Monday, July 26, 2010

Should Kilbride women fear abduction?

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.

Let’s begin today offshore Newfoundland, on the Orphan Basin about 430 km east of Newfoundland, where Chevron and a consortium of companies are drilling the deepest well in Canadian history.

The big news last week involved the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the watchdog agency that regulates the offshore industry.

The CNLOPB released some information on oil-spill response.

Chevron warned regulators that two things could hinder its ability to clean up a major oil spill and drill a relief well to plug a leak — sea ice and fierce storms.

But the bigger story was the fact that the CNLOPB kept secret key information about how companies would respond to a spill.

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

And where the oil would drift?

By the end of last week the CNLOPB did an about face — probably because of the public pressure — and decided to release the secret information.

If we had a spill on the Orphan Basin where would the oil drift?

As far as I can tell the offshore watchdog doesn’t really know.

Chevron said the oil spill response information it gathered proves oil would never reach sore and would likely disperse in the ocean.

But Chevron’s projections are based on a spill at the ocean’s surface, rather than a blowout at the ocean floor, which is what happened with British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico.

Remember the up to 60,000 barrels of oil that leaked for 85 days?

We may not see oil on the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador if there’s a spill, but that doesn’t mean the oil won't having an impact on the environment.

First question of the day: Do we know enough about the risks of offshore drilling?


As for the question of who’s in charge in the event of a spill, that’s not really clear yet.

I saw a story in the national news this morning about how the Canadian Coast Guard would be in charge if foreign oil spilled in Canadian waters,

It could happen — a Scottish company is licensed to drill two exploratory wells this summer off the coast of Greenland.

There's also a hell of a lot of oil tanker traffic in and out of Placentia Bay.

My first question would be whether the Canadian Coast Guard ships would have enough fuel in their tanks to leave port?

When was the last time we had a new coast guard ship?

What’s the average age of the East Coast fleet — 15, 20, 25 years?

There’s still a lot more digging to be done in regards to the offshore oil industry and emergency response.


The CEO of British Petroleum is set to resign.

Tony Hayward could be replaced, as early as October, by an American.

BP has spent almost $4 billion on dealing with the Gulf of Mexico spill.

That’s so far — the amount could be a hell of a lot more than that when all is said and done.

Tell me the oil companies aren’t raking it in.

Do you think we have our environmental act together when it comes to the offshore oil industry?


From environmental tragedy to human tragedy …

Earlier in July we had the death of four people from Twillingate, including the two little Guy brothers.

This past weekend was also marred by tragedy, and the loss of 5 more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Labrador lost three of its own after a weekend fire in the Inuit community of Nain.

Dead is a man in his 50s and his two grandchildren, ages two and four.

It was only on July 9th that a drowning in Nain claimed the life of a nine-year-old boy.

Two people were also killed on Sunday in a motorcycle crash east of the Southern Harbour turnoff.

Dead are a man and woman, both in their 50s .

There’s no doubt we see our share of tragedy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There’s an interesting feature in the Weekend Telegram, headlined A journey through grief. What I’ve learned about loss in the long, painful year since my husband died.

The article is written by Marsha Porter.

I worked with Marsha years ago; we were both reporters at The Telegram.

Marsha lost her husband in June 2009.

She got a phone call out of the blue from the Health Sciences ER informing her that her husband had been in an accident.

You might remember — Mike Dinn was killed when he was cycling on the Outer Ring Road and hit a parked truck.

Marsha’s article is a fascinating read, and a heart-breaking one, but she has advice for other people who’ve lost loved ones.

Marsha lost her husband, but she had to stay strong for her two young children.

If you’ve suffered a loss, I recommend you read Marsha Porter’s article.

There’s also good advice in there for family and friends of people who’ve lost loved ones.


Still with the living.

Hopefully. Please God.

Thirty two year old Ann Marie Shirran of Kilbride has been missing now for 8 days, since July 18th.

Shirran was last seen when she went for a walk wearing black pants, a white sleeveless top and flip-flops.

Flip-flops, meaning she wasn’t going far.

She also left her one-year old baby at home, a baby she had never spent any time away from.

Shirran is about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with shoulder length brown/auburn hair.

There had been an extensive ground search, but that’s since been suspended.

The disappearance is being investigated by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s major crime unit.

I saw an interesting piece on VOCM’s website over the weekend, headlined Missing woman had named changed.

Six years ago Ann Marie Shirran went by the name Ann Marie Baggs.

Should residents of Kilbride, women especially, have reason to be concerned about possible abductions?

Have police released enough information regarding Shirran’s disappearance?


There was yet another moose-vehicle accident in the province over the weekend.

That’s not unusual when you consider we’re on pace for 700 or so accidents a year — which averages about two a day.

In one of the latest accidents, as reported on VOCM News, a family of four was returning to Grand Falls-Windsor from Botwood Sunday evening.

They swerved to avoid a bull moose, struck loose gravel, and rolled several times.

The four occupants suffered various injuries, but no one was killed.

Eugene Nippard of the Save Our People Action Committee says the accident was preventable as the moose had been seen in the area for three days.

Three days now.

He wants measure introduced so that so-called nuisance moose can be eliminated before an accident happens.

Government has already rejected that idea. The province's plan to deal with moose is to cut back brush on the side of the highways, increase public education, and extend the hunting season.

The moose debate isn’t going away any time soon.

Not with two accidents a day.

New Brunswick made moose fencing a provincial election issue.

There’s a provincial election next fall.

Should moose/vehicle collisions be an election issue leading up to that next year’s provincial general election?


There was an interesting story on the front-page of the Weekend Telegram, a story by Alisha Morrissey.

A new condo development — on the site of the old Sprung Greenhouse — would see residents living in St. John’s, but parking across the street in Mount Pearl.

The St. John’s/Mount Pearl border would divide the development right down the middle, a story I bring up because St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe joked that it was a good case for amalgamation.

Seriously though, is it?

St. John’s and Mount Pearl are really one big city.

Everybody beyond the overpass sees practically the whole of the northeast Avalon as one big city.

Some people are afraid that towns or cities may lose their identity with amalgamation, but that hasn’t happened with Shea Heights or The Goulds or Foxtrap.

Would we be better off financially as one big city?

That question isn’t going away any time soon, either.


Still with the Weekend Telegram, there was an interesting letter to the editor on double dipping MHAs.

Even though our MHAs are near the highest paid in Canada, MHAs are allowed to receive a public service pension while sitting in the House of Assembly.

In other words, if I’m a retired teacher, for example, I can keep my teachers’ pension and collect about $100,000 in MHA pay.

I can collect both.

The letter writer, Boyd Legge of Mount Pearl, figures maybe 17 of the province’s 48 MHAs double dip, collecting both public service pensions and MHA salary.

Meantime, if you’re a retired public service pensioner, a retired teacher, say, and you take a government job, you forfeit your pension.

Public service pensions can’t double dip, but MHAs can.

Does anybody have a problem with that?

Isn’t that a double standard?


VOCM reports that there’s a meeting today between union and management concerning cuts at Bell Aliant.

The company intends to close three of its 5 call centres in Atlantic Canada, including one in Mount Pearl.

Will that one close?

We shall see.

Bell Aliant also intends to use more private contractors, pare down the engineering department, and cut out some retirement benefits.


The last thing I want to mention, for now, is about the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The BBC is apparently looking for a typical Newfoundland fishing family to take part in a documentary series.

The series on parenting takes two British teenagers and places them in families to learn to live according to their rules and way of life.

Other shows have put British teens with families from Jamaica, India, Alabama and South Africa.

The BBC is looking for a traditional Newfoundland family, with two kids aged 14 to 16.

And you must be willing to take in two British teens, ones who have lacked a bit of structure in their lives.

That’s great news, isn’t it?

We may get new blood into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery yet.

The blood would be British, but blood nonetheless.

The Backtalk lines are open.

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