17 February 2008

I spy...

a Hickey-up.

Oh, and another trough.

News outlets across the province are reporting provincial cabinet minister John Hickey's latest attack on the federal Conservatives and their promises to save Goose bay using political pork from Ottawa.

nl-hickey-john-20061122In the photo at right Hickey holds up a signed contract for the federal contribution to finishing the Trans Labrador Highway. Not.

Hickey campaigned not once but twice for Harper candidates (2005 in the by-election and then the 2005/06 general election) so it's strange he is quite so critical at the people he used to support. [Corrected dates]

What no one seems to have picked up on is the reason why Hickey suddenly issued a news release from the provincial government's propaganda service on this issue at this particular moment.

There are clues buried in a report by the Telegram. Since it isn't online, we'll include it below.

But let's give the whole story here.

A group representing the Town of Happy Valley-Goose bay recently took a trip to Ottawa. They saw the lights, saw the sights and saw some people, including officials of the defence department and Loyola Hearn.

When they got back they issued this news release:

PRESS RELEASE – February 11, 2008 Happy Valley - Goose Bay


Mayor and Councillors from the Town of Happy Valley - Goose Bay meet with Federal Politicians and Senior Policy Advisors in Ottawa

“It was an excellent opportunity to not only attend the Northern Lights Conference and Trade Show, but also to meet with a number of officials to discuss concerns affecting the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.” said Mayor Leo Abbass.

While in Ottawa last month, Mayor Abbass, Councillor Madelyn Kelly, Councillor Bill Mackey and the Director of Economic Development Karen Wheeler met with senior policy advisors with the Department of National Defence. The delegation was assured that the commitments made by the Conservative Government remain as previously stated. The Canada First Defence Plan will be released shortly and will determine the priorities of the Department of National Defence for the next twenty years. With the emphasis on Northern Sovereignty and domestic defence, 5 Wing Goose Bay is strategically important to this plan.

While meeting with Minister Loyola Hearn, he also reiterated that the status quo remains for 5 Wing Goose Bay. Other topics discussed with the Minister included the Trans Labrador Highway, strategic location of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in relation to the North, and marketing of 5 Wing Goose Bay.


Now ignore for a moment the fact it is a piece of junk writing. Just focus on the content.

Like say the sentence in the middle of the second paragraph the Conservative commitments are intact. There is a defence plan coming and news will be contained in that document.

On top of that there's the reference to a successful meeting with Loyola Hearn to discuss issues like paving the Trans Labrador Highway.

There's the cause for Hickey's irk: his constituents and political allies went off to Capital City and made some new friends and renewed some old acquaintanceships. And they talked about a bunch of things Hickey himself is responsible for - like the highway - and, quel horreur, these ordinary folk from the wilds of Labrador appear to have gotten somewhere all without the help of their regional party boss, John Hickey.

That has got to be embarrassing for the guy who is still trying to deal with a defamation lawsuit against Roger Grimes a whole year after the thing was filed. It's got to be even more embarrassing given that this is the first solo news release Hickey has been issued since his cabinet demotion after the last election.

And it's gotta be super duper embarrassing given that Hickey's new portfolio means he doesn't have anything else to do but focus entirely on things like Goose bay, the Trans Labrador Highway and figuring out how to explain those holes in Labrador West where the hospital was supposed to go weren't really just Danny Williams campaigning with public money.

Yes, a few people from Goose Bay just appear to have gotten more traction in Ottawa than a whole cabinet minister whose sole job is to do the things they did.

This whole thing is just another embarrassing political Hickey-up.

Hickey's solution is to issue a news release which just makes the thing even more embarrassing:

It is anticipated the Federal Government will soon release its long-awaited defence strategy. Minister Hickey said the strategy should see Prime Minister Stephen Harper follow through on the commitment to 5 Wing Goose Bay, which he made in a letter to the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, dated January 4, 2006.

"5 Wing Goose Bay has the world-class facilities, it has the needed infrastructure, and it has the people of Labrador supporting the developments committed to by Prime Minister Harper," said Minister Hickey. "With our low-lying mountains and vast acres of unoccupied forest, virtually any condition or real-life situation can be simulated in central Labrador."

If you didn't see the original release from Leo Abbass and the crew that went to Ottawa, you'd never likely know that there was a defence strategy coming. Hickey mention's it seems like he's trying to take some credit or pass on some new information, after he's just finished pushing for it - or should we say appearing to push for it - in the release. Now that people know what really happened, Hickey's release seems even weaker than it first did.

Then the last paragraph just returns us to the joys of Springfield and its entirely imaginary world. You see, apparently Goose Bay is such an amazing place that, according to John Hickey, just about any real-life situation can be recreated in the miles of forest and hills of north-central Labrador. That would make it ideal for training of some kind.

So, John, can we recreate the hills and desert conditions of Afghanistan near Goose Bay?

Yes, we can since Goose Bay is now a holographic projection apparently.

And Robert Picardo will deliver medical services in Lab West courtesy of the mobile emitter now that Voyager is off the air and he's out of a job.

Hickey's probably got that release in the hopper.


The Telegram

Saturday, February 16, 2008, p. A5


"Labrador MHA wants federal government to fulfil promises for 5 Wing
Goose Bay"

Everton McLean

Despite strong words from the minister of Labrador Affairs on the lack
of federal action expanding the military presence at 5 Wing Goose Bay,
the mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay said he's content that promises
will be fulfilled soon.

John Hickey, MHA for Lake Melville and Minister of Labrador Affairs,
said in a news release Friday that it was unacceptable for the federal
government not to have fulfilled commitments to place personnel at the
military facility.

He listed promises for a 650-man rapid action army battalion and an
unstaffed aerial vehicle squadron among things not carried out. He said
the promises were in a letter to Premier Danny Williams from January

"To not meet this commitment in a timely manner would be nothing less
than a betrayal to the people of Labrador," Hickey stated.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Leo Abbass, who, along with council
members, met with Newfoundland region minister Loyola Hearn and
Department of National Defence policy advisers last week, said the
federal officials told him the commitments were still coming. He said
Hearn reaffirmed those commitments personally.

He said he understands a defence plan is being completed and he feels
confident there will be provisions made for 5 Wing. Particularly, he
said he expects there to be an unstaffed aerial vehicle squadron
implemented, based on the strategic importance of the area.

However, he did say he expected more being done in Goose Bay by this

Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for Hearn, said the minister told him the
commitments to Labrador are still on the agenda. However, he said those
promises are part of a four-year mandate, and the government is only in
Year 2 of that mandate.

"The minister has indicated all the comments we've made in terms of 5
Wing Goose Bay are still commitments of our government."

John Hickey could not be reached for comment Friday.