|Air force should have used tough love on MacKay|
Written by Scott Taylor
For the past two weeks, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been taking a considerable amount of flak for his use of a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter to airlift him from a private fishing lodge. When the story first surfaced this past September, the July 2010 incident was dismissed by MacKay as being part of a longplanned search-and-rescue exercise, and that it provided him a long-overdue opportunity to see first-hand such operations. That ruse enabled MacKay to temporarily put the issue on hold.
However, when documents released under the Access to Information Act became public last month, the paper trail indicated a somewhat different version of events. When air force brass first received the request from MacKay’s staff, their email traffic questioned the necessity of such an airlift. The defence minister had been on vacation at a fishing lodge in Labrador and would have needed to take just a 90-minute boat ride and a 30-minute car ride to catch his flight from
In a very fortuitous turn of events, MacKay was urgently required as a last-minute substitute for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird at a NATO conference in
Biderman went even further in his assessment of the benefits achieved. “The positive aspects of Minister MacKay becoming actively involved in our training and the absolute trust he puts in the personnel of the air force are what need to be emphasized! If it has a spin off benefit of transporting him—them, where they need to be, I consider it a win-win for all concerned,” Biderman wrote in an email to the Defence Department’s public affairs office. Surprisingly, some Ottawa-based pundits believe that this unprecedented public support from the search-and-rescue operators puts the whole issue to rest. The fact is, it changes nothing. If the mayor of a major city arranged for an ambulance to whisk him to the airport to avoid rush-hour traffic under the guise of a better understanding of his city’s emergency services, no one would buy it. Even if the paramedics told reporters that it was a good chance for them to hone their highway driving skills and it was fun to have the mayor in their emergency vehicle it would change nothing. And if the hospital administrators had told the mayor’s staff ahead of time that the use of an ambulance in this case was not warranted, one would expect the mayor to apologize. This incident does not warrant MacKay’s resignation. His staff were wrong to request the airlift, but it is the air force members who are the guilty parties in all of this. They failed to trust their own instincts and by catering to MacKay’s whim, they failed to properly serve their minister. Every toddler would eat Smarties for breakfast if their mother let them.
Sometimes tough love is required.