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MacKay under fire for using SAR helicopter following Newfoundland vacation

OTTAWA – Defence Minister Peter MacKay is under fire in the House of Commons for having a search and rescue helicopter transport him from a vacation spot last year.

The Opposition New Democrats demanded he repay the cost of the flight, which saw the minister picked up in near Gander, Newfoundland.

MacKay says he cut short his vacation in order to take part in a search and rescue exercise with the military.

The air force has three CH-149 Cormorant helicopters based out of Gander and MacKay says he was eager to see the demonstration, which had been cancelled on a couple of previous occasions.

The controversy comes barely a week after questions were raised about Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk’s use of a government Challenger jet to join his family on a Caribbean vacation in January 2010.

That flight is being reviewed by the Prime Minister’s Office, and Natynczyk says he’ll repay the commercial cost of the flight if asked.