Saturday, August 7, 2010

Is Marine Atlantic headed the way of the fishery?

Delivered on air Aug. 6th.

Good morning Newfoundland and Labrador and all the ships at sea.

My name is Ryan Cleary and I’ll filling in for Randy Simms as host of VOCM Open Line this week and next.

First things first: happy Friday.

I could say, happy free-for-all Friday, which it is, but I see every day on Open Line as a free-for-all.

I begin today's show with two controversial topics: Marine Atlantic and the fishery — two topics that some people see as related.


One word — management.

Marine Atlantic is a federal Crown corporation that gets raked over the coals just about every day for breakdowns and delays and high costs and its reservation system.

Particularly the commercial reservation system, which local truckers say is killing their business.

Locals trucker say Marine Atlantic has made them conform to its schedule, rather than the other way around.

I received a handful of calls on Thursday’s show (Aug. 5) from average Newfoundlanders and Labradorains railing the Gulf ferry service.

Then there’s the fishery.

Commercial groundfish stocks have been battered.

Scientists are still looking to have species such as northern cod declared endangered.

Although there’s no talk of that lately — the feds seem to be ignoring that advice, wishing it would go away.

Likewise a cod recovery plan.

Almost 20 years since the moratorium and stocks are possibly in worse shape.

The province even plans to do its own science because it doesn’t seem to trust what the feds are doing.

And who knows what they’re doing.

Crab stocks are said to be in sad shape, possibly the next stock to fall.

DFO isn’t exactly renowned for its management skills.

Neither is Marine Atlantic.

Gus Etchegary was on the show Thursday and made a point on the similarity between the deterioration of service that some see has been taking place at Marine Atlantic in recent months, and the decline in the fisheries — management of the fisheries — particularly since the moratorium.

Mr. Etchegary said the present management of Marine Atlantic is the same management that accelerated the decline in our fisheries.

More specifically, Wayne Follett, president and CEO of Marine Atlantic, is the same Wayne Follett who served more than 15 years as senior manager with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Including a stint as director general, Newfoundland region, at Fisheries and Oceans.

First question of the day: do you see any management trends in DFO and Marine Atlantic.

I know Gus Etchegary does.

He doesn’t want Marine Atlantic to go the way of the fishery.

Is it headed that way?


Another note on Marine Atlantic, Wayne Bennett, leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador First Party, says the only way to fix Marine Atlantic may be to privatize it.

Hand it over to the private sector to run.

According to the Western Star, Bennett took a recent trip across the Gulf, and the trip only served to further convince him the ferry service needs to be operated by a private company.

He’s chiefly concerned with the Crown corporation’s apparent lack of communication with ferry travellers and its own staff — especially when things go wrong.

Which is fairly often.

Bennett says a lot of problems stem from having to deal with the unions.

Not management, as Mr. Etchegary suggests, but the unions.

Says Bennett: “Maybe a private operator will come in, get rid of the unions and get things back on an even keel. I think it’s a drastic step, but sometimes drastic measures are what’s needed.”

So what do you think of Bennett’s idea?

I’m not a fan, either of privatizing the Gulf service or getting rid of the unions, but what do you think?


Moving on to the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, I want to apologize to Charles Harkins, a former principal.

I read on air Thursday what I thought was an e-mail about the school for the deaf.

I didn’t realize it was actually a press release from the former principal.

Harkins, who served as principal for 23 years (1978-2001), says the Education Department is closing the school for the deaf under false pretenses.

He says the department has been intent on closing the school for years for ideological and financial reasons.

He says the decision about whether to even offer admission to the Newfoundland School for the Deaf was removed from the school years ago, and vested in the Department of Education.

Can you imagine the Department of Health making decisions on who’s admitted to the Health Sciences?

Harkins says in recent years parents have been denied admission for their children, and have been provided with one-sided information.

He says enrollment at the school for the deaf has been constantly reduced, with the ultimate objective of closing the school.

Harkins says deaf children of the province will now be at a disadvantage.

And he “grieves for them.”

How do you feel about the closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf?

Is it a good more, or a bad move?

Should we even have a school for the deaf, or are deaf and hard-of-hearing children better off in the public school system?


One last note on the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, I see that former students are gathering in St. John’s this weekend to celebrate the school’s 45th anniversary.

The last anniversary celebration.


Now let’s head down to the wharf — Jack Wells’ wharf in the Lower Battery at the base of Signal Hill.

We haven’t talked about that subject much this week, but Jack Wells’ wharf was all over the news last week.

The Lower Battery — for those who aren’t familiar with it — is a piece of outport Newfoundland right in the city, right down on the water.

There are fishing sheds and wharfs there, just like around the bay.

Only much of the infrastructure is in hard shape — it’s falling apart, toppling over, rotting.

So Jack Wells, a resident of the Lower Battery, fixed up his wharf.

Like you would.

Like he’s been doing for years.

Only he didn’t have a permit from the City of St. John’s, and the city went after him to tear it down.

They said it wasn’t safe, and it wasn’t.

Local residents took exception to the city tearing down the wharf; one of them even tied themselves to it overnight and slept there.

So they got loads of local and even national attention.

The residents of the Battery are trying to save their fishing heritage and culture, their connection to the past.

It would cost residents of the Battery a fortune to build the fishery infrastructure up to city code — a fortune they don’t have.

So what do they do: let it all rot, or fight to save it?

They’ve chosen to fight.

St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe was scheduled to meet with members of the Outer Battery Neighbourhood association this morning at 10 a.m.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of that meeting.

Jack Wells’ wharf isn’t the real issue.

The wharf is a symbol of the Battery’s heritage.

How do they keep it alive?

Should we care?


The province released a tender call Thursday to repair the ruts on the Conception Bay South bypass Road, the Outer Ring Road, and Torbay Road.

More specifically, 7.1 kilometres on the C.B.S. bypass between the Trans-Canada Highway and Legion Road; 4.3 kilometres of the Outer Ring Road; and a 1.4 km stretch on Torbay Road, from Holy Trinity Elementary to Middle Cove Road.

I don’t know if you’ve ever driven in those ruts, but they have a mind of their own.

I heard one guy on TV last night talk about how when your car is in the ruts it’s almost like you’re in cruise control.

The steering wheel does its own thing.


Still with highways, the media are reporting that the Newfoundland and Labrador government won’t pay for car repairs in southern Labrador suffered as a result of the condition of one of the provincial roads.

Some people say they’ve had their vehicles damaged by the severe shape of the road between L'Anse au Loup and Forteau.

It’s supposed to be really bad — treacherous even.

The people say the road has been badly maintained, to the point that perhaps the province is negligent.

But the province apparently doesn’t accept liability for damages incurred on its roadways.

Do you think the province should accept liability for damages on poorly maintained roads?

My only fear is the province would go broke paying for all the claims.


There were a couple of horrible accidents this past week.

A husband and wife from Springdale were killed in Saskatchewan when their minivan collided with a truck.

Dead are Patricia Melindy, 68 and Lloyd Melindy, 72, of Springdale in a traffic accident about 40 kilometres east of Regina.

Patricia Melindy was a minister in the United Church. She only retired in July.

Lloyd Melindy was a retired teacher.

So you know both of them touched a lot of lives.


And in Harbour Breton, Ernest Drake, a 55-year-old tow-truck operator, was killed in a freak accident when he was struck in the head by a winch cable when a two strap apparently broke.

Condolences to the Drake family.


There’s still no deal in the Port aux Basques paramedic dispute.

The 11 workers say they were fired; management says the workers quit.

The ambulance service has new management and the employees aren’t happy with a new work schedule that was brought in.

They say the schedule takes a big toll on their family life.

The new owner, the employees and representatives of both Port aux Basques and the Newfoundland and Labrador government met Thursday for several hours.

The two sides exchanged proposals and are expected to talk again today.

Either side of the dispute is welcome to call in.

Likewise, if you’ve been in any way impacted by the labour dispute, you’re welcome to call in as well.


The Newfoundland and Labrador folk festival starts tonight at Banneman Park in St. John’s.

I walked past there last evening and the area is blocked off, the stage is set.

I’m headed to the festival tonight, but I’ll try to get there as much as I can over the weekend.

Do you plan to go yourself?

I can tell you this: the talent in this province is incredible.

Hey Rosetta’s on this evening.

Can’t wait.


Finally, for now, I mentioned yesterday that it was Danny Williams birthday on Wednesday (Aug. 4th).

The premier turned 61.

But did you know that Danny Williams shares a birthday with the Barack Obama, president of the United States.

The president turned 49 on Wednesday.

I wonder if Danny sent Barack a gift from Canadian Tire, his favourite store.

The Lines are open.

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