Tuesday, August 3, 2010

‘Visitors get killed here in accidents involving moose’

I'm filling in for Randy Simms this week and next as host of VOCM's Open Line. I prepare my opening monologue in advance and publish a copy here each day.

•••

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


Let’s begin this morning with a topic that just won’t quit — moose and Newfoundland highways.


Moose and vehicles don’t mix.


Nothing new about that, the topic has been discussed on the Open Lines for months, years even, with upwards of 700 moose-vehicle collisions a year.


But our moose problem made national news this weekend when our own Rex Murphy took on the topic in his weekly column for the National Post.


Rex’s column is headlined, Newfoundland on the horns of a moose dilemma.


He writes about tourism, and all the money we’ve spent drawing mainlanders here.


And how the tourism industry means more and more to our economy.


But Rex Murphy warns tourists that there’s a danger once they get here, a possibly lethal danger — moose.


Locals may be schooled to keep a sharp and wary eye out for Mr. Moose, as Rex Murphy writes, there’s hardly anyone who hasn’t had a close call.


But visitors, in particular, are in danger, because they’re not as familiar as locals with the moose problem.


One particular line of Rex’s column stood out to me.


The line reads: “Visitors get killed here in accidents involving moose.”


I’ll bet the Tourism Department loved that statement.


That said, I haven’t seen any stats on the number of visitors or tourists killed or maimed by moose-vehicle collisions.


Of course, the life of a Newfoundlander or Labradorian is worth no less than that of a tourist.


But when tourists die on Newfoundland and Labrador highways tourism definitely takes a hit.


Rex writes that there are far too many moose.


He says there has to be a cull — increase the number of moose-hunting licences, or the number of moose one hunter is allowed to shoot.


He even says people should be allowed to kill moose on either side of a main highway all year around, not just during hunting season.


The cull wouldn’t be a waste — the meat could be given to charities.


A cull would probably attract protestors, the same ones who are against the seal hunt. Save the Moose will be the latest T-shirt.


But Rex Murphy advised protestors to think twice about jumping on the bandwagon, a hunting rifle is more humane than the front grille of a car.


And Rex has a point.


So far the provincial government has kept to brush clearing and public education as a means to cut down on moose-vehicle collisions.


I don’t know how successful they’ve been with that.


The province has been asked to erect moose fencing, and to get rid of nuisance moose that linger near highways.


But government has turned those ideas down.


First question of the day — is it time for a moose cull?


It is just a matter of time before we have more deaths on the highways?


I would say take that to the bank.


Will it take an impact on tourism for the province to move on the moose problem?

•••

Speaking of tourism, the George Street Festival began July 29th and wraps up Tuesday night.


This past weekend in St. John’s was rockin’.


How rockin’?


The tourists were out in droves.


But I also couldn’t help but notice that there were no fewer than five navy ships in St. John’s Harbour over the weekend, including one from the United States.


There was also a U.S. coast guard ship in port.


As most people know the home base of the Canadian Navy on the East Coast is in Halifax, except for the George Street Festival, when half the fleet sails into town.


Or so it seems.


Maybe the trick to increasing the federal Navy presence in Newfoundland and Labrador is to make the George Street Festival year round.

•••

Some of the weekend partying got out of control.


Did you hear about the accident early Sunday morning at the Banneman Park swimming pool in St. John’s?


Early Sunday morning up to 30 people cut a hole in the chain-link fence around the outdoor pool and went for a dip.


Security called the police, and used an on-site speaker to tell people to leave the area.


Apparently, a 27-year-old man jumped or dove into the pool and resulted in a serious neck injury.


The man is apparently still in hospital.


Police are investigating.


I guess there’s a reason there’s chain link around the pool.


Would the city be liable for damages for the man’s injuries?

•••

Sunday was an anniversary, in case you missed it.


Sunday, Aug. 1, marked one year exactly since about 200 Voisey’s Bay workers went on strike.


And there’s no sign of the strike ending any time soon at Vale’s nickel mine in Labrador.


Strikers held a rally in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sunday to mark the occasion.


Lana Payne from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour has been calling on Premier Danny Williams to intervene and send the dispute to binding arbitration.


But I don’t know how likely that is to happen.


Not when you consider that the strike on the Burin Peninsula involving support workers has been on the go since last November.


NAPE has been after the province to send that one to binding arbitration, but government won’t go there.


Do you think government should push to send either strike to binding arbitration?

•••

I find the Voisey’s Bay strike more and more curious.


There was a letter to the editor in the Weekend Telegram by Darren Cove, president of the United Steelworkers local that represents Voisey’s Bay workers.


Vale is accused of treating Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as “second-class.”


The workers in Voisey’s Bay apparently offered to settle the strike by accepting the exact same deal Vale reached last month with its 3,000 employees in Ontario.


But Vale insists that Newfoundland and Labrador workers — including many aboriginal employees, as was highlighted in the letter to the editor — accept an inferior bonus system and contract.


Again, that’s according to the union.


Let me quote directly from the letter:


“The people and government of Newfoundland and Labrador granted Vale the privilege of profiting massively from exploiting our province’s mineral riches. In return … this foreign corporation appears to believe it can dictate that our working people and communities receive second-class treatment and an inferior share of the wealth we generate.”


Is that the case, are workers in Voisey’s Bay being treated as second-class?


Why couldn’t Labrador workers get the same contract as workers in Ontario?


Let me ask you this: Do you think we deserve any less?
•••

Still with Labrador, Yvonne Jones, MHA for Cartwright/L’Anse au Clair, will be acclaimed leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador during the party’s convention this coming November.


That means that Yvonne will take on Danny Williams in the next provincial election next fall.


Do you see much of a race?


Were you surprised that more people didn’t line up to take on Danny Williams?


It’s critical to good government that we have good opposition.


Where do you think the province will stand politically after the 2011 election?

•••

A couple of pieces in the weekend paper I want to mention …


The first story is about the Holyrood generating plant, which at one point was listed as the 42nd heaviest polluter in Canada.


The story talks about how, when the provincial Tories released their Energy Plan in 2007, they said they would do one of two things:


Either replace the Holyrood generating station with electricity from the Lower Churchill through a transmission link to the island.


Or clean up the Holyrood plant — installing what’s called scrubbers and precipitators.


It was hoped that the Lower Churchill would be on stream by 2015, but that doesn’t look likely these days.


So the Holyrood council wants to know whether the province (or NALCOR) will move ahead with the cleanup of Holyrood.


Which is a good question.


The Holyrood town council is scheduled to discuss the problem at its Tuesday night meeting.

If you have any advice for the council, you know where to call.


How is the air out in Holyrood these days?

•••

Not all the crab quota was caught off the northeast coast this summer — 14 per cent was left in the water.


Some areas did a lot worse than that — the inshore fishery in the White Bay area left more than 40 per cent of the crab quota in the water.


So what’s going on — is there a shortage of crab?


Could be, but there could be other reasons.


According to the story in the Weekend Telegram, a lot of fishermen are nervous on the northeast coast.


This has been a disastrous year for the fishery.


Call in if you want to talk about it.


I also saw a letter to the editor in the paper from Ray Johnson, best known as one of the other fellas, but also head of the community linkages association.


Johnson and more like him don’t think enough community stakeholders are involved in the MOU process to restructure the fishery.


His group is proposing the formation of a citizen’s coalition on fisheries to develop community-based solutions to the fishery crisis — emphasis on “community based.”


I see that Johnson mentioned the idea of fishery co-operatives.


The Fogo Island Co-op seems to be working well, as does the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company.


I wonder how the fish companies feel about community co-ops?


Not very good I spose.

•••

We should see in the next few days what happens with the controversial wharf down in the Lower Battery.


St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe says he’s prepared to meet with representatives of the Battery Neighbourhood Association, but only when the wharf is torn down.


I spoke on Friday with Chris Brookes, who speaks for the residents of the Lower Battery.


The average people who live there can’t afford to spend money on marine engineers, or fix the fishing infrastructure up to code.


The question is whether government — federal, provincial or municipal, or a combination — will step up to the plate and help restore the infrastructure for its tourism potential.


And that potential is there.


Both sides of The Narrows are in desperate shape.


Many of the wharfs, sheds and stages of the Battery are falling down or toppling over.


Across the Narrows, the old gun placements on the Fort Amherst side are in desperate shape.


Do you think both sides of The Narrows should be fixed up for their tourism potential?


Maybe The Rooms is enough?

•••

Finally, for now, what would a week in summer be without discussion of Marine Atlantic?


It would be like a week without talking about moose.


The latest news from the weekend is how truckers are getting so fed up with the Crown Corporation’s new commercial reservation system that they may quit.


Before the reservation system drives them out of business, I guess.


This is a message to local truckers: before you do quit, make sure you call in and have a final say.


The Lines are open.

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