Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lipstick on a George Street pig

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.

Tuesday’s show began on the highways of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the dangers of moose.

To start today’s show I’m going to once again take to the streets of Newfoundland and Labrador, but to raise the subject of crime.

Let’s start in Corner Brook.

Here’s the lead of a news story out of the Western Star:

“Now is the time for the community to get involved in helping protect the streets of Corner Brook, before it’s too late.”

Before it’s too late?

A little sensational maybe?

Corner Brookers are concerned, and rightly so.

People in the west coast city are worried about the direction crime is headed after three vehicles were burned there Sunday morning.

Three DELIBERATELY set vehicle fires, I might add. One fire resulted in woman’s house being damaged by flames.

Some people say crime in Corner Brook is getting worse — “it’s just one thing after another.”

Is it?

People say the community of Corner Brook has to get involved to address the crime.

Some people say a neighborhood watch program is needed. Why doesn’t Corner Brook already have one?

Others say the Justice system can also come down harder on criminals.

On to crime in St. John’s.

Let me take just one report from VOCM News this morning:

A woman was assaulted last night — seriously assaulted — in a laneway off Water Street after leaving a nightclub.

The victim was taken to hospital. No word on her injuries.

In another incident, two men in Shea Heights were involved in an altercation.

One man used a bat as a weapon, the other used a vehicle.

It’s getting so bad in Town that you can’t go to the bank machine alone at night.

Do you feel safe where you live?

Maybe you live around the bay in an outport. Is it still safe there?

There seem to be more police — more Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, anyway — on the streets than ever.

What can be done to address the crime situation?

On to crime in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Although the story isn’t about crime — well, not directly.

It’s more about a criminal who’s apparently paid his dues trying to adjust to regular life.

People in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are worried because a multiple sex offender is living among them.

His name is Hector Jesso, and he’s been permanently placed on the national Sex Offender Registry.

A Facebook page has been started in Labrador to let people know that Jesso — who has past convictions of sexual assault — had moved onto a street in the Ministry of Transport area.

In less than a day, that Facebook group had more than 600 members.

The consensus was that people were not happy to learn of Jesso's presence in the community.

Women are worried, and living in fear.

I brought this up on Tuesday’s Backtalk and received this e-mail from a guy name Chris, who has a problem with sex offender lists.

“I can empathize with all the people who are concerned about such a person living in their community.

But these people have to realize that criminals of all types need a chance to rehabilitate themselves.

It sounds like these Facebook fans are trying to scare him (Hector Jesso) away from living where he is.

You can be sure that the same thing would happen wherever he goes — save living like a hermit in the forest.

What’s worse is that if he’s genuinely trying to rehabilitate himself, then the constant persecution by the general public could only make things worse, and drive him to go underground and potentially hurt somebody again.

Yes, he has done a bad thing, but wasn’t he already punished?

Keep an eye on him, but don’t persecute him, and don’t prevent him from trying to turn over a new leaf.”

Thanks for the e-mail, Chris.

Great points. Sex offenders are a reality of life — unfortunately.

But once they pay for their crimes they should be allowed to live their lives back in the community.

Trouble is, no one wants them living next door or down the road.

So what do you do?


Moving on to another type of crime.

A crime that is all too familiar in Newfoundland and Labrador, with charges laid fairly regularly.

Poaching — and another story from the Western Star.

Federal Fisheries officers are looking into four illegal salmon-netting incidents.

Formal charges have yet to be filed, but two incidents reportedly took place on the southwest coast.

Another in the Bay St. George area.

And another on the Northern Peninsula.

In all four incidents nets were used to catch the salmon.

Let’s see if I have this straight: salmon numbers are up this year in rivers right around the province.

Been a long time coming.

CBC TV news keeps playing the tape of a salmon fisherman on the Exploits with the fish jumping right out of the water next to him.

Salmon numbers are up — finally — and poaching numbers are up.

We seem to be cutting our own throats. One step forward, two steps back.

It’s simple — if you poach all the salmon there won’t be any left.


Before I continue, let me speak to any tourists or come-from-aways who may be listening to the show and thinking Newfoundland and Labrador is overrun with crime.

It’s not — this is an incredibly safe place to live.

Crime tends to stand out here, because there isn’t a hell of a lot of it.

And we want to keep it that way.


On the subject of tourists, a word on the Newfoundland gatekeeper — Marine Atlantic.

There have been a load of complaints in recent weeks about Marine Atlantic, but it’s all good now that $36 million has been set aside for a new terminal in North Sydney.


No sir.

People say a new terminal is needed in Port aux Basques.

Local truckers say the new Marine Atlantic reservation system is killing their business.

And people wonder — they wonder aloud right here on this program — why the province isn’t pressuring the feds more to drop the reservation system.

But then the province is having its own problems with its own ferry system on the north coast of Labrador.

I had a caller yesterday say the north coast is running out of fresh food. The gasoline apparently ran out on Tuesday.


I have another message for tourists: Newfoundland may be a little hard to get to (it is an island, afterall, an island in the North Atlantic), but once you get here it’s wicked.

A big drawing cards is George Street.

At least for the nightlife, as it stands right now.

City Council in St. John’s is having a study carried out on transforming George Street from more than a collection of bars and nightclubs.

They want the street to be just as popular during the day.

Some people see the $19-million price tag as waste of money.

They see the George Street development as trying to put lipstick on a pig.

“Lipstick on a pig”, in fact, was the headline on a letter to the editor in today’s Telegram.

“To advertise George Street as a tourist attraction is pathetic,” reads the letter

“It would do nothing but further bolster the image of Newfoundlanders as the biggest boozers in the country and lead to higher taxes. If that's what council wants with our hard-earned tax dollars there should be a revolt by taxpayers.

George Street is George Street.

To enhance it is futile.”

That’s one opinion,

I don’t agree.

I was in New Orleans a few years ago and spent some time on Bourbon Street.

Which is known far and wide for its bars — my favourite one was an establishment where Elvis Presley once played.

But Bourbon Street is also known for its family activities during the day — buskers and musicians and street market and incredible food.

Why can’t we have that here?

Is $19 million worth it?

I say absolutely.

What do you say?


Interesting story in the Calgary Herald today.

The headline reads: Newfoundland moves forward with offshore licence auction.

Le me read the first paragraph:

“Despite the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and increasing scrutiny of deepwater drilling, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday issued a call for bids on a pair of deepwater parcels off the East Coast that will be auctioned off later this year.”

The deepwater parcels are in the Flemish Pass area.

Despite a ban on deepwater drilling in the U.S. — which is being contested in court, I might add — Newfoundland and Labrador has resisted calls for a moratorium on the East Coast.

It could be as many as six years before a well is drilling on those deepwater parcels.

Although keep in mind that the deepest well in Canadian history is being drilled, as I speak, on the Orphan Basin.

How do you feel about that?

I know that oil exploration has been banned since the early 1970s in the waters off British Columbia.


Well because the waters are environmentally sensitive.

And ours aren’t?

Call in if you can explain that to me.


Up to 60,000 barrels of oil have been spilling into the Gulf of Mexico since April 22 when the BP rig went down.

The disaster — maybe one of the biggest in human history, once all is said and done — is having a huge impact on fishing off the United States.

There’s a story out of Louisiana about how much the fishermen there are suffering.

Here’s a quote from one fisherman:

"Osama bin Laden couldn't have done a better job of destroying a part of the American economy.”

I have a question — and I don’t mean any disrespect by asking it.

But could the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery capitalize on the seafood void in the U.S. caused by the Gulf disaster?

Seems to me we would have to do a better job of marketing right off the bat.

Marketing our wild fish as the freshest in the world, pulled from the freshest, cleanest seas in the world.

Hopefully our seas will stay that way.

It breaks my heart to speak about fish marketing.

High Liner Foods — the Lunenburg, N.S.-based seafood company — achieved some of the best financial results in its 110-year history in 2009.

Profits rose almost 40 per cent to $20-million on sales of $627-million.

How did they do that?

A good part of that success can be traced to High Liner’s decision to purchase the marketing arm of the once strong NL fish company, Fishery Products International, in 2007.

That’s the same marketing arm that Premier Danny Williams offered on two occasions to buy in 2006.

Actually, Williams offered to partner with industry to purchase the marketing arm.

Industry turned him down.

Turned him down flat.

The province is now looking to restructure the fishery under an MOU signed with fish processors and the fishermen’s union.

And what will be a key component of that restructuring?

A marketing arm.

That’s the insanity of the fishing industry.

The Backtalk lines are open.

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