The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it "intends" to repair a water bomber that has been out of service since it was damaged nearly five years ago but is sidestepping questions about exactly when that may actually happen.
Meanwhile, there are calls from the Opposition to put the aircraft back in service.
Firefighting capabilities have come into sharper focus in recent days, as a series of wildfires have raged out of control across the country.
Newfoundland and Labrador has sent its entire active fleet of four water bombers to Nova Scotia, providing aid in efforts to douse blazes there.
A fifth water bomber has been conked out since 2018. It was damaged when it struck a rock while fighting a fire on the Burin Peninsula.
Officials indicated it didn't make sense to file an insurance claim, because a previous crash saw the deductible rise to $10 million — roughly the same as the estimated repair bill.
The government initially planned to sell the damaged aircraft.
But last year, Transportation Minister Elvis Loveless said the historic wildfires that swept central Newfoundland prompted them to consider fixing it instead.
"With the challenges of climate change and the forest fires this past summer, I think it's kind of brought that to a level where we need to have, and I think it's necessary, I think the conversation is necessary," Loveless told CBC News last October.
In February, the province issued a request for qualifications to short-list companies capable of doing the work, and stressed that the decision had been made.
"In consideration of the demands placed on firefighting operations during the 2022 forest fire season, the owner has decided to have the damaged aircraft repaired and returned to service," the document advised.
"This will result in a fully functional fleet of five water bomber aircraft."
But last month in the legislature, when questioned by Tory MHA Loyola O'Driscoll, Loveless was less definitive.
"I'm not going to apologize to him or anybody in this province to do due diligence around that fifth asset that we have that's very valuable," Loveless said May 10.
"Yes, we were looking at selling it. Then the forest fires caused us to pause. That's not irresponsible, that's being responsible. We have a fifth unit; I'm doing my due diligence around it."
Loveless was not made available to speak with CBC News this week.
But an unattributed statement sent by a department spokesperson said "the government intends to make necessary repairs and upgrades."
The request for qualifications sent in February noted that repair work is expected to begin this summer. Officials did not clarify this week whether that is still the case.
The department did say it will be notifying respondents of the outcome of that RFQ within the next two weeks, and is preparing a request for proposals to be issued to qualified proponents.
'Certainly need the fifth bomber,' PC MHA says
Progressive Conservative MHA Pleaman Forsey said it's time for action.
"During the forest fires last year, I think government certainly did learn the lesson that we need to be more prepared for forest fires in our area," Forsey said in an interview.
"We certainly need the fifth bomber."
Forsey represents the central Newfoundland district of Exploits, where last summer's wildfires saw towns declare a state of emergency.
"We need all water bombers, all the forest fire capacity that we can, to be ready for those situations," he said, referencing what's happening in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
Government officials have stressed that the fleet can be immediately recalled to Newfoundland and Labrador, if necessary.
As of mid-May, the government had tracked 53 wildfires in the province — nearly triple the amount compared with the same period last year.