Monday, July 13, 2009


By David Pugliese
Ottawa Citizen
July 13, 2009

Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced on Sunday $300-million in funding for the 5 Wing Goose Bay. The money is not for the establishment of new military units at the base. It’s to clean up various pollutants that have accumulated there since the 1940s.

Todd Russell, the Liberal MP for Labrador, believes the cleanup is the prelude to the eventual shutting down of the base. "When governments clean up they're looking to clear out," he said.

But MacKay’s people say the Harper government is committed to a military presence in Goose Bay.

According to the press release issued by DND on Sunday, “this funding demonstrates the Government's commitment to environmental clean-up, and to generating economic opportunities for the local economy.”

The cleanup project is anticipated to be completed by 2020.

More from the press release:

With this project, the Government will examine all of the contaminated sites at the Wing to understand the environmental challenges and then proceed with efforts to remediate the sites, manage risk to human health and protect the environment.

The Goose Bay Remediation Project will deliver important economic benefits to the region's economy now and in future years as the project gets fully underway. For example, as part of the $300-million in funding, a $4.5-million contract was recently awarded to AMEC, a large, multidisciplinary environment service firm with a local office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that employs four full-time project staff who will provide consulting services to DND.

The majority of contamination at 5 Wing Goose Bay can be attributed to past storage and handling practices of materials such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals, chlorinated compounds (PCBs), pesticides (including DDT), etc., according to DND.

I wrote about the cleanup on Saturday in the Citizen, a day before the announcement. That article is below.

By David Pugliese

Just days after Newfoundland's premier reacted angrily to the Harper government's decision to renege on its promise to establish a new military unit in the province, Defence Minister Peter MacKay will arrive at Goose Bay to announce millions of dollars in environmental improvements there.

MacKay will be in Goose Bay on Sunday to outline what defence officials are calling environmental improvements to the base and what observers say is a financial commitment to clean up the toxic mess left by the U.S. military there, beginning in the Second World War.

A few days ago, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams criticized the Conservative government for failing to keep its promises regarding Goose Bay.

During the 2006 election, the Conservatives promised to locate a new rapid reaction army battalion at CFB Goose Bay as well as establish an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron there.

The battalion was supposed to have consisted of approximately 650 troops. The drone squadron was to consist of around 100 personnel.

But MacKay, in a June 3 letter, confirmed to Newfoundland's government that while the rapid response unit was considered at one point, it is now not part of the government's long-term defence strategy. MacKay did not mention the UAV squadron in the letter.

"Labrador is unimportant to them," Williams said earlier this week. "It's a Liberal seat and their eyes are more closely focused on Ontario and other provinces."

Dan Dugas, MacKay's spokesman, said the minister's visit is not related in any way to the recent issues raised about the rapid response battalion. MacKay has been making a series of announcements on infrastructure improvements for military installations across the country and more are expected throughout the summer.

Dugas said Goose Bay continues to play an important role in the Canadian Forces operations. "We believe in the base," he added.

Dugas noted that around $100 million a year is spent annually operating the base. In addition, $20 million was recently spent on improving runways there.

Dugas said MacKay has explained that the rapid reaction force could not proceed because the Afghanistan mission has become a priority for the government.

The promise to create the units figured prominently in the Conservative party's election plans over the past four years. "The creation of these units will take place over as short a period of time as possible," then Conservative defence critic Gordon O'Connor said in May 2005 during a by-election. Later, as defence minister, O'Connor reiterated the same promises in July 2006.

Todd Russell, the Liberal MP for Labrador, said the announcement on Sunday is geared toward cleaning up the environmental mess left at Goose Bay by the U.S. military. He said there is an indication that up to $300 million will be spent, but Russell noted the government has the legal liability to do the cleanup.

"If it's an attempt to make up for the government's broken promises it won't fly," he said.

Russell said MacKay's letter to the Newfoundland government makes it clear the rapid response unit will never be created and it also indicates Goose Bay will not be used for Arctic sovereignty operations as the Conservatives had promised. The letter points out that military units for the Arctic are going to be based in New Brunswick and other provinces, he added.

Russell worries that the environmental cleanup is the first step to the military pulling out of Goose Bay. "When governments clean up they're looking to clear out," he added.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at: