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.
To start, a warning to any parents of small children who may be listening: the subject I’m about to bring up is a frightening one, a scary one.
I certainly don’t want to be responsible for a rash of nightmares out there in Radioland.
On today’s show we begin with the subject of sea monsters.
And the most famous of all Newfoundland sea monsters — the giant squid.
More specifically, the giant squid of Glover’s Harbour on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, just over the road from Leading Tickles and Point Leamington.
The giant squid of Glover’s Harbour is 16.8 metres long or about 55 feet.
She’s a monster.
Oh, and it’s made of concrete.
The giant squid of Glover’s Harbour is a roadside attraction that was built in 2001 and modeled after a 2.2-tonne giant squid that washed up on the shore near the outport in 1878.
It put Glover’s Harbour in the Guinness Book of World Records, recognizing the largest squid ever found.
Why do I bring up the giant squid from Glover’s Harbour?
Well, because it made the national news again in recent days.
Canada Post is to include the giant squid of Glover’s Harbour in a Canadian Roadside Attractions stamp series.
Next summer, a stamp bearing the image of the giant squid will be licked and slapped on envelopes that could end up in any corner of the globe.
Although I wouldn’t put my tongue anywhere near a giant squid, but that’s just me.
Of the thousands of stories I’ve written as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador, one article has been read more than any other.
By more people around the world than any other.
It wasn’t about politics.
Or any of the topics you might think.
The story was about a sea monster — or what the locals called a sea monster — that washd up on a beach near St. Bernard’s, Fortune Bay in the summer of 2001.
Measuring about 7 metres (22 feet) in length and weighing 3 to 4 tonnes, the creature was covered in coarse white hair the length of an average man’s hand.
It looked like nothing fishermen had ever seen before.
The “monster” had what appeared to be a skeletal structure consisting of a backbone and ribs, although it’s impossible to tell which end is which.
There’s was no obvious head and only a suggestion of limbs — it looked like a pealed grape.
Scientists from Memorial University in St. John’s later said that the sea creature was the carcass of a rotting basking shark.
As the basking shark decomposes, its fibrous muscle tissue takes on the appearance of a white hairy coat.
I remember another sea monster story from May 1997 when a fisherman from Little Harbour East described a long, gray, scaly-skinned creature with dark eyes that looked right at him and made him shake for five or six hours after he landed onshore.
Summer is what we call the silly season in the news business.
When news is a little slow, and stories that might not ordinarily be covered, are covered.
First question of the day: do you have a sea monster story to tell?
Be careful now — we don’t want to freak out any children or tourists or come-from-aways who may be listening.
Here’s another question: what else in Newfoundland and Labrador should be commemorated with a stamp.
In other news, in other SERIOUS news about the sea …
There was an interesting story in the Weekend Telegram, a story by Rob Antle on the province’s ferry fleet.
First the good news: two new provincial ferries are set to hit the water late this fall.
The bad news is that’s later than expected — and more delays are likely for other new vessels that will bolster the province’s aging ferry fleet.
The Danny Williams administration has consistently slammed the previous Liberal administration for its lack of action to renew the fleet.
But nearly seven years into the Tory mandate, and no ships have touched the water.
The province awarded contracts for two medium-sized ferries in 2008.
Those ships are expected to be used on the St. Brendan’s and Little Bay Islands-Long Island runs.
The first vessel was expected to be delivered by the end of 2009; the second by the spring of 2010.
But both vessels are still under construction in Marystown.
The original budget was $25 million a piece, but Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson couldn’t say whether that work will come in on budget.
The Telegram pointed out that in 2006, then-Transportation minister John Hickey said the province planned to construct 5 new ferries within 5 years.
That timeline would see those five ships plying the waters by the fall of 2011.
Instead, it seems likely that only the two current ships under construction will be in service by then.
Is that delay good with you?
Still with the province’s ferry fleet, there was another story in the Weekend Telegram about how the ferry Nonia is in port again for a three-month refit.
But then the Nonia — which is a swing vessel, replacing other ferries when they’re laid up — was in dry dock six months ago for seven weeks of emergency repairs.
The Noni has quite the history, purchased in 1999 by the previous Liberal government at a cost of $930,000.
The province then spent $10 million getting the ship in shape for service — $8 million more than originally budgeted.
If you have a comment on the province’s ferry fleet — or the
federal government’s Gulf ferry service — you know where to call.
'Tis the season for ferry reviews.
The province has been criticized for not pressuring the feds into eliminating their new reservation system for the Gulf run, a reservation system that local truckers say is killing their business.
But then does the province has room to critique the federal ferry service when the provincial ferry service isn’t exactly top drawer?
Moving on to health care.
There was an interesting letter to the editor in the weekend paper, a letter that made a great point.
Tell me if you agree.
The letter questioned why Eastern Health is using pesticides.
On the one hand, Eastern Health has taken a strong stand in recent years on eliminating unnecessary toxins in the environment, from cigarette smoke to perfumes.
On the other hand, Eastern Health allows for the use of pesticides on some of its properties — St. Patrick’s Mercy home in St. John’s, for example.
The letter writer questions why.
Let me quote the letter:
“This is especially puzzling to me given the City of St. John's recent request that its citizens refrain from the use of these chemicals.”
So what do you think of that: No smoking or perfumes on one hand, pesticides on the other?
There was another story in the paper about how the Eastern Health smoking ban is meeting goals.
Vicki Kaminski, president and CEO of Eastern Health, says the organization has achieved 100 per cent compliance.
That’s since the ban prohibiting smoking on Eastern Health grounds (including in people’s personal vehicles) was implemented in September.
No employee of Eastern Health has been fired or suspended for violating the smoking ban.
Likewise, patients can be discharged if they refuse to go along with the smoking ban.
That hasn’t happened yet.
Family members can also be banned from visiting relatives.
That hasn’t happened yet either.
Do you think the smoking ban is working? I often run along Long Pond, right behind the Health Sciences.
And there are points when I’m jogging through a cloud of fog.
Eastern Health’s policy has shifted much of the smoking from outside the main doors to the woods behind the hospital.
Is it working?
To politics …
Late last week Yvonne Jones threw her hat in the ring to become the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador’s full-time leader.
Jones has been interim leader since November 2007. The Liberal convention is slated for November 19th to the 21st.
The next provincial election is scheduled for 2011, and so far Yvonne Jones is the only declared candidate.
If the polls are any indication she doesn’t stand a chance against Danny Williams and the Progressive Conservatives.
Williams is the most popular political leader in Canada.
Let me ask you this?
Does it matter who runs for the Liberals, does it matters who’s at the helm for the New Democrats?
Is Danny Williams unbeatable?
I can tell you this, if an accident happens on the Grand Banks with the ongoing deepwater drilling — the Williams government allowed it to continue after the Gulf spill — Danny Williams political career could be over.
You might see other names step forward then to head the Liberals.
Is the party still split since the Roger Grimes/John Efford battles?
The Danny Williams government may be doing well though in the polls, but employment numbers are way down.
There’s an interesting Jeer in the paper today, pointing out that the population may be up by 96 people at large count,
But let’s hope those 96 people weren’t looking for jobs.
Stats Canada reported Friday that 8,100 jobs disappeared in Newfoundland and Labrador in June.
I’m hoping to talk to Rural Development Minister Sean Skinner about this today.
I had an interesting conversation over the weekend with a recruiter from Alberta.
The recruiter told me that it’s hard to get workers in the summer from Newfoundland and Labrador because they’re all gone home for the summer.
Or they want to stay home.
And collect EI.
Is that why our unemployment numbers are up — because people are coming home to draw unemployment insurance?
Heading out to central Newfoundland …
AbitibiBowater apparently hired an Ottawa lobbyist back in May for the NAFTA fight over the expropriation of the paper company’s assets in Newfoundland in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Abitibi is looking for $500 million-plus in compensation from the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
William Pristanski of Prospectus Associates registered as a lobbyist for Abitibi in May.
Pristanski served as executive assistant to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the 1980s.
He also chaired Peter MacKay's successful 2003 campaign for the federal PC leadership.
Peter MacKay happens to be Newfoundland and Labrador’s representative in the federal Conservative cabinet.
Maybe Danny Williams could call MacKay and ask him to tell Pristanski to take it easy.
A new Statistics Canada report ranks Newfoundland and Labrador last in the country in terms of access to recycling programs.
The report said this province's level of access to recycling is 24 percentage points lower than the national average of 95 per cent.
As a result, Newfoundland and Labrador's participation is the second lowest in the country.
Why is that, do you think?
What’s keeping Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from taking part in recycling?
Is there a monster in the room we don’t know about?
The Backtalk lines are open.