Thursday, August 12, 2010

One of these days a Marine Atlantic passenger may pull a Steven Slater

VOCM Open Line intro, Aug. 11, 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.

Happy Thursday.

Let’s begin today with politics — and yesterday’s Question of the Day on VOCM’s website:

Because I think the question deserves more attention.

Tell me what you think.

The question read:

“Do you agree with the prime minister’s latest push for an elected Senate?”

As of last night (Aug. 11th), about 63 per cent of the almost 1,300 people who responded voted yes, they do agree with an elected Senate.

Twenty-two per cent said no, they didn’t agree, and 15 per cent weren’t sure.

The way it stands right now is that a Canadian Senator has to be at least 30 years of age to be appointed.

And they can hold their seat until they’re 75.

Meaning they could serve for 45 years.

Forty-five years and the base salary is $132,000 a year.

Again, that’s only a base salary — there are a hell of a lot of perks.

So Stephen Harper wants to reform the Senate.

His idea of reform is an elected Senate.

So how did I vote on the question: “Do I agree with the prime minister’s latest push for an elected Senate?”

I voted no, I don’t agree.

I don’t think it goes far enough, not near far enough.

Newfoundland and Labrador has seven seats out of 308 in the House of Commons.

We’ll soon have seven seats out of 338, once Alberta, B.C. and Ontario get more seats.

Which is going to happen.

Other than the House of Commons, we have six seats in the Senate out of a total of 106.

Having an elected Senate will not change the fact that provinces like ours have less political influence than other provinces.

That’s just a fact.

Newfoundland and Labrador may have a small population, but our interests are just as important as larger provinces like Quebec or Ontario.

How do we protect our unique minority interests?

How do we make it so that the Newfoundland and Labrador has an equal say and our voice is heard?

We can elect larger-than-life premiers like Danny Williams.

That’s one way to make waves across Canada.

The other way is Senate reform.

Which is taking place around the world.

We could have a U.S.-style elected Senate.

The way it works in the U.S. is that all states are represented equally in the Senate by two Senators.

Quebec, Ontario or Newfoundland and Labrador would each have two seats in the Senate.

In the House of Commons, meantime, which is representative of the population, Ontario could eventually have 125 seats to our 7.

Seems fair.

Do you think that will ever happen in Canada, a fair political system?

Will larger provinces like Ontario or Quebec ever agree to give Newfoundland and Labrador an equal say at the Senate table?

So our regional interests are protected.

Sooner or later that’s a discussion we’ll have to have.

First question of the day: Does Newfoundland and Labrador have equal political footing with other provinces in Canada?

If not, how do we make it so we do have equal footing?


Sorry, didn’t mean to be so heavy with the politics on a Thursday morning, blame it on the VOCM newsroom for causing trouble.

Asking too many thought-provoking questions.

But I am passionate about Newfoundland and Labrador’s place in Canada.

Politically, we’re outnumbered.

That’s just a fact.

What, if anything, can we do about it?


We certainly don’t seem to be making much headway with Marine Atlantic and the constitutionally guaranteed Gulf ferry link.

Rob Merrifield, a junior minister, comes to town this week and speaks to the board of trade, does a few interviews, and has a few meetings.

And nothing changes.

We have the same ferry service today that we had yesterday and we’ll have tomorrow.

Average Janes and Joes have complained about the service.

Tourists have complained about the ferry service.

Local truckers have complained about the service, probably more than anyone.

And truckers can’t even demonstrate — Marine Atlantic has told them they’d bar them from the ferries if they disturb the service.

So where to from here?

Maybe all ferry passengers should start wearing black armbands.

That would at least be a silent demonstration.

Make no mistake, this story will soon drop from the top headlines.

The public’s attention only lasts so long when there aren’t any new developments.

I.e. the fishery.

People scream and shout about Marine Atlantic and nothing changes.

Do you find that frustrating?

One of these days a Marine Atlantic passenger might just pull a Steven Slater.

Who’s Steven Slater?

He’s the flight attendant in the U.S. who reached his breaking point after getting into an altercation with a flyer and being hit in the head with a piece of luggage.

Slater made a spectacular exit from the plane — and his job — by swearing at his passengers over the plane's intercom, grabbing a beer from the galley, and sliding down his plane's exit ramp.

I don’t know if you could make a similar spectacular exist from a Marine Atlantic ferry.

Jumping into a lifeboat definitely isn’t as dramatic, because then you have to be lowered down.

And jumping into the Gulf isn’t so much dramatic as suicidal.


Let’s talk health care.

Eastern Health is certainly pumping out good news these days, you wouldn’t know but it had just gone through a judicial inquiry.

The health authority said this week it has recruited 21 specialists in just the last six months, in oncology, radiology and anesthesiology.

And many of the recruits are from right here — from Memorial’s School of Medicine.

On the one hand, Eastern Health says the system is starting to reap the benefits of our own training programs.

On the other hand, the head of the association representing doctors says the 21 new specialists hardly puts a dent in the province’s medical shortage.

Dr. Pat O’Shea says there’s a need for another 80 specialists, plus another 120 family doctors.

How long have you been waiting to see a specialist?


Let’s talk ambulances.

Both sides in the Port aux Basques ambulance dispute are still working to resolve their differences.

The 11 ambulance workers say they were fired; the new owner of the MacKenzie Ambulance Service says the workers quit.

The workers aren’t happy with a new work schedule.

They used to work seven days on, seven days off.

But a new schedule would have them working four out of every five weekends.

Could the problems in Port aux Basques be more widespread?

I received an e-mail Wednesday from a frustrated EMS (emergency medical services) employee.

The ambulance worker said they have very little time off, which is bad for the patients and bad for employees.

There’s apparently a burn-out rate.

The e-mailer also said new defibrillators /monitors are supposed to be on the ambulances, but the ambulance operators won’t sign an MOU with government.

So the equipment is sitting on shelves gathering dust.

Is that the case?

Let me quote the e-mail:

“I am begging the minster of Health and all other stakeholders to personally get involved to sort out Emergency Medical Services in rural Newfoundland before we have more situations like we have in Port au Basques.”

“I believe government has a big role to play here, Ryan, as these are private businesses being funded with taxpayers’ money so this makes these private companies different from all others.”

So is the Port aux Basques ambulance dispute the tip the iceberg.


I see the old Anglican Church in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s has been identified by the Heritage Canada Foundation as one of Canada’s Top-10 endangered places.

The organization says the church is in need of salvation.

That’s well put.

The Heritage Canada Foundation says the 115-year-old church matters because of its age, gothic style, place in community history, and setting.

Not everybody sees it that way — not the people who cut down the steeple with a chainsaw in March, after the town council turned down a demolition permit.

Or the parishioner who loaded church pews into a truck and trailer.

Other people — namely a volunteer group called The Church by the Sea — want to save the church and turn it into a museum.

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s is a beautiful town, and that church is iconic.

It’s hard to believe anyone would want it gone.


By the way, also on the list of Canada’s Top-10 endangered places were the country’s lighthouses.

DFO has declared close to 1,000 lighthouses as surplus, including 45 here in Newfoundland and Labrador at Cape Spear, Grand Bank, Ferryland Head, Heart’s Content, and Woody Point.

That doesn’t mean surplus lighthouses will be bulldozed.

Individuals, community groups or municipalities can take them over, but they’ll have to take on maintenance costs as well.

So how’s that going?

Has anybody stepped forward to take over the Cape Spear lighthouse yet?

Your thoughts are as welcome as a beacon of light.


Let’s talk about the Newfoundland School for the deaf and its impending closure.

I brought up Wednesday a couple of stories that were in The Telegram.

One story about how autistic children need supports in the classroom.

The other story involved Education Minister Darren King's defense of government’s decision to close the Newfoundland School for the Deaf.

Let me quote Darren King:

“I think, generally speaking, we all want to move toward an inclusive environment where all students have an opportunity to be integrated with their peers.”

But then I had another e-mail first thing this morning.

The e-mailer noted that the feds announced millions of dollars in agreements Wednesday with the provincial government to support French language education.

The e-mail reads:

“After closing the school for the deaf this just doesn’t seem right. Why isn't there money to support THIS LANGUAGE (American sign language)."

Thanks for the e-mail, and good question.

From my perspective, what about the Education minister’s statement that he wants to move to an inclusive environment where all students have an opportunity to be integrated with their peers?

I may be missing something here, but that doesn’t include French students?


Finally, for now, there’s been a fair bit of crime in the news as of late.

The stabbing at the Village Mall.

I see a 38-year-old man has been charged.

I had an interesting e-mail about crime and a suggestion on how to deal with it.

Listen to this:

“Yes, drugs are an issue and those addicted will go to great lengths to acquire money — robberies, begging for money on the street.

BUT IF the bar hours were reduced to close at 2 — and not 3 or 4 then people would be off the street earlier.

This, of coursek would mean that drinking would start earlier, but bar owners may or should recognize that late hours are encouraging more crime.

While visiting Ireland earlier this summer I went to a local watering hole. At 11:25, the bar owners announced that the bar would close at 11:30.

Then, at 11:30 SHARP, all glasses were collected, whether full or empty, and everyone escorted out the door.

The doors were locked at 11:31.

From talking to several locals they said this measure was necessary to decrease crime, drug distribution, curfew for teens, etc.

Maybe we could learn a lesson from them.”

What do you think, is there a lesson there for us?

Are our bars opened too late, and are they contributing to crime?

The Lines are open.

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