Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MHAs caught in moose headlights

VOCM Open Line intro, Aug. 10, 2010

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

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

Here’s a question: who cares?

I mean really, who cares?

Well, apparently the provincial government cares, and the province hopes you do, too.

Who cares? is a campaign launched by the provincial government Monday to celebrate the province’s volunteer and non-profit sector.

The campaign is designed to highlight the importance of the volunteer sector.

That’s a good thing.

To instill a sense of pride in those who volunteer and compel others to volunteer themselves.

That’s a good thing, too.

According to the province, there are 197,000 volunteers in the province, who give 35 million hours of their time.

Let’s see , if you had to pay for those 35 million hours at the minimum wage of $10 an hour, you’d have to pay out more than $3.5 billion.

So volunteering is a great thing. More people need to volunteer. Simple.

At the same time, and this was interesting.

The Telegram ran an editorial this past Saturday, headlined Something for nothing.

The editorial pointed out that the Williams administration has a small office called the Voluntary and Non-Profit Secretariat, which falls under the wing of the provincial Department of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The office has a budget of just over $1 million, and four full-time employees.

The price tag of the salaries for those four alone is about $424,000 — led by a deputy-minister earning $157,000 a year.

The Telegram questioned why more money can’t find its way to community organizations that desperately need the funding.

That’s a good question.

God knows we need volunteers, but do we need a Voluntary and Non-Profit Secretariat?

We all know that it’s good to volunteer — loads of us do it.

But do we need government to tell us that?

How do you feel about volunteering?

Would you recommend it? What do you get out of it?


Here’s a question: are you tired of talking about moose yet?

Well b’y, brace yourself for impact, because the topic isn’t going anywhere.

Not with an estimated 700 moose-vehicle collisions a year.

The topic is staying put, front and centre, like a moose caught in the headlights.

Maybe our politicians are caught in the headlights.

Police say there were six moose-vehicle collisions on roads across the province early Monday morning.

First things first, the good news.

There were no (human) injuries.

Let’s see, an ambulance hit a moose in Riverhead, St. Mary's Bay.

Two tractor-trailers hit moose — one hit an animal near Whitbourne on the Trans-Canada highway, and the other hit a moose near Deer Lake.

A vehicle hit a moose on the highway near Cappahayden, and wildlife officials were called to deal with the badly injured animal.

There was also a collision near Hermitage on Route 360.

And one driver hit two moose on the Trans-Canada Highway near St. David's north of Port aux Basques.

Now that’s six moose-vehicle collisions on Monday morning alone.

Meantime, VOCM News reports that a man injured in a moose-vehicle accident Thursday on the Argentia Access Road is on life support.

According to a family member, the 59-year-old has brain injuries and internal bleeding.

The man’s wife sent in an e-mail Monday to Open Line.

She mentioned how while driving home to Trinity Bay with friends after visiting her husband in the Intensive Care Unit they nearly hit a moose, and barely escaped injury.

The lady had this to say: “We need moose fences and we need them now … what will it take for the powers that be to see there is a need … will it take seeing their loved ones in the ICU with a serious brain bleed from hitting a moose to open their eyes to this problem?”

I got another e-mail about Moose from Monty Newhook of New Harbour, Trinity Bay.

Monty wrote:

“Ryan, the government of NL is DIRECTLY responsible for the moose collisions on the highways, due to its NEGLIGENCE in dealing with the moose population in NL. There is cause here for lawsuits against the government of NL.”

Monty also writes that fences are a waste of effort and money.

The moose problem isn’t going away.

What’s it going to take to get government to move?

Maybe the solution is to stop driving at night altogether, and lower the speed limit to 50 kilometre an hour in the day time.


Moving on to Marine Atlantic, it seems like complaints about the Crown Corporation’s ferry service have been fast and furious for months and months.

Finally, those complaints have made it to Ottawa.

Took long enough — must have taken the ferry.

Rob Merrifield, Minister of State for Transport, is scheduled to meet this afternoon in St. John’s with representatives of the commercial trucking industry.

Local truckers aren’t happy with Marine Atlantic’s reservation system that was introduced in the spring.

Far, far from happy — they say it’s driving them out of business.

They say it favours larger trucking companies.

Marine Atlantic ferries still depart with vacant spots on board, and with annoyed operators left on the dock.

I got an e-mail to that effect as late as last night.

Give him credit, Rob Merrifield said he wants to find solutions.

It will be interesting to see if he can.

If you have any suggestions for Minister Merrified, call in.

If you’ve got a story to tell about Marine Atlantic, from the perspective of a trucker or a tourist or as an average Newfoundlander and Labradorian, now’s your opportunity.

The powers that be are listening.

There are two problems: lack of capacity, and lack of on-time reliability.

Marine Atlantic is getting two new ferries, but they won’t be joining the fleet until next year.

That’s too late.

What can be done now?


Still with Marine Atlantic, I’d like to know how much these constant problems are costing Newfoundland and Labrador.

We know they’re costing local truckers money in terms of delays at the wharf.

But the province spends a fortune marketing Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of tourism.

How much are we losing because of the negative publicity surrounding Marine Atlantic?

Again yesterday, the Marine Atlantic news was the discovery of a stress fracture on a ramp at the terminal at Port aux Basques.

The fracture was repaired immediately, but it was yet more bad news.

The stress fracture led to yet more delays with commercial truckers, and crossings with the Leif Ericson were pushed back.

Again, Rob Merrifield, the federal Minister of State (Transport) is in town.

Do you have a message for the minister?


Before I move on, VOCM news carried an interesting story over the past 24 hours.

It was about a long-time employee of Marine Atlantic, an employee who asked to remain anonymous.

The employee said the perception the public has of the Gulf ferry service is 10 times worse on the inside.

She said workers are treated unfairly and many fear for their jobs if they stand up for their rights.

She said a whole new managerial staff is needed.

So things aren’t going so smooth inside Marine Atlantic?

If you want to talk about the Crown corporation — from the inside, or the outside — you know where to call.


Moving on to the offshore oil industry, the Danny Williams administration hired a consultant back in May to conduct a review — to start immediately — of Newfoundland and Labrador’s readiness for an oil spill.

If there’s a spill off our shores — similar to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico — would we be ready for it?

Good question, and the review would answer it.

At the same time, the Williams government was criticize, because even though it had ordered a review, meaning there were obviously questions about our oil spill response, deepwater drilling on the Orphan Basin was allowed to continue.

While the review is ongoing.

Keep in mind, Chevron’s well on the Orphan Basin is one kilometer deeper than the Gulf well that spilled an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil before it was stopped.

And how long did it take to stop the Gulf leak?

85 days, 16 hours, and 25 minutes.

People say it would take longer to stop a leak on the Orphan Basin for a number of reasons — including the fact it’s a kilometre deeper.

On Monday, the Natural Resources Department announced that the review of the oil spill response has been granted an extension.

Instead of the initial 90 days, the province now expects to receive the final report within the next two or three months.

How does that sit with you?

Is there no need to rush a review into our oil spill response now that the Gulf of Mexico leak has been capped?

All the urgency is gone now, is that it?

Kathy Dunderdale, minister of Natural Resources, said she has confidence in the level of environmental protection in the oil industry.

But Capt. Mark Turner, who’s doing the review, is looking into the regimes of other jurisdictions.

Which takes time.

Again, how do you feel about an extension of the review of oil spill response?

Do you think the Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board has been too easy on oil companies?

Some critics say the C-NLOPB can’t regular the oil industry and safeguard the environment at the same time.


B’y, Harbour Breton has had some hard news lately.

Thomas Strickland, 53, drowned over the weekend.

Police say there are indications he may have been working on his boat motor when he fell overboard.

I mentioned yesterday about why fishermen don’t wear life jackets or emersion suits when they’re on the water.

A lot of fishermen say it’s too cumbersome when they’re working, and they have a point.

The death of Thomas Strickland comes on the heels of a freak accident last week in which Ernest Drake, a two-truck operator also from Harbour Breton, died after a winch cable snapped as he was trying to hoist a van onto a flatbed.


Let’s talk about sports — the crowd at St. John’s City Council hasn’t given up a hockey franchise for Mile One.

We had the AHL and the Baby Leafs.

We had the Q (the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and the Fog Devils.

For the last two years, Mile One has had … nothing.

No anchor tenant in terms of hockey.

Officials with St. John’s Sports and Entertainment were expected to meet with the commissioner of the Q Monday and Tuesday.

Councillor Danny Breen has also said there have been talks with the American hockey League.

So what do you want for St. John’s and Mile One?

Some people say St. John’s is not a hockey team.

It’s a pro hockey town, and junior hockey will never work.

But then I had an e-mail yesterday from Denise, who was all over major junior.

“The year that the Fog Devils began operations 10 NLers were taken in the QMJHL entry draft, the next year 11, the next year eight, and the year that they left, three. Last year it fell to three and this year one. Sad.

I brought up the idea Monday of reviving the Beothuks, the name of the old Memorial University hockey team.

Be some nice to have the Beothuks back, don’t you think?

The Lines are open.

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