The line between his federal turf and that of St. John's East MP Jack Harris runs down the middle of Quidi Vidi Lake in front of the new building, he said.

"I think it's ridiculous," Cleary said. "For me, this is pure politics."

Cleary said constituents who work at the base encouraged him to arrange a tour that was suddenly cancelled Thursday by Nicholson's office.

"We weren't going in looking for ammunition to fire at the Conservatives. We were going in just for a tour to get the lay of the land."

Stoffer said it's a missed chance to see how things are done at the site, including five buildings finished last March at an estimated cost of $156 million.

"It's rather unfortunate that the government uses this situation to play politics ... when really all we're trying to do is learn more about what the men and women do for our country."

A spokeswoman for Nicholson did not confirm or deny the tour was cancelled. But Johanna Quinney says MPs often visit bases outside their ridings for government events.

"At all times we want to ensure that resources for the Canadian Armed Forces are used effectively," she said in an emailed response.

"Members of Parliament from all parties routinely visit bases outside their home riding whether it's with parliamentary committees, to attend an important event or to otherwise participate in government work. If any member has a base within their riding, a visit certainly can be arranged."

Canadian Forces Station St. John's houses and supports eight regular and reserve units along with one dental unit detachment and centres for health services and personnel support. The site also includes a military family resource centre and a secure military vehicle compound.

The consolidated station replaces outmoded, separate buildings that were scattered across 24 hectares.

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