Prime Minister Harper has told Defence Minister Peter MacKay to find a role for 5 Wing/Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay, a military base in Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue’s riding (David Pugliese, “PM tells MacKay to make way for military in Goose Bay: documents,” Ottawa Citizen, November 25, 2012):
Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been given marching orders to find a new role for the Canadian Forces at Goose Bay, a move that could help shore up embattled fellow Conservative MP Peter Penashue.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote to MacKay on Jan. 17 and again on June 15 about the need to move ahead with finding a larger military role for 5 Wing/Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.
The military base in Labrador is no longer the bustling installation it was more than a decade ago when a number of NATO forces conducted air training there.
Harper wants the military to put emphasis on protecting Canadian sovereignty and he sees Goose Bay as potentially able to play a key part in that, MacKay was told.
In the run-up to the 2006 election, Harper promised that, under a Conservative government, Goose Bay would become home to a new 650-member military rapid reaction unit as well as a new squadron operating long-range unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The Canadian Forces has successfully resisted those proposals according to defence sources, but with Penashue under fire, they are now being pushed to come up with a high-profile role for the base.
Penashue has recently been the target of criticism for overspending on his campaign during the 2011 election. The Intergovernmental Affairs Minister is the only Conservative MP in Newfoundland and Labrador, and he won his seat by only a small margin.
Penashue was also criticized earlier this year for his comments about the base at Goose Bay:
In May, Penashue made headlines after he claimed that CFB Goose Bay is a “satellite office” and that the Conservative government intended on changing that situation. “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,” Penashue told CBC.
Goose Bay is already a base and Penashue had to retreat from his claims.
Although now a strong defender (and potential beneficiary) of the operations at the base, Penashue was at one time a key leader of the Innu protests against low-level flying training in Labrador-Quebec.
Photo credit: DND