Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grin and beer it

I'll be filling in for Bill Rowe as host of VOCM's afternoon radio call-in show, Backtalk, for the month of July, followed by a week standing in for Randy Simms as host of Open Line. Each day I'll post the show's monologue, which I prepare in advance.


Good afternoon Newfoundland and Labrador and all the ships at sea.

Big day tomorrow here in Newfoundland and Labrador — big, big day.

No, I’m not talking about Memorial Day — not just yet.

No, not Canada Day either — I’ll get there in a moment, too.

On July 1 in Newfoundland and Labrador the minimum wage will rise by 50 cents to $10 an hour, which, according to Statistics Canada, is on par with some of the highest minimum wages in the country.

As of the tomorrow the only province with a higher minimum wage will be Ontario, with a minimum wage of $10.25 an hour.

British Columbia will have the lowest minimum wage at $8 an hour — $2 bucks behind us.

In fact, there’s a story published in today’s Vancouver Province newspaper about a protest Tuesday (June 29th) in B.C. involving McDonald’s employees.

British Columbia may have the highest cost of living in the county, but it has the lowest minimum wage, at $8-per-hour, and a $6-per-hour training wage for young people.

We have nothing like that — a training wage for young people.

Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, addressed the protest.

He called on B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell to raise the minimum wage to $10-per-hour — the same as Newfoundland and Labrador’s.

Like you would.

The federation of labour president also noted that a worker starting at McDonald’s in Newfoundland makes $10.25 an hour — $3.50 more an hour than in B.C.

Which, again, has a higher cost of living.

B.C. minister of Labour said there are no plans to raise the minimum wage in that province.

He preferred to talk about British Columbia’s average hourly wage — which, at $22.97 an hour, is one of the highest in Canada.

That got me thinking, our minimum wage is one thing, but how does Newfoundland and Labrador's average hourly rate stack up against other provinces?

According to Statistics Canada, as of 2009 our average hourly wage rate (including overtime) stood at $19.42 an hour, the highest of the Atlantic provinces.

Higher than Manitoba even.

In fact, we rank 6th in the country.

Alberta has the highest average hourly wage rate at $23.53.

But on the eve of the day when the minimum wage rises to $10 an hour, let me ask you this: as an employee, is that enough to live on?

As an employer, is it too much?

Is it killing your bottom line?

How hard is it to cover your costs with another 50-cent rise to the minimum wage?

The province’s minimum wage has been increased by 50 cents every six months since January 2009.

I can’t see how people can make it on $10 an hour.

I can see how young people can do it, living home with Mom and Dad.

But what about the working poor — a mother and father trying to raise two or three kids on salaries of $10 an hour.

How do you do it?


Funny, I got that minimum-wage story from the Vancouver Province first thing this morning on the Internet.

Communication today is almost instantaneous.

It wasn’t always that way.

July 1 — Memorial Day in Newfoundland — is the anniversary the Battle of Beaumont Hamel,

Ninety-four years ago tomorrow so many of our young men — members of the Newfoundland Regiment — were mowed down on a field in France.

There’s a story in today’s Telegram about how it took days for news of the slaughter at Beaumont Hamel to reach back home here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The final numbers on the losses wouldn’t be known for months — more than 300 killed and hundreds wounded.

Only 68 of the roughly 800 who went into battle July 1st answered the roll call the next day.

The Telegram points out that if soldiers are injured or killed in Afghanistan, Canadians know about it instantly.

Well that’s not quite correct.

We may know about the deaths, but the injuries aren’t reported.

Earlier this year, the Canadian military quietly stopped reporting when soldiers are wounded on the battlefield.

Instead, it delivers annual stats to the public.

The policy shift was said to be an attempt to keep the Taliban in the dark.

I suspect it’s also a way to sidestep building up outrage to the war in Afghanistan.

Your opinion is welcome.


Tomorrow, July 1st, is also Canada Day — the country’s 143th birthday.

There’s an interesting story in today’s Ottawa Citizen about how an Ottawa high school teacher wrote the country’s leaders asking them why they’re proud of the nation.

The teacher’s favourite response letter came from none other than our own, Danny Williams.

The same premier who once ordered Canadian flags removed from provincial buildings over a fight with Ottawa over equalization, wrote a “thoughtful, heartfelt” letter, a letter that stretched over two pages, single-spaced.

The premier compares the country to a family.

Here’s a quote:

"Some members of the family are older, some are bigger, some are smaller — but all of you are equally part of the one family. This is how it is with Canada. We are one federation — one family."

We may be a family all right, but Danny is definitely on the outs with Quebec.

On the eve of Canada Day, how do you feel about the country, and our place in it?


Let’s move on to central Newfoundland and Grand Falls-Windsor.

The bid to reopen the paper mill appears dead in the water.

The European company that was interested released a statement Tuesday to say any kind of deal was off.

That was the climax of several days of news stories that revealed the German company, Lott Paper, was in bankruptcy protection.

Then it turned out that it wasn’t Lott Paper that was interested, but a European investment firm, Motion Invest — although there are ties between the two companies.

It’s complicated.

The German company accused the province of breaching its confidentiality.

Kathy Dunderdale, minister of Natural Resources, called the company’s comments “mind boggling.”

Sounds like Newfoundland and Labrador dodged a bullet — a $52-million bullet in terms of the subsidies and support the German company was looking for from the province.

But where does that leave Grand Falls-Windsor and the mill?

In a press release earlier today, Dunderdale said the actions of the German company do not diminish the “outstanding fibre resource present in central Newfoundland."

But where to from here?

I was very surprised to learn that the German company was in bankruptcy protection, considering that back in May in the House of Assembly Kathy Dunderdale said the company was “reputable.”

That was her word — “reputable.”

She was apparently mistaken.

Here’s a question: Why can’t the former mill workers form a co-op and take over the Grand Falls-Windsor mill themselves?

It worked for Fogo Island and fish.

Why can’t it work for Grand Falls-Windsor and wood?

The province paid out $37 million in severance to the former AbitibiBowater workers, stepping in after the company walked out.

That would have been a great start to a co-op.

What do you think?


To St. John’s now, and a story that broke Tuesday right here on Backtalk.

Peter Whittle, a father who lives on a cul-de-sac on the east end of St. John’s, confronted an alleged drunk driver on his street.

He stood in front of the car and wouldn’t let the driver leave.

Other neighbours blocked the end of the street with their vehicles until the authorities came.

The 27-year-old driver, Steven Carter, faces charges of impaired and dangerous driving, and assault with a weapon — his truck.

Peter Whittle and his neighbours didn’t exactly hand out vigilante justice, but they did take matters into their own hands.

Would you have done the same?


Peter Whittle has been complaining for some time about the smell coming from the Robin Hood Bay landfill in east end St. John’s.

Which is why Peter called into Backtalk on Tuesday.

In response to Peter Whittle’s concerns, I received an e-mail from Paul Lane, a councilor with the City of Mount Pearl.

Here’s the e-mail:

“I truly empathize with the residents of the east end of St. John's as it relates to the unacceptable odor they are now forced to deal with.

However, it’s really not that surprising when you consider the fact that Robin Hood Bay went from accepting garbage on the northeast Avalon to now accepting garbage from Clarenville east.

I am also of the understanding that they will eventually be accepting garbage from both the Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas.

This could all have been avoided. There was a perfectly good solution proposed with the Dog Hill site. However, the politicians on New Gower Street would have no part of it.

Why would that be, you may ask?

Simple, this solution would require true regional co-operation. They have never been interested in this concept; they have to be in control of everything. Well, they've got what they asked for and now their citizens have to pay the price.”

Let me ask you this: how much worse will the smell be in the east end of the capital city when garbage is taken from as far west as the Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas?

Is St. John’s power hungry?

Is it too late to go with the Dog Hill site?

Sounds like there’s no love loss between St. John’s and Mount Pearl, either.


Let’s return to the subject of crime.

The police themselves are having a hard enough time with the criminal element.

A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer was treated in hospital earlier this morning after being bitten by a man he was arresting.

Police responded to a report of people drinking in the woods behind some homes in the Mundy Pond area.

Officers arrested a 37-year-old man, who bit the officer.

I wonder if that officer would handle the next such call a little differently?

You know what they say: once bitten twice shy.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

There have been a lot of stories about crime in the St. John’s metro area in recent days and weeks.

If you’ve got a comment, or a point, you know where to call.


Speaking of alcohol and drinking, the breweries won’t be taking back beer bottles from now on unless they’re cleaned out.

The beer box has to be in good shape, too.

It’s all about making the bottle return basis safer and cleaner.

What’s been found in the returned beer boxes?

I found this interesting: shotgun shells, bullets, and small propane tanks.

What do you think about the new rules?

When all is said and done Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will just have to grin … and beer it.

The Backtalk lines are open.


Table Mountains said...

Great rant!

I'll touch on the Beer Bottle topic. Maybe instead of giving out those free T-Shirts when we buy Beer the Stores should give them out ehen the bottles come back clean.

Paul Thornhill said...

Ryan, I was in Northern France recently, Dunkerque to be exact and no matter how many years pass since the 2nd World War, the French are still grateful for those who gave their lives and gave the French freedom. When asked where I was from I said Newfoundland, 'ah Beaumont Hamel, Les Terre-Neuviens', all those years ago and those young men are still remembered, with a tightened throat, I said we too are grateful and we remember them every July 1st and will do so as Newfoundlanders forever. God bless those men.