I'm 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.
I’m not a fan of starting the show with bad news, with disappointing news.
But that’s the way it has to be sometimes — the news is the news.
I hate to be the one to break this to you, but our own Mary Walsh is NOT going to be Canada’s next governor general, the 28th in the country’s history.
The job of governor-general to replace Michaëlle Jean — whose 5-year term is up in September — will go to an academic from Ontario.
The next governor-general of Canada will be David Johnston, current president of the University of Waterloo.
His grandkids call him Grandpa Book, because of his reading habits.
The announcement will apparently be made today, two days after the Queen finished her tour of mainland Canada.
And Liz apparently gave her blessing.
There’s been speculation for months about who would be named the next governor-general.
Though not nearly as popular as the captain of the Starship Enterprise, James T. Kirk (I mean William Shatner), Mary Walsh did have a hell of a lot of support, including a Facebook group of more than 2,000 supporters.
Mary was thought to be a great candidate for governor-general.
She has close ties to the CBC — like Michaëlle Jean and Adrienne Clarkson before her — and she’s not afraid to say what she things.
More than that, Mary Walsh is a Newfoundlander.
After 61 years of Confederation, a Newfoundlander or Labradorian has never been appointed governor-general.
But then a Newfoundlander or Labradorian has never been appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Notice a trend?
Remember when Governor General Michaëlle Jean ate the raw seal meat last year in Rankin Inlet and the world went nuts.
Well Mary Walsh would more than eat a seal — she’d gut it.
Big appointments like governor-general are usually strategic.
Take Michaëlle Jean.
She’s black, a woman, a francophone, married to a divorced older white guy, a former journalist, and Haitian born.
Her selection by former Prime Minister Paul Martin was seen as a stroke of genius, drawing Liberal votes from minorities, women, men, Quebec, and poor people everywhere.
Jean also turned out to be a raw seal-meat eater.
Like I said — genius.
What could Stephen Harper get out of appointing one of us crowd?
Not much, unless he appointed Jake from Republic of Doyle.
Conservative ratings might go up then across Canada.
At the same time, Stephen Harper would run the risk of Jake blackening his lamps.
Which Jake tends to do to those who have it comin’.
I’m only jokin’
On a serious note: what do you think of the appointment of the next governor-general, and the fact that it’s not a Newfoundlander or Labradorian.
Still with Republic of Doyle, I mentioned the other day how the show pumped about $12 million into the local economy last year.
Which is fabulous.
Keep in mind that the provincial government kicked in $4.5 million in tax credits and funding grants.
But, again, the return has been in the $12-million range.
The show is great for tourism, it’s great for putting Newfoundland and Labrador in the spotlight.
The show is helping our economy do well, but then we’re doing well for a number of reasons.
Oil being chief among them, of course.
But it’s also getting to be an expensive place to live, especially in terms of housing.
It’s been reported that the average price of a detached bungalow in St. John’s has increased significantly, up almost 20 per cent over last year.
The average price of that detached bungalow is just over $238,000.
The average price for a standard condominium rose more than 18 per cent to $255,000.
The average price for a two-storey home rose almost 20 per cent to $330,000.
And prices are expected to remain steady.
How do people afford it?
Rent is going through the roof.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the vacancy rate is forecast to stick around 1 per cent in St. John’s this year.
With the vacancy rate remaining very low, demand is expected to push average two-bedroom monthly rents to $725 by the end of this year, and to $775 in 2011.
Let me ask you again: how are you affording it?
I mentioned last week an article I read in The Scope and how there have been bidding wars, and people taking apartments sight unseen.
If you’ve got a story to tell about housing — in the St. John’s region or anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador — you know where to call.
The rent in Labrador West is apparently sky high where the Iron Ore Company of Canada is doing an expansion and drawing in loads of workers.
I couldn’t believe this when I read it: one online posting for the area, including Labrador City and Wabush, lists a bungalow at $4,500 a month.
I see that Tom Hedderson, the minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp., met with councilors in Labrador City and Wabush.
And he promised the provincial government would make more public housing available in western Labrador.
Will that housing come soon enough?
If you’ve got a housing story to tell, a housing story anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador, call in.
A quick note on why Lab West is doing so well.
IOC is going ahead with an expansion, an expansion that was stalled in 2008.
The IOC expansion is expected to increase the annual production from its Labrador City operation to 22 million tonnes.
Twenty-two million tonnes of iron ore shipped out of Labrador.
That’s a lot of pots and pans that we’re not making here.
Imagine if we kept the power in the province from the eventual development of the Lower Churchill — and the ore.
Think of the jobs we’d have.
We’d need some houses then.
I see there’s goods news out of central Newfoundland in terms of the housing market.
Housing starts in Grand Falls-Windsor have more than tripled this year, despite the loss of the mill in the town.
By this time last year, 16 houses were under construction in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Compare that to this June, and work has begun on 60 homes in the town.
Some people moved away to work after the mill shut down in early 2009, but in a lot of cases their families stayed behind.
So things are going well in Grand Falls-Windsor then?
Overall, the economy is doing well in Newfoundland and Labrador.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the level of business confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador is well above the Canadian average — second highest in the country.
As well, 54 per cent of business owners in the province say the overall state of business is good, while 39 per cent of them say it is satisfactory.
What do you say?
Of course, the fuel that’s driving the Newfoundland and Labrador economy is offshore oil.
Exploration drilling is ongoing on the Orphan Basin, where the deepest well in Canadian history is being drilled.
Drilling is going on off our shores even though the U.S. has instituted a moratorium on offshore drilling in light of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
And the up to 60,000 barrels of oil that are leaking into the sea every day.
I mentioned yesterday how the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board has approved new exploration in deep waters off our shores in an area known as the Flemish Pass.
The next exploration areas have depths of up to 2,000 metres.
Meantime, the Hibernia platform is just 80 metres above the ocean floor.
Loraine Michael of the New Democrats says the exploration is too risky, especially considering the fact experts still don’t know what went wrong in the Gulf of Mexico.
Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale says the province's offshore is open for exploration.
She says the regulatory regime holds companies to the highest of standards in the areas of safety, environmental protection, and resource management.
What do you think?
Is the oil exploration too risky, especially considering how delicate our fish stocks are already?
Keep in mind that Kathy Dunderdale said a few months ago that profits from the oil industry are too “critical” to suspend deep offshore exploration.
She’s not kiddin’.
Almost 24 cents of every dollar the provincial government collects in revenue this year will come from offshore royalties.
At the same time, offshore oil production is dropping fast.
Let me ask again: Do you have concerns about deep-water exploration?
I see from VOCM news there are concerns about the effect the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is having on migrating birds.
A bird that summers in Newfoundland — the Northern Gannet — was the first bird found oiled by the spill.
In a few months those birds will have to fly through the Gulf of Mexico region on their way here.
Will the birds survive? Good question, I know that bird researcher and Memorial University professor Bill Montevecchi is concerned.
One last oil related story.
The Associated Press has an article out today that says there are more than 27,000 oil wells abandoned in the Gulf of Mexico.
There’s concern that some of those wells may be leaking, but federal regulators don’t inspect the plugging of those offshore wells or monitor for leaks afterward.
Yet tens of thousands of oil and gas wells are improperly plugged on land, and abandoned wells have sometimes leaked offshore, too.
My question is this: how many abandoned well are there off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador?
And when was the last time, if ever, they were inspected?
Does that concern you?
Moving on to fish.
The fishery has been a dominant topic on Backtalk since I’ve been filling in for Bill Rowe.
But then it’s been in the news with the announcement from the Danny Williams administration that it’s stepping into federal jurisdiction and doing its own fish science.
You’ve got to care careful with the fishery, because some people tune out when the word fish is mentioned.
It’s hard enough to keep people’s attention as it is.
What I’d like to talk more about, in regards to the fishery, is solutions.
How do we fix it?
Ray Johnson of the Community Linkages Network is probably best known as a member of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas.
Ray was on Backtalk Wednesday talking about how there’s an MOU process ongoing to restructure the fishery but regular Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and the outports themselves, aren’t included.
Well, we can have a discussion here.
How do we turn the fishery around?
I started off the show with some bad news if you remember.
Mary Walsh is NOT going to be our next government-general, the next governor-general of Canada.
It’s some Ontario guy.
So let me end off my monologue with some good news.
Good news in the fishery.
Yes, there is such a thing.
There’s a new study out that says fish oil appears to fight breast cancer.
New research shows that women who take fish oil supplements have a lower risk of developing the most common type of breast cancer.
The study provides support for the idea “that the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish oil might be beneficial for breast cancer.
Its already been shown that the oils may be beneficial to cardiovascular disease.
So let me ask you, have you had your feed of fish today?
The Backtalk lines are open.