When first we learned that Peter MacKay had been on vacation at a private fishing lodge in Newfoundland last year and had been picked up by a military search and rescue helicopter and dropped off at the Gander airport so he could catch a flight to Ontario, it was explained that it was all in a day's work. According to MacKay, this was an opportunity for him to closely observe a search and rescue team as part of his duties as minister of defence.
But the emails obtained by both the Star and the CBC suggest otherwise. The first response to the request to pick MacKay up doesn't support his story. To put it mildly.
So, when the guy who's fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cell phone to video the minister getting on board and post it on YouTube, who will be answering the mail on that one :)
Does that sound like someone planning a training mission? He continues:
If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply -- given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it...
Additional emails show that military personnel considered several different craft for the job, which again undermines MacKay's contention that this was all about a search and rescue demonstration. And finally, the day after the original request was made:
An email sent on July 7 put the order out that "this mission will be under the guise of ... SAR (training)."
Under the guise of. As in, here's our cover story.
The reason I was careful to include the CBC's version is that it reminds us the cover story wasn't just given to the press.
Speaking during question period in the House of Commons Sept. 22, MacKay said the flight was for work, not pleasure.
"I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010 on a personal visit with friends that I paid for. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 squadron 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration," he said.
MacKay misled parliament. Earlier today, he stuck to the same story even though the emails clearly show no mention of a training exercise in the original request or in the initial responses. Only after it was determined that a search and rescue helicopter would be used was it decided to call it a training mission. So he repeated the offence.
Misleading parliament used to be considered a serious matter in our form of government. It ought to be grounds for his resignation.