Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kids aren't born bad; even ones who kill farm animals

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 two weeks 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 with our society’s most vulnerable — our children.

In June, an eight-year-old boy in Stoneville killed a dog with a barbeque fork.

Then, this week, the same eight-year-old boy bludgeoned another family's pet hens and ducks.

A chick was found in a pond — drowned.

A hen lay in the yard — beheaded.

In total, six birds were dead and three others had to be euthanized.

I see that Kathleen Kufeldt, a former chair in child protection at Memorial University, is quoted as saying there’s no question that health-care workers need to intervene in the little boy’s case.

If they don’t intervene, the boy could end up a sadistic adult.

I have a question, why didn’t health-care workers intervene when the 8-year-old killed the dog with the barbeque fork?

Has our health-are system, our social services system, failed that little boy?

I see that a spokesperson for Central Health has questioned whether the 8-year-old is a “bad kid.”

I take bad to mean evil.

Maybe someone should check to see if there are three 6s on the back of his neck.

Seriously, the first lesson I learned as a young reporter from social workers is that kids aren’t born bad.

Should the health-care system have intervened in this little boy’s case sooner?


While we’re on the topic of health care, it’s been five years since The Independent newspaper broke the breast cancer testing scandal.

When we broke that story we certainly didn’t think it would lead to a full-blown judicial inquiry, with repercussions still being felt today.

In the latest news, an external review of the province’s largest medical laboratories has found a load of problems.

And what did Vicki Kaminski, CEO of Eastern Health, do with the report?

She released it to the public on Thursday.

My how things have changed.

The accountability is refreshing, wouldn’t you say?

And what’s the first thing Kaminski said?

She said, “We have work to do.”

The first step in fixing any problem is to acknowledge that it exists, and Vicki Kaminski has done that.

Now the work begins.

The review by Ontario’s University Health Network identified problems such as lack of expertise in complex areas of testing; inappropriate relationships and responsibilities between managers and medical staff; and low morale, suspicion and distrust.

The report recommends consolidating all laboratories at the Health Sciences, and recruiting expertise in medical testing.

It was also noted that medical laboratory problems are plaguing other parts of the country, too.

How’s your faith in Eastern Health and our medical system?

Is it still shaken?

I also have an e-mail I want to read regarding health care.

It’s from Boyd Legge of Mount Pearl:

“Reports from the minister indicate we have doubled our budget in health care, but really does anyone think or believe we have improved the health-care system? Are we only throwing good money after bad, or is the additional funding being eaten by administration or used for empire building? Kaminski was not surprised; she should have been shocked and embarrassed.”

Thanks for the e-mail Boyd.

What do you think, should Vicki Kaminski have been shocked and embarrassed?


Speaking of Boyd Legge, he sent me another e-mail today regarding Marine Atlantic.

It reads: “This may sound simple, but let’s just have load and go during the summer months, no reservations.”

Thanks again, Boyd.

What do you think, should Marine Atlantic scrap the reservation system during the summer in favour of load and go?

West coast Liberal MP Gerry Byrne was on the show Thursday and made no bones about how he felt.

Byrne says the commercial reservation system should be done away with.

What do you think?


Let’s switch gears all together now.

Do you remember last week's debate over a raise given to municipal workers in Grand Falls-Windsor?

Some people expressed surprise when municipal workers with the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor were given a $3.10 an hour wage increase over four years.

Or 14.5 per cent.

The raise seemed high given the economic pain suffered by central Newfoundland in recent years, primarily with the closure of the AbitibiBowater mill.

Bradley George of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of Canadian Federation of Independent Business slammed the raise, questioning who’s going to pay for it.

In response, the mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor, Al Hawkins, questioned why nobody criticized the 16 per cent raise given to workers in St. John’s, or the 17 per cent raise granted to workers in Mount Pearl.

I bring those government raises up — and municipalities are a level of government — because they’re the first thing I thought of when I heard about the raise tentatively agreed to by Bell Aliant employees.

Bell Aliant — one of North America’s largest regional communications providers — has reached a tentative agreement with its workers.

What’s the raise over the length of the four-year deal?

A 1.75 per cent raise next year.

Zero in 2012.

Zero in 2013.

And zero in 2014.

In exchange for the three-year wage freeze, employees get job security, retirees keep their benefits, and none of Aliant's five call centres in Atlantic Canada will close, including the one in Mount Pearl.

So in the public sector municipal workers are signing deals that include 14.5 to 17 per cent raises.

In the private sector — with Bell Aliant anyway, which has been losing money — a three-year wage freeze.

Something seems out of whack.

Public-sector employees seem to be getting much fatter contracts than the private sector.

What does that say to you?


Let’s move on to Quebec — one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s bestest buddies (a la Upper Churchill contract).

I see another major fight brewing between La Belle Province and Newfoundland and Labrador over the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

At stake are the potential riches of Old Harry — a hydrocarbon field thought to contain either as much as two billion barrels of oil, twice as much as Hibernia, or five trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The only way to find out for sure what’s in Old Harry is to drill.

Which is a problem in itself considering what happened in the Gulf of Mexico and what an oil leak could do to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

But there are a couple of other problems.

The first problem is that Quebec doesn’t have an offshore drilling agreement with the Government of Canada.

We have the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which regulates the offshore industry, but Quebec doesn’t have one.

But then news broke Thursday that Quebec and the feds are in negotiations.

The bigger problem with the Old Harry deposit is the marine border between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador goes right down through it.

Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have yet to agree on a boundary line.

Tell me that’s not going to be a fight?


Moving on to politics, nominations close today for candidates who want to run for leadership of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party.

Whoever wins the nomination will take the party into the next provincial election in the fall of 2011.

Whoever wins the Liberal nomination will take on Tory premier Danny Williams, who The Newfoundland Herald recently called a political behemoth and questioned whether here’s INVINCILE?

So far Yvonne Jones has thrown her hat in the ring as the only declared candidate, but nobody else.

So what does that say?

Does that say that Danny Williams is invincible?

Do you think Yvonne Jones can challenge the Tory government?

Or is Yvonne Jones just there to tide the Liberals over until Williams is gone or at the very least more vulnerable?

Doesn’t anybody have the guts to take on Danny Williams?

Or are they not that stupid?


Let’s move on to the Lower Battery and the fight over Jack Wells’ wharf.

The Lower Battery is at the base of Signal Hill on the left-hand side of the harbour heading out to sea.

It’s where all the quaint little houses are lodged on the rocks with stages and sheds and wharfs.

I dropped by there Thursday on my way around Signal Hill trail and had a chat with the misses who tied herself to the wharf the other night.

She slept on Jack Wells’ wharf to make sure it wasn’t torn down.

She seems like a lovely lady, from Alberta actually, half Cree and half Italian.

She ended up here about 10 years ago when “the wind blowed her here,” as she said.

I took a look at the wharf, and my first thought is that it’s not safe.

It’s not, I’ve spent time on a lot of wharfs and that one’s not fit.

I wouldn’t tie a boat up to it.

I would agree with St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe that it’s a public hazard.

But there’s a broader point here: how do we save the traditional character of the Lower Battery?

The people who live there can’t afford to hire marine engineers and rebuilt the fishing infrastructure up to code — out of the question.

The question is, should the city or some level of government help preserve the character of the Lower Battery?

It draws tourists like you wouldn’t believe.

Should that character be preserved?

If the residents can’t do it, should the city or government step in?

My answer to that would be yes.

What do you say?


One last point, if we do rebuilt the Lower Battery in all its historic fishing value, it could act as a museum to the outports, to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Which has been slowly dying for years.

The Lower Battery, a headstone to rural Newfoundland and Labrador?


Finally, for now, I saw the whales again Thursday from Signal Hill, just outside The Narrows.

The sewage must be cleaned up to see the whales in that close.

Whales are one thing, but did you know that Shakes were also spotted around St. John’s on Thursday.

That’s right — sharks.

Fermeuse native Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley of the San Jose Sharks played at Clowe’s second annual charity golf tournament at Clovelly Golf Club in St. John’s Thursday.

It was fine though … nobody swims in the water hazards.

The Backtalk lines are open.

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