Political leaders have a moral duty to the people they serve.
There are times for politicians to fight for their constituents.
And there are times when responsible political leaders must help a community to heal. In the wake of the tragedy in Makkovik, Premier Kathy Dunderdale should be helping people to come to terms with a tragedy. Instead, the Premier is abusing people who have put their trust in her to do the right thing.
In the House of Assembly on Tuesday, the Premier said:
The federal government does not have a responsibility, a dedicated responsibility to respond to ground search and rescue in this Province, but they have a humanitarian responsibility, Mr. Speaker, and I do not believe they lived up.
In the scrum that the Premier did after the House of Assembly Question Period on Tuesday, she repeated the same comments. Then she talked more specifically about the decision not to send a Cormorant helicopter from Gander when the provincial government’s commercial contractor couldn’t fly because of bad weather.
At around the 2:00 minute mark of the scrum video, she says:
“What we are talking about, in fact, is a two hour window here.”
That is her issue.
The Premier knows the details of the incident. She recited some of them in the scrum. She knows, or ought to know, the flying time from Gander to Makkovik. And what is more she knows why the searchers called off the search at 2:30 pm that afternoon as she states in the scrum. It had nothing to do with any military helicopters.
To fix on that two hour window and to omit relevant details is as scurrilous an abuse of a tragedy as anyone has done with the events of Makkovik in February. It took some going but Kathy Dunderdale found a new slimy pit below the one dug by the Fifth Estate or by opposition politicians like Yvonne Jones earlier this year. As ignominious as the honour is, Kathy Dunderdale is now the biggest political ghoul in the province.
The Premier does not explain how this two hour window would have made any difference in the search for Burton Winters. She does not, because she cannot. It made no material difference to the outcome of the search.
What makes the Premier’s comments on Tuesday all the more contemptible is her refusal to meet with the Winters family a couple of weeks ago. She trotted out what was obviously a fabricated, pathetic excuse at the time. That excuse now looks even more cowardly in hindsight than it appeared.
Sadly, the province’s opposition politicians are in no position to hold the Premier to account for her ploy. Neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats have a moral leg to stand on. They started out with the same nonsense the Premier now spews.
The difference, though, is that they made their false and misleading statements without the knowledge the Premier has, knowledge that would lead a reasonable person to a conclusion starkly different from the one the Premier has reached.
The truth is, though, that there is nothing cowardly about what Kathy Dunderdale is doing. Nor is it accidental. Take a look at the start of the scrum. Note the Premier’s expression. Her decision to blow off a meeting with the Winters family, to speak of a meeting “grandmother to grandmother”, and to invent this latest political confrontation are apparently as repulsive a display of cold-hearted political manoeuvring as one can imagine.
In the process, Kathy Dunderdale has not merely failed in her moral responsibility as Premier.
She has abandoned it altogether.