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MacKay's response to chopper criticism? Read the press clippings Add to ...

Peter MacKay is sending out a newspaper article from the St. John’s Telegram to defend himself from charges that he abused military aircraft.

The beleaguered Defence Minister was asked to respond to comments on CTV’s Question Period Sunday by the network’s Ottawa bureau chief, Robert Fife, that he has a “terrible relationship with the Prime Minister’s Office” and he is being cut from the decision-making process.

Mr. Fife also suggested the minister’s office staff has been cut from eight people to five.

Instead of disputing the comments, Mr. MacKay’s response to The Globe and Mail on Monday Morning was to simply send out the article from the Newfoundland and Labrador newspaper in which a senior military officer defends his use of the Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter in July 2010.

The article quotes Brigadier-General Sylvain Bedard, who argues the helicopter flight “allowed the minister to see the Cormorant in operation and be briefed on the search and rescue capabilities.”

In fact, it seems like it was serendipity that the minister was in the region – at least according to Brig-Gen. Bedard’s explanation as to why the operation took place.

The military officer said that “folks heard he was in the area ... the mutual gain was realized in the sense that we had been looking to showcase the Cormorant’s abilities and the search and rescue capabilities of the Canadian Forces to the minister.”

He said there was a “planned sortie for training” and it was “sort of a good match to get the minister to see certain operations for our search and rescue.”

Mr. MacKay clearly appreciates his officer jumping to his defence. This, after he was pilloried in the Commons last week after revelations that he was picked up by the Cormorant while on holiday at a fishing camp in Newfoundland. He then went to Gander to take another military flight to London, Ont., where he was making an announcement.

The PMO also weighed in Monday to defend Mr. MacKay – something Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not do in the Commons last week.

“I don't pay any attention to anonymous sources on Sunday morning chat shows. Especially ones who are wrong on every count,” Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall told The Globe. “The Canadian government and the Canadian Armed Forces have a hard-working and dedicated minister – and his name is Peter MacKay.”

The opposition is expected to keep up the pressure Monday. “We need to keep on him on this. He was only 12 nautical miles from Gander,” Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Scott Andrews told The Globe.

‘Stable, secure and ethical source of energy’

Jobs, jobs and more jobs is the Harper government’s response to Monday’s planned protests over the Keystone XL pipeline that will deliver Alberta oil to Texas.

“Our government will continue to promote Canada and the oil sands as a stable and secure source of energy for the world,” the Conservatives say in a memo to supporters from the Prime Minister’s Office. “Our government will continue to promote Canada and the oil sands as a stable, secure and ethical source of energy for the world.”

The memo, sent Friday, notes that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has “reaffirmed” support for the oil sands “as a proven strategic resource for Canada that creates jobs and economic opportunity for Canadians in all provinces and regions in the country.”

Washington is reviewing the projected, and hearings are being launched to determine whether it is in the U.S. national interest.

It is not without controversy. There have been protests at the White House, one in which Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah was arrested. And protesters are threatening civil disobedience Monday on Parliament Hill.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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