National defense critic denounces 5 Wing downgrade

Derek Montague
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Says Goose Bay base still has important role

St. John’s East MP Jack Harris is defence critic for the NDP.

St. John’s East MP and NDP defence critic Jack Harris is calling out the federal government for downgrades to 5 Wing Goose Bay.

Beginning April 1, 25 Serco employees on the base will be laid off. At the same time, the Royal Canadian Air Force will be lowering the category of the airfield from seven to five.

“Our view on it, obviously, is it’s a bad step, an indication that this government doesn’t have the long-term interests of the Goose Bay forces …” said Harris.

“The promises that have been made over the last two elections by the federal government haven’t come true to date. We’re concerned about that and we don’t see this as being very good news at all for the future of Goose Bay Airport.”

In an email, sent last month to The Labradorian, Major James Simiana, RCAF public affairs, said that fire response standards is one reason why the category would be lowered.

 “From the perspective of the RCAF, within the new contract the Canadian Armed Forces category for this airfield will decrease from Cat 7 to Cat 5 as of April 1, 2014,” states the email. “This category is based on both the forward operating location facility and structural fire response standards, which meets the RCAF's operational requirement. For civilian operations, those are determined by Transport Canada regulations.”

 

This move by the RCAF, however, will not affect civilian aircraft.

The Labradorian did not receive any information from the RCAF, when asked how the new category would affect 5 Wing Goose Bay.

But Harris said that, based on his knowledge of airfield categories, any aircraft more than 28 metres in length won’t be able to land at 5 Wing Goose Bay, when it becomes a category 5.

“It’s a downgrading of the capability of the airport to actually land particular types of planes, the length of the plane that can be handled there is gone down from a maximum of 49 metres to 28 … so anything over that would not be accommodated there,” said Harris.

Harris believes that 5 Wing Goose Bay can still play an important role in national defense, especially with recent focus on Arctic sovereignty.

“This airport was one of the most significant airports in the world during the Second World War and beyond. And it still has an important role, in current missions now, in respects to NORAD, (which) requires that this airport be kept up,” said Harris.

“Our priority, of course, has also been to finding a long-term use for the facilities at Goose Bay, keeping with our Canadian Forces needs, particularly the emphasis we’ve been placing as a country on Arctic sovereignty.”

Even though Harris said that 5 Wing Goose Bay is a priority for him and the NDP, he could not give a specific mandate for the base.

“It’s very different being in that critic role and being in opposition and being engaged with military planners inside the Department of National Defense. So it’s very difficult to say specifically what the use might be,” said Harris.

“In the last election, our party made a specific commitment. In its platform, to maintain a commitment to Goose bay operations and to find a use.”

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

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Organizations: Canadian Armed Forces, NDP, Goose Bay Airport Transport Canada Department of National Defense

Geographic location: Goose Bay, Arctic

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