Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Russian bombers off Labrador; new jets on order

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


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


Well, two weeks minus Wednesday, weather permitting, and the running of the 192nd Royal St. John’s Regatta at Quidi Vidi Lake.


Which is a holiday for Open Line — not a holiday for VOCM, mind you — given the extensive race-day coverage.


But then there’s more to the Royal St. John’s Regatta than races.


It’s also known as the largest garden party in the world.


I know, because I read it on the website, which also says upwards of 50,000 people are expected pondside.


The Regatta as much about socializing as it is about sport.


Speaking of socializing, at least two national leaders are expected to be in town for the Regatta.


Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will be pondside.


The Liberal Express tour has been traveling across the country for some time.


But then I’m not sure Ignatieff will take his bus here; not sure he could get a reservation on Marine Atlantic.


I’m just kiddin’.


And the Liberal bus might break down again.


I’m still kiddin’.


Joking aside, if Michael Ignatieff does take the Liberal Express on the Gulf ferry it could be an eye opener.


More on Marine Atlantic in a moment.


The other national leader expected at the Regatta is New Democrat Leader Jack Layton, who will be accompanied by his wife, New Democrat MP Olivia Chow.


Layton went through prostate cancer recently, or could still be going through it.


I read an article in the Toronto Star last month in which Layton said he was winning the battle against the disease.


I heard he had also lost 20 pounds, slimmed right down.


So if you’re into boat races, the Royal St. John’s Regatta is for you.


And if you’re into political races, the Regatta is still for you.


If you had a chance to meet with Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton, what would you say to them?


Is there more they could be doing for Newfoundland and Labrador?

•••

I don’t believe Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is coming to town for the Regatta.


But then he’s busy running his office, which is getting to be quite expensive.


Coincidently, VOCM’s question of the day Monday was do you think the cost of running the prime minister’s office — which has increased to about $10 million a year — is too much?


Eighty-five per cent of the almost 1,900 people who voted said yes — $10 million is too much.


Oh, before I forget, remember that the Royal St. John’s Regatta committee strongly encourages you not to smoke at the event.


You won’t get arrested if you do smoke — you won’t even get a ticket.


The smoke police won’t be out and about.


But you’re strongly encouraged not to smoke.


Will you or won’t you?


Poor smokers are even chased out of the woods behind the Health Sciences.

•••

Let’s move on to an international story about Newfoundland and Labrador.


One I read last evening in the Moscow Times, of all papers.


It was reported that Canadian fighter jets were called on to repel Russian bombers that approached Canadian airspace last Wednesday.


Two CF-18 jets intercepted two Russian long-range bombers about 465 kilometers east of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.


They were headed towards Labrador actually.


Which was the Newfoundland and Labrador connection, although the bombers never did enter Canadian airspace.


The Conservative publicity machine wasn’t long scrambling into action.


And turned a common confrontation between Canadian and Russian military planes into a campaign for $16-billion in new fighter jets.


The Liberals say the federal Conservatives jumped all over the incident to bring attention to their plan to spend the $16 billion on the new F-35s.


How do you feel about the federal Conservatives spending $16 billion on fighter jets?


Maybe you think the money could be better spent on new Canadian Coast Guard science ships?


Or even uniform search and rescue response times for the military’s Cormorant helicopters out of Gander?


There’s a chance there may be a federal election this fall, so these issues could be front and centre soon enough.

•••

Speaking of emergency response, VOCM news reports there’s a problem with the ambulance service in the Port aux Basques region.


It has to do with a labour dispute.


There’s a new owner of the ambulance service, and the new owner has apparently fiddled around with work schedules.


The ambulance attendants are now expected to work four out of five weekends, only they’re not going along with it.


They say it’s a no-go.


There are two stories as to exactly what happened: the employer says the employees resigned en masse; the employees say they were fired.


Ambulance crews have been summoned from Corner Brook to cover off emergency services in the Port aux Basques region.


If either side of that dispute wants to call in, you’re more than welcome to give your side of it.

•••

Still with health care, Eastern Health plans to look at ways to improve wait times in response to a report released Monday.


The wait times at Emergency Rooms are apparently a problem.


Close to four out of 10 people aren’t happy with ER wait times.


Two years ago eight per cent of people left the ER without seeing a physician.


That figure was up last year to 11 per cent.


I spent about eight hours in the Health Sciences ER one Saturday about five years ago.


I left without being seen — and I had a broken shoulder, a result of that incredibly physically demanding sport known as slow-pitch softball.


I left the ER without being seen, and I returned first thing Sunday morning and was diagnosed.


What’s been your experience with the ER?


Have you had to wait long hours?


Were the nurses and doctors at least pleasant?

•••

One other health story I want to mention, this one was on CBC TV’s Here and Now last night.


Trevor King — an H1N1 survivor from Marystown — says he wants an apology from Eastern Health for what he believes was an avoidable near-death experience with the virus.


King was diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus in November 2009, but not before visiting doctors at least four times at the Burin Peninsula Health Centre.


Four times.


Even though most people were familiar with H1N1 by then.


According to the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 1, 2009, worldwide more than 199 countries had confirmed cases of H1N1 — including over 6000 deaths.


Yet King saw doctors at least four times before being diagnosed?


He later had to be flown by air ambulance to the Health Sciences in St. John's, where he spent six months in hospital — nearly half of which was spent in an induced coma to protect his organs.


And he still has medical problems, and is unable to return to work.


King believes what happened could have been avoided had doctors looked at his symptoms more seriously, treatment could have been provided.


Doctors, however, apparently passed his condition off as the common flue.


Central Health is investigating what happened, with a report expected within a week or two.


The results of that report should be interesting.

•••

The other big news Monday was the announced closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf in St. John’s at the end of August.


But then the news couldn’t have been that big a shock.


There were no students set to attend the school this fall.


And no new enrolments projected for the next five years.


According to Education Minister Darren King, the numbers are down because of new cochlear implant technology.


Plus, parents also want to have their children at home, with the necessary supports in the local school.


All 199 students who are deaf or hard of hearing in the province are currently in the public school system.


Twelve of them receive teaching services in their schools through teachers employed with the Newfoundland School for the Deaf.


The school may close, but Darren King said that doesn’t mean there will be a reduction in services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the province.


Is that so?


So this shift from a provincial school for the deaf to a scenario where all the deaf and hard-of-hearing students are taught in the regular classrooms, with supports, is going over without a hitch?


Do you have any concerns about the closure of the school for the deaf?


Maybe you think it’s been a long-time coming?


The Liberals say the Tory government has misled people, saying two months ago the school wouldn’t close.


The Liberals also say that some students have told them they were pressured to enter the mainstream classroom and find it difficult to hear and understand the material.


Is that the case?

•••

While I’m on the topic of the provincial Liberals, Russell Wangersky has an interesting column in today’s Telegram, headlined So much for true grit.


Russell Wangersky holds nothing back.


Russell writes that Yvonne Jones was never more than a second-tier minister.


But there’s a lot more.


Listen to this:


“Having Jones reach the premier’s chair would be a little bit like having Danny Williams retire and Ross Wiseman taking over the Conservative Party by acclamation.”


Ouch.


“In the realpolitik of the provincial government the Liberals have essentially admitted they don’t stand a chance at forming the next government and are willing to bide their time, and wait for a better opportunity, regardless of what that means for the province.”


“The province’s Liberals have made a practical decision, but one that doesn’t actually serve this province’s electorate. The electorate deserve a strong opposition … not one that marks time, and we shouldn’t forget that when the next political messiah arrives.”


Like I said, Russell Wangersky holds nothing back in his column today.


What do you think, have the Liberals said they don’t stand a chance at forming the next government?


And are they putting their interests ahead of the province’s?

•••

I didn’t have many calls Monday on Marine Atlantic.


The Telegram suggested Monday that the new commercial reservation system be put on hold at least until Marine Atlantic’s new vessels arrive and can handle the trucks that have to cross.


I didn’t get any bites on that suggestion though when I threw it out.


I see West Coast Liberal MP Gerry Byrne is quoted in today’s paper saying says half-full sailings mean higher costs for passengers and higher costs for the people of the province in the form of imported goods.

•••

Finally, for now, I see that the Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board has given permission for Husky Energy to drill a pair of wells in another White Rose expansion field.


The oil will be produced using Husky’s existing production infrastructure at Husky’s production ship on the Grand Banks.


Let’s see, we also have drilling on the go as I speak on the Orphan Basin off Newfoundland.


And there could be drilling before you know it in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, although a number of huge hurdles will have to be jumped.


The U.S. government has said the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the biggest oil leak ever — leaking 4.9 million barrels of oil before being capped last month.


The Lines are open.

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