Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Twillingate's darkest days

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 Twillingate first, where so many of us are already in terms of the grip of tragedy.


Four people were lost on Saturday when the 16-foot open boat they were in went down off the northeast coast.


Nobody knows exactly what happened.


It was supposed to be a pleasure-cruise under bright, sunny skies, but residents say conditions at sea on Saturday weren’t so good, with heavy rolling waves that are believed to have swamped or capsized the boat.


Brothers James Guy, 12, and Josh Guy, 10, asked to out on the boat with the two adults, family friends, who were tinkering with a boat and motor on the local wharf.


Their mother let them go on a ride out to sea.


She went down to the wharf and made sure her sons had their life jackets on. She told her boys to be good.


According to the paper, she told her boys that if anything happened to beat it to shore.


Something did happen, and the boys didn’t make it.


The boys’ bodies were found in the water — not too far apart.


Twillingate Mayor and harbour master Gordon Noseworthy said all indications are that the brothers were alive in the water.


That they were holding onto each other.


Then they died, and drifted apart.


One of the two men has been identified — Paul Froude, a 42-year-old local fisherman.


The other man — whose body is still missing — hasn’t been identified. He was reportedly home for a visit from Yellowknife to see his mother.


I saw a quote this morning in the National Post (this story has gone across the country) by Jack Troake of Twillingate.


Troake said it’s bad enough to lose the two older fellows, but the two children hadn’t lived yet.


The boys were described as wharf rats, as Twillingate’s mascots, two freckled-faced boys who couldn’t be tied down.


They weren’t the type to play video games.


They were the type to hang out on the wharf.


Their family didn’t have a lot of money; the community looked out for them.


Last night there was a candlelight service on a wharf in Twillingate, and about 1,000 people turned out, a third of the town’s population.


This story has gripped Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed the country.


A mother has lost her only children. Two men in their 40s have been lost.


I mentioned yesterday how I’ve covered my share of tragedies.


Almost 10 years ago three young boys were lost on the ice off Pouch Cove.


I remember the sound of the search and rescue helicopters flying over the town, searching for the bodies.


I received an e-mail Monday from a man who said the sound of the search and rescue helicopter over Twillingate was heart breaking.


I can tell you that talking helps.


If you want to talk about Twillingate’s darkest days, you’re more than welcome to.


Premier Danny Williams issued a statement earlier today:


"On behalf of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I want to express my most heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the individuals whose lives were lost over the weekend."


It’s fair to say the premier speaks for us all.

•••

One of the stories I mentioned yesterday off the top of the show was the fire early Saturday morning at a social housing unit at Buckmaster’s Circle in St. John’s.


And how four people — two adult women, and two young girls — were lucky to be alive after their house caught fire.


The four were forced to escape from a third-floor window.


There was no fire escape, there was no rope ladder.


I saw on the CBC supper-hour news last evening how the four didn’t just drop 30 feet.


They dropped 30 feet to a set of concrete steps.


Neighbours reportedly put out a mattress to break their fall, but each of the four ended up with broken bones.


The homes in Buckmaster’s Circle are apparently built to code — three-storey, single-family homes don’t require fire escapes or fire ladders.


They may not require them, but I can tell you this: that home on Buckmaster’s Circle needed them on Saturday night.


That was obvious.


I’ll bet most people living in Buckmaster’s Cirle will keep, at the very least, a rope on the top floor from now on.


A fire in a three-storey home and the only way out is to jump to a set of concrete stairs 30 feet down?


Does anybody else see a problem with that?

•••

A quick note before I go on.


I get my news in preparation for this show from all over — the radio (VOCM news primarily), the TV, local and national newspapers, the Internet … from all over.


I read an interesting piece this morning on The Telegram’s website, a piece by Geoff Meeker about the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s.


More specifically, about the temperature inside the place lately.


Apparently it’s a brick oven — literally.


The temperature may be 30-degrees outside, but inside the Waterford it’s even hotter.


One worker said it was 41 degrees on the floor the other day — not fit for staff or patients.


The building is more than 100 years old. None of the units have air conditioning, and most windows don’t open to prevent suicides.


Staff wear shorts, which is against the dress code, and patients are miserable.

•••

I got a couple of calls yesterday about a national news story.


Namely, the decision by the Stephen Harper Conservatives to spend $16 million on new fighter jets.


That’s resonating with people — they don’t seem to like it.


I see The Telegram has an editorial on the topic today, headlined: Lots of dollars, no sense.


$16 billion on fighter jets on the heels on a $1.2-billion security debacle at the G20 in Toronto.


Let me read from the editorial:


“Canada's federal government may call themselves Conservatives, but darn it, they're suddenly spending like Liberals. And not even smart Liberals. They're spending like drunken Liberals.”


The F-35 fighter jets don't sound like the kind of airplane we need.


The purchase doesn't seem like a reasonable deal either, and the planes will be bought without so much as a competitive tender.


Which would you pick: A new Cadillac fighter jet, or a new Canadian Coast Guard vessel built at Marystown?


Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail asked a good question last week:


“Do we seriously believe the Russians or someone else are going to launch some kind of air attack against Canada such that we need fighters?”

•••

Couple of stories out of Mount Pearl are worth mentioning.


Last night a couple of armed teenagers jumped a guy sitting in his car at a Mount Pearl McDonald’s.


One of the teenagers had a knife; the other carried a steel rod.


The man ran from his car and into the McDonald’s. Police used the dog unit to track down the suspects.


One was 18; he was taken to the Pen.


The other was 15; he was taken to Whitbourne.


The incident comes on the heels of another incident in Mount Pearl over the weekend where two young men dropped rocks off a bridge on the cars below.


What’s going on with Mount Pearl young people?

•••

The other story I want to mention from The Pearl is a possible labour dispute.


About 120 city workers in Mount Pearl will hold a strike vote later this month.


The two sides had been in conciliation talks, but couldn’t reach an agreement.


The outstanding issue is wages.


CUPE, which represents the workers, is looking for 18 per cent over four years.


Mount Pearl is willing to pay 16 ½ per cent over four years.


When I head this story I immediately thought of what’s happening in Ontario.


The provincial government of Ontario is looking at freezing the wages of more than one million workers — bureaucrats, teachers and nurses.


Union membership and managers, too.


Of course, Ontario is a have-not province now, facing a $21-billion deficit.


NL is a have-province, but we’re also in deficit position with a massive long-term debt.


The last time Newfoundland and Labrador’s public-sector unions got a raise it was more than 20 per cent over four years.


Do you think they’re likely to see those size raise again anytime soon?

•••

Speaking of labour disputes … a labour dispute in Montreal could have a huge impact on Newfoundland and Labrador.


Commercial operations at the Port of Montreal came to a halt Monday morning after 850 longshoremen were locked out in an ongoing labour dispute over a new collective agreement.

Tom Hedderson, NL’s Transportation minister, issued a statement advising

residents and businesses — particularly on the Avalon Peninsula — that they should be aware of possible impacts.


Impacts?


According to Oceanex officials, approximately 50 per cent of goods coming to the island portion of the province arrive via shipping containers from the Port of Montreal.


And Marine Atlantic has limited, if any, capacity to compensate for the volume of shipments coming out of Montreal’s port.


Those shipments include construction materials.


Which are serious.


And food.


Which is a hell of a lot more serious.


So what should we do — run to the grocery story and stock up?


Is it that serious?


Tom Hedderson says it’s “very serous.”


I have a question: if the Port of Montreal is so important to Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of the delivery of essential goods, why isn’t the port declared an essential service.


Why are Montreal longshoremen allowed to strike?


Minister Hedderson is more than welcome to call in today.

•••

One last labour dispute I want to mention.


This one’s been ongoing for about 8 months in Marystown and involves members at the Burin Marystown Community Training and Employment Board.


NAPE has asked for binding arbitration to settle the strike.


They asked for that two weeks ago.


Finance Minister Tom Marshall has yet to respond to the request.


NAPE says that isn’t good enough.


What do you say?

•••

Finally, for now, did you see the story on the CBC news last night about the biker gang arrested on its way to Cape Spear?


More than a dozen bikers — members of the Bacchus motorcycle club, with links to the Hell’s Angles — were all decked out in their colours Monday, when the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary pulled them over.


To hear the bikers tell it, they were simply on vacation, headed to Cape Spear to take in the view.


The Constab say the bikers were pulled over for a traffic violation.


The bikers say they were harassed.


They also say police created an unnecessarily dangerous situation when they pulled them over outside the park area, practically on a blind hill.


Let me ask you: Do you see the Constabulary as bullies?


Should they have left alone the poor, picked-on biker gang with links to the Hell’s Angles?


The Backtalk lines are open.

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