Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stranger danger in Upper Gullies

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 for Randy Simms as host of VOCM Open Line this week.

Let’s begin with something a little different today — we’ll get to the moose and Gulf ferries and crime before you know it.

Let’s talk about Governor-General Michelle Jean for a moment.

She’s coming to St. John’s, have you heard?

The VOCM newsroom has been reporting the news for a day or so.

The GG will be on hand next Wednesday (Aug. 18th) — a week from today — in downtown St. John’s to help unveil a sculpture honouring the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

I mention Michelle Jean because she’s been a pretty decent governor general — as governors general go.

Michelle Jean did a wonderful thing for the seal hunt.

She ate a piece of raw seal heart in May 2009 in Rankin Inlet, and in front of a TV camera for all the world to see.

It was just after the EU voted to ban Canadian seal products.

Michelle Jean was called a bunch of names.

"Canada’s new Braveheart."

"The Sarah Palin of Canada."

"Barbaric" even, and "bloodthirsty."

“Take from that what you will,” Jean told reporters at the time.

I don’t know about you, but I took it as an unscripted, sincere sign of support for the seal hunt.

The governor general may have been in Rankin Inlet when she ate the seal heart, but she could have been on an ice pan on The Front off the northeast coast.

It meant the same to me.

Governor General Michelle Jean’s five-year terms ends this fall.

There’s a chance this could be her last trip to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Do you think she’s been a good governor general?

Do you plan to drop down and see her off, to say goodbye?


Michelle Jean was born in Haiti, which I was reminded of last night when I read a story in The Globe and Mail.

A Liberal MP accuses the Stephen Harper government of withholding aid to Pakistan — which has been devastated by recent flooding, with up to 14 million people impacted — because the Pakistani community in Canada won’t help them win an election.

When the earthquake struck in Haiti earlier this year the Conservative government reacted immediately.

There are an estimated 90,000 Haitians in Montreal.

That’s a lot of votes.

Pakistani-Canadians live all over — not so concentrated in key Quebec ridings.

I shake my head when I read those political stories.

Back to Michelle Jean, I see her as a fine political figure.

There aren’t a whole lot around on the national stage these days.

What do you say?


Closer to home, let’s talk Marine Atlantic.

Local truckers met Tuesday afternoon with Minister of State (Transport) Rob Merrifield.

That’s not the same as Transport Minister, mind you.

I was corrected on Tuesday.

Transport Minister is a senior cabinet post.

Minister of State (Transport) is actually a junior cabinet post.

We got the Transport Minister’s assistant.

Do you think the fact it was only a junior cabinet minister who dropped by to talk Marine Atlantic reflects the federal Conservative government’s level of concern for our problems with the Crown corporation?

Marine Atlantic — Newfoundland and Labrador’s highway — has been less than stellar in terms of service.

And a junior minister drops by, late in the season, to have a look?

And Rob Merrifield doesn’t come here by ferry, which would have made sense (and good public relations).

He flew in.

The only boat Merrifield stepped on was former MP Loyola Hearn’s.

Loyola apparently took Merrifield out cod jigging off the Southern Shore.

Although Loyola wasn’t much good at it.

They apparently didn’t get any cod and Loyola had to cook up stew on his boat with fish that wasn’t fresh out of the water.

Loyola can’t be much of a fisherman, and he a former federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

But I digress.

Merrifield met with the local truckers, who’ve been raging for months about Marine Atlantic’s new commercial reservation system and how it’s slowly killing their business.

And what came out of the meeting?

Nothing, as far as I could tell.

VOCM quoted trucker Tony Cole after the meeting saying he was “possibly hopeful.”

Which sounded like a polite way of saying the meeting was useless.

Merrifield gave no firm commitments.

So where to from here?

It’s not just local truckers who’ve been complaining about Marine Atlantic.

So have average Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and tourists of course.

A female tourist from Ontario wrote a letter to The Telegram Tuesday (I read it on air), saying she has cancelled her planned return to Newfoundland and Labrador.

She cancelled because of the ferry, and the ordeal she was put through to get here.

Merrifield did bring some good news with him — he promised two new vessels for Marine Atlantic.

The Telegram even ran a headline to that effect.

Only the two new ferries — sister ships of the Atlantic Vision — were announced months ago.

The news broke back in March.

Those new ships may increase capacity by 40 per cent, which will make the reservation system run more smoothly, but those new ships won’t be on the Gulf run for up to two years.

Will local truckers last that long?

The missus from Ontario who wrote the letter to the editor made some great points.

She said if your island wants tourists, this is not the way.

“It is up to you, the media and the residents of Newfoundland to put Marine Atlantic on notice and, if necessary, put them out of business. If you do not care enough yourselves to fix this problem, why should anyone else?”

So do you care enough?

What’s the next step with Marine Atlantic?

Should the local truckers give it up now?

The season is winding down, and so will complaints.

So that’s the end of it?


Time to talk moose.

Lucy Stoyes was on Open Line Tuesday.

She’s a councilor with the City of Mount Pearl and a member of the Save Our People Action Committee.

Which is all about having something done about the moose problem.

Lucy said there should be a moose cull (she sounded like she had had enough), and also called for a meeting with Premier Danny Williams.

Why was Lucy so upset?

She’s been passionate about the moose issue ever since her daughter’s car collided with a moose last year.

The moose came in through the windshield and cracked her daughter’s skull and broke bones in her face.

But Lucy was also irate because there were six moose-vehicle collisions on Monday in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Plus another accident late last week on the Argentia Access Road that sent a man to hospital.

He’s still on life support in the ICU.

I see Charlene Johnson, minister responsible for wildlife, is quoted on VOCM News saying her department is looking at putting together a five-year moose management plan.

One possibility is a winter hunt.

She also said the moose population in central Newfoundland has been reduced by up to 60 per cent in recent years.

Eugene Nippard of the Save Our People Action Committee still isn’t happy with government’s response.

He’s planning a demonstration on Confederation Hill next month.

Mount Pearl has passed a resolution calling on the Williams government to take proactive measures to help curb the moose population .

Council passed a moose resolution, and will call on other municipalities to help in the lobby.

Are you satisfied with the provincial government’s response?


Still with the province’s highways, moose apparently aren’t the only danger you face on the roads.

We’ve also got to watch out for trucks.

I saw a piece on Here and Now last night about how the RCMP held truck inspections in central Newfoundland last week, and 72 per cent of the trucks inspected were taken off the road.

They weren’t just fined, they were hauled off the road —14 of 19 of them.

From problems ranging from faulty steering and broken signal lights to malfunctioning brakes.

I guess the RCMP will be having more spot checks.


Let’s move on to crime, and a couple of scary ones.

First, the Constabulary are investigating the possible abduction of a 10-year-old girl in Upper Gullies, Conception Bay South this week.

A person in a car — they’re not sure if it was a man or woman — approached the little girl and asked if she needed a ride.

And then told her to get into the car.

The child did the right thing.

She took off.

Stranger Danger.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s child abuse and sexual assault unit is investigating.

The second scary crime is the stabbing Tuesday at the Village Mall.

The Constabulary arrested a man in his 30s Tuesday evening after another man was stabbed in the arm.

I don’t know if you saw the TV shots of the blood, but there was a lot of it.

Outside the mall now.

There’s been a fair bit of crime in the news lately.

Do you think Newfoundland and Labrador is as safe as it once was?

According to the RCMP, there was a slight increase in violent crime in Newfoundland and Labrador last year compared to 2008.

The RCMP released their annual year in review and it showed that violent crime went up less than one per cent in 2009.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that crime is increasing.

Police believe the numbers show that more criminals are being caught.

Is that how you see it?

Would you say the streets of Newfoundland and Labrador are safe?

I would, safe enough.

But are they as safe as they once were?


Some people would say that drugs are what’s behind most of the crime these days.

Robberies and theft, especially.

I see that the opening of an adult drug addiction treatment centre planned for Harbour Grace has been delayed.

Consultants were told in July the province had cancelled its call for proposals to design treatment programs for the centre.

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy was quoted Tuesday as saying that a new request for proposals will be written soon.

He said that new request will ask for more involvement from consultants, although I'm not sure what that means.

The delay may set back the opening of the $2-million drug treatment centre by a few months.

What’s your reaction to that?


Finally, for now, did you hear the news?

The largest Arctic iceberg in half a century broke away from a Greenland glacier this week, 240-square kilometres.

The iceberg could provide invaluable new information on climate change, scientists say.

But then there’s fear the massive flow could damage oil rigs as it makes its way off the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland.

The Canadian Ice Service will drop beacons onto the iceberg to monitor its progress.

One things for sure, the iceberg should be wicked to look at.

And that can only be good news for tourism.

Now if we can only straighten out how to get them here.

The Lines are open.

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