11 August 2006

Hearn doles out pork; soldiers still waiting - Updated

Loyola Hearn will announce today that the federal government will pump cash into a new "provincial" recreation centre being built on Crosbie Road in St. John's to replace a facility at the former Torbay air base.

[Update: According to the news release, the provincial and federal governments will contribute a total of $4.0 million from a jointly funded rural infrastructure agreement. Another $1.3 million will come from the City of St. John's and another $1.0 million will be raised by Sport Newfoundland and Labrador, a local rugby club and other fundraising. The provincial recreation centre project will apparently include a major addition to a privately-owned rugby club facility.]

The City of St. John's has already committed cash to the new building.

Meanwhile, Hearn ignores - as his predecessors have ignored - the need for a new headquarters and offices for the Regular Force presence in St. John's, cadets and four of the army and communications reserve units in the province sit in buildings slated for disposal.

Estimated cost of the project is $68 million to house Canadian Forces Station St. John's, cadet headquarters, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 56 Field Engineer Squadron, 36 Service Battalion and 728 Communications Squadron.

It's hard to understand why the federal government would pump cash into a building that is entirely the provincial government's responsibility to build yet a much larger and more important project that is entirely a federal responsibility sits stalled somewhere in the depths of the federal bureaucracy.

What's worse, the reserve units and CFS St. John's are responsible for considerable economic activity in the St. John's area, far more direct economic activity and benefit than the provincially-owned and operated facility will create.

Hearn might toss up the O'Connor defence plan to drop a new reserve unit in St. John's as a reason for the delay. That is just an excuse. None of O'Connor's pork-spending has been costed or approved and it may well take years before we see the first soldier of that unit in uniform, if we ever see him or her.

[Update II: As Back Talk host Denis Molloy noted, Hearn apparently assured everyone that the new DND headquarters is under active consideration. The problem is that it has been under "active" consideration for the better part of a decade through administrations both Liberal and Conservative. The hang-up in approval for such a necessary project remains inexplicable.]

In the meantime, the members of our Canadian Forces work away in buildings left over from the Second World War that are slated for disposal and that should have been demolished years.

Hearn should show a bit of interest in this project rather than gaining some publicity for himself pumping cash to support a provincial government the feds shouldn't be supporting and announcing millions for communities from a program put in place by the previous Liberal administration - and needlessly delayed by the provincial government.