Thursday, July 22, 2010

Marks are out for Education Department; summer school it is

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.


Today is report card day in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least for high school students it is.


A dreaded day or some; a not so dreaded day for others.


But if you get your marks in the mail today and they’re not the best.


They aren’t good at all.


They’re not what you expected.


You’ll have an excuse — and it will be the truth.


They're the WRONG marks.


The Education Department sent out a news release first thing this morning (July 22nd) to advice almost 12,000 high school students, and their parents, that due to a processing error, transcripts received in the mail today reflect course grades from 2008/2009.

In other words, they’re last year’s marks.


They’re the WRONG marks.


Final marks for the 2009/2010 school year — the CORRECT marks — will be mailed out in the coming week.


The department apologized for the error as well as any inconvenience and confusion the mistake make have caused.


I have to ask: how much inconvenience and confusion was caused by sending out the wrong marks?


Teenagers are usually in decent physical condition, but were there any heart attacks when those wrong marks were opened in the mail?


As for how much the mistake cost government, about $7,000 in postage.


Maybe bureaucrats can be just as guilty as high school students in terms of drifting off at their desks.


Teenagers — by the way — are welcome to call in and grade the Education Department for its performance.

•••

Moving on to Twillingate, and a much more somber topic:


The first of the funerals for the four people who died over the weekend in the Twillingate boating tragedy is to take place today.


The funeral for James and Josh Guy — two brothers, ages 12 and 10 — is scheduled for this afternoon at the Central United Church in Twillingate.


I’m sure it will be a memorable funeral, blocked to the rafters.


I can only imagine the pain today in Twillingate.


I can tell you this: there’s not a nook and cranny in Newfoundland and Labrador that doesn’t feel that pain.


There’s a lovely letter in today’s Telegram, headlined Condolences to Twillingate, written by a missus from Oshawa, Ont. by the name of Margaret Wilkinson.


She and husband visited Newfoundland for the first time in June, and they spent two “sunny days” in Twillingate.


The letter was written directly to the people of Twillingate:


I always wondered why everyone would ‘GO HOME’ (to Newfoundland) for their holidays, but I can now see why. You need a dose of the island to keep your head on straight.”


Make no mistake, Newfoundland and Labrador is a wonderful place to live, but it’s also a hard place to live.


Which is what makes us who we are.


If you want to call today and talk about Twillingate, to offer your own condolences, you’re more than welcome.

•••

Moving on to politics ...


Another day, and former MHA is granted full parole.


Former New Democrat politician Randy Collins, who represented Labrador West in the House of Assembly, has been granted full parole by the National Parole Board.


Collins was granted full parole about 6 months after he began serving a 21-month sentence for defrauding taxpayers.


For his part in the House of Assembly spending scandal.


For stealing $100,000 from taxpayers.


Collins was actually out on day parole since May, wearing an electronic monitoring devise while living with his mother.


According the parole board, Randy Collins was well behaved behind bars, and accepted his role in the scandal.


UNLIKE former Liberal MHA Jim Walsh.


Walsh was granted full parole last week.


He had been sent to jail in January for 22 months for fraud and breech of trust for his role in the scandal.


Randy Collins accepted his role.


Jim Walsh did not, nd got full parole anyway.


Let me ask you this: Are you happy with the amount of time these former MHAs spent behind bars?


They each got almost two years in jail, but only served a few months before being released on day parole.


The other two former MHAs who were charged in the scandal were former Tory cabinet Minister, and right hand to the premier, Ed Byrne, as well as Liberal Wally Andersen.


Byrne was sentenced in April 2009 to two years, less a day.


He was granted day parole, with electronic monitoring, that summer and granted full parole before Christmas.


Wally Andersen was sentenced to 15 months in jail in early October 2009.


He was released before Christmas on an electronic monitoring program, and granted full parole this past February.


Again, do you feel the former MHAs spent enough time behind bars for their crimes?


I never did get why the four former MHAs weren’t ordered to write public apologies.


Unlike Bill Murray, the only bureaucrat charged in the scandal.

•••

Moving on to offshore oil …


The big news story that broke across the country on Wednesday centred around how the watchdog agency that oversees oil drilling off Newfoundland — the Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board — is keeping secret key information about how companies would respond to an oil spill.


Information like who’s in charge in the event of an oil spill?


And — in the event of a spill — where the oil would drift?


Canadian regulators say they’re being as transparent as possible within the law.


The editorial in today’s Telegram says if that’s the case the law needs to change.


“Companies that want to convert natural resources to profits have to be willing to let their oil spill plans be considered by the people who own the resources. If the days of a pat on the head and ‘the oil companies are professional and they know best’ hadn't ended before the Gulf of Mexico spill, they certainly have now.”


Critics say the lack of full disclosure is “inexcusable” at a time when the public’s confidence in offshore drilling has been shaken by the Gulf of Mexico disaster.


What do you say?

•••

Still with oil …


ExxonMobil Canada's new president — Meg O’Neil — has decided to set up shop in Newfoundland and Labrador instead of Nova Scotia.


Which is interesting.


A company spokesperson said the move reflects the company's level of activity in Newfoundland's offshore oil industry.


ExxonMobil is currently involved in the Hebron, Hibernia and Terra Nova oilfields, as well as exploration.


Some people see that as great news, the fact that the new Canadian president is moving here.


Other people see the move as not so great — they don’t like our reliance on offshore oil, certainly not since the Gulf of Mexico disaster.


Or the fact offshore exploration will increase.


Keep in mind that unless more oil is discovered offshore our record oil revenues are heading south.


How do you see it?

•••

Speaking of work here in the province …


You probably heard on VOCM news about how a Quebec company is busy working on a major extension to the water treatment facility at Bay Bulls-Big Pond.


It’s been on the go for some time.


Well, that Quebec company is supposedly bringing in its own workers.


Which isn’t sitting well with Local 740 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Unions and its roughly 1,300 members in the province.


Many of who are supposedly unemployed.


Speaking for the union, Jim Myers says this isn’t the first time its happened, that a Quebec construction company has brought in its own workers.


Myers says he has no problem with Quebec companies getting contracts in this province, but they should have to use qualified local workers first.


I’m surprised by that statement.


Normally, I wouldn’t care if a Quebec company landed a contract here.


It’s a free country.


Only, while Quebec construction companies can get contracts in NL, NL construction companies can’t get construction contracts in Quebec.


The Liberals went off their heads about that in the House of Assembly in the last session, remember?


Jim Myers is also concerned that a huge amount of work at Vale’s multi-billion operation in Long Harbour may be going out of province.


Myers asks why the Danny Williams administration hasn’t taken action to ensure companies doing work in this province hire local qualified workers before bringing in come-from-aways.


What do you say, should the Williams government take action to ensue qualified locals are hired first?

•••

Yet another story I want to mention from VOCM news …


According to the president of the fishermen’s union — Earle McCurdy — the lack of a voice from this province at the federal Consevative cabinet isn’t helping Newfoundland and Labrador’s case for money for fisheries restructuring.


I guess Earle is saying we should vote Conservative in the next federal election.


Which is interesting for a union leader.


Earle McCurdy says rationalization of the fishery by bankruptcy seems to be OK with the federal government.


I’m confused about this whole MOU process, is it just about retiring fish plants, fishermen and plants workers, and having money for a retirement plan?


Is that all it’s about?


From where I sit, the fishery needs a new economic blueprint.


A whole new way of doing things.


Do you think that will happen with the MOU process.


I have my doubts.


Do you have doubts?


Because you’d better speak up quick if you do.

•••

There’s talk of a major demonstration at the Marine Atlantic terminal in Port aux Basques next Tuesday.


Local truckers aren’t giving up on the fight against the Crown corporation’s new reservation system.


Which they say is driving them out of business.


If that demonstration goes ahead on Tuesday, and the Marine Atlantic schedule is interrupted at the same time that the port of Montreal strike is causing delays with the shipment of goods into Newfoundland via Oceanex, there could be some real problems.


But it would get everyone’s attention?


Calls about Marine Atlantic — good or bad — are always welcome.

•••

Speaking of welcome, I don’t know what it’s like where you’re sitting in Newfoudland and Labrador, but St. John’s is maggoty with tourists.


They’re everywhere.


Clinging to the clifts.


I did have one complaint forwarded to me the other day, about Cape Spear.


Apparently the public washrooms there don't open until 10 a.m., which doesn’t work for seniors who are there first thing in the morning.


Does anybody else have a problem with that?


You might want to call in and tell us how lovely your visit is.


Those calls are welcome, too.

•••

Finally, for now, I see from The Telegram that a trailer that was headed to the Republic of Doyle set was stolen.


The suspect pickup, which allegedly towed the camper from the area around St. John’s International airport, is described as red with double wheels on the back.


Let me ask you, who’d dare steal anything from Jake Doyle, one of the best PIs in the business.


Oh yeah.


The Backtalk lines are open.

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