Friday, May 28, 2010

CBC News - Nfld. & Labrador - Cyclist's video showcases dangerous drivers

This story certainly highlights the attitudes that Newfoundlanders have towards cyclist on the roads and I would also like to add walkers and joggers to the list. I think it goes beyond drivers though and is actually entrenched into peoples psyche and that of all levels of government. How else could you explain the lack of bike paths and the ridiculously small shoulders on our roads?

In Torbay for instance I have noticed when riding my bike on Bauline Line that there is no shoulder on the paved area of the road and as soon as you drive of the edge of the pavement you are taking your life into your hands, you could just as easily hit something to shoot you into the ditch or right into the oncoming traffic. How can I really feel safe taking my 8 and 5 years olds for a bike ride when the conditions and more importantly the attitudes of drivers are that risky?  This is not just a Torbay or St john's problem this is something that is province wide and it is time that we started to move into the 21st century as it related all users of our streets. I remember as a kid in Torbay getting yelled at and horns blowing just for being on the road with my bike; "get off the road or I'll kick your arse"; how many times did I hear that on Indian Meal Line? The amount of traffic in those days was nothing compared to what it is now considering we used to play street hockey on Indian Meal Line, just try doing that now.

Considering that Newfoundland and Labrador has the most unhealthy people in Canada, according to multiple studies, we should be encouraging people to bike and walk more. We have the highest level of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and other lifestyle related illnesses in the country.  We have the lowest level of consumption of fruits and vegetables which contributes to those problems but we are also way down the list for spending leisure time participating in active pursuits, basically exercising.  We need to address these issues and encourage people to get outside and we need to pressure governments to provide us with the tools necessary to have a fighting chance.  One of those things is making sure we have a safe environment to participate in these activities.  We should be demanding that the government make it mandatory that when a road is paved extra wide shoulders be added so they can be used as a bike lane or walking path for people who like to park their cars once in a while.

While more people are taking to the streets to walk and bike then ever before, many people are intimidated by drivers on the road and by the conditions facing them as they try and navigate the narrow shoulders and limited space to walk or bike. People need to change their attitudes and drivers need to be more aware of who is on the road at any given moment.  People who are walking and biking have as much right to be on the road as a vehicle and should be given a wide berth to ensure their safety.  I don't expect there to be some grand transformation in peoples attitudes towards who should and shouldn't be on the road but we need to start somewhere.

If we do one thing, we need to stop blowing our horns at bikers and walkers, we could actually cause them to have an accident and get seriously injured.  When my kids are riding their bikes with me on the road they are nervous enough as it is, adding blaring horns to the mix could make them panic and lose control and inadvertently ride in front of a car.  If this ever happens you can be rest assured that the driver of the car will be responsible and nothing you can say will ever change that fact so please be careful for everyones sake.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Missing the Rock: The Old Hag

Missing the Rock: The Old Hag

I just saw this on Missing the Rock blog and though it may be interesting. I certainly recall having similar dreams about the Old Hag when I was younger.

CBC News - Nfld. & Labrador - Deal close, NLMA members told

I am glad this dispute is getting settled but I really don't think it is going to do anything to improve the healthcare system. Even if these doctors get a huge raise there won't be an money left to hire new doctors at the new pay scale. Our healthcare system needs a serious overhaul to find way to spend the money better. The way it is going now is completely unsustainable. Almost 38% of the provincial budget goes into healthcare and we have some of the worst outcomes for money in the country if not the worst.

We can't continue to provide services to areas where it is just not economically viable and they need to start amalgamating services in those areas where it makes sense and enhancing services in others. The Government seriously needs to get an independent audit done to see how we can realign services in areas where we can actually provide better service for the same or less money. This province has the population of a mid sized city spread over a large area, and continuing on like we are just can't work.

I don't know what the answer is but something is going to have to be done. It would be nice to see a healthcare facility in Torbay that would handle things like xrays, blood work and even possibly a walk in type of service that we normally have to drive to the Health Science Centre and wait hours for. With the population of the North East Avalon we could certainly use something like that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hero of the Week

This is an easy one Canada's Auditor General Sheila Fraser. The House of Commons is refusing to allow the Auditor General to audit MP's expenses. They say they are already audited and that Sheila Fraser would only be duplicating the work. However the MP's expense accounts are audited by accounting firm KPMG but only to see if the books balance. What Fraser wants to do is see if we are getting value for our money. Every time these types of investigations have taken place we have found out that elected officials are abusing the system. We saw it in NL, NS and Britain, why am I not confident that our federal politicians are squeaky clean.

Thank you Ms Fraser for looking out for our interest.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Newfoundland Videos - Newf Tube | Newfie Court

This is a blast from the past and a good laugh, enjoy

CBC News - Nfld. & Labrador - Torbay residents get yard-junk warning

This is interesting and at the same time a huge coincidence. I have been talking about this with my wife for a few days now and even went out and took some pictures of a few properties which I think need to either be fixed up or torn down.

I think there are greater problems with those properties than just the aesthetics of them. They are a safety hazard as well as being ugly. I have several friends that work on the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department and I would hate for one of them to get injured or worse having to fight a fire or go to one of these dilapidated buildings to rescue someone caught in a building collapse.

Although I would agree with the premise of the initiative I think that the town should look at these properties on a case by case basis. The simple fact is that some people may not be able to afford the repair or demolition cost even of they wanted to. In these cases where removal would be the preferred recourse I would suggest that the town could ask for volunteers to help with the demolition of the building. I am not privy to the legal ramifications or safety issues of such an endeavor but I would hope that something could be done. I know that I would certainly take the opportunity to help a fellow resident and at the same time remove a building that may be a safety hazard or an eyesore.

I went out yesterday and took a few pictures of a some structures that I would say are unsafe as well as ugly and the town should be putting the owners on notice that they should be fixed or demolished. 

This is a house on Piper Stock Hill as you come into Torbay that is certainly starting to show signs of becoming unsafe.

Here is another house on Torbay Road just before you get to the Town Hall.  This house has been empty for years and is a real hazard considering it's location and bad state of repair.

This is a barn on Patrick's Path that looks like it is ready to fall down and if someone was in there when that building falls down it could cause serious injury or even worse.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Torbay Bulk Garbage Collection

Hey everyone don't forget to get your spring cleaning done and drop off your waste over at the town hall.  This is an excellent opportunity to get rid of a lot of the clutter you have lying around and it is way more convenient than going to Robin hood Bay and risking getting crapped on by the sea gulls.

Don't forget to separate all the recyclable metals so that the crowd from the council who are over there sorting the trash can get their bonus.  I am sorry that was a harsh thing to say but I just couldn't help myself if was done in jest.

Here is the schedule of when the site is open. Don;t forget it is closed on Sunday's and this Monday for the 24th of May weekend.

Also don't forget about The Great Torbay Pick-Me-Up that is happening on Saturday, May 29th.  It is a great opportunity to get out with the kids and do something nice for the community by cleaning up some of the trash that seems to accumulate around town.  There is also a BBQ at the Town Hall at 4:00 that we can all enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Torbay beach to remain closed but it used to be a beautiful place.

Yesterday I was reading in the Portugal Cove paper (North East Avalon Times) that Torbay council has been turned down for $75,000 in funding to fix the sewage pipe leak at the beach.  The reason they were turned down was because the Provincial Government claims that they already gave us $75,000 to do this same job last year and they say they are not going to pay for the same work to be done twice. The work didn’t get completed last year because of weather delays as I understand it.  Where does that leave the town in this issue I wonder…..the beach still has to be cleaned up and that sewer pipe fixed?  I guess we will soon find out because it absolutely has to be done and the town will likely have to pay for it.

That brings me to a topic that has been driving me nuts for a long time, pumping untreated raw sewage into Torbay Bight.  I remember as a kid how much fun the beach used to be.  Going down to the beach to catch skulpins, flatfish, capelin or just to hang around climbing on the rocks and exploring was a regular occurrence for my friends and I.  Those types of activities would be pretty hard to do with the beach in the condition it is in now and it has been a long-long time since it has been fit down there to enjoy the beach this way.  Between the sewage washing up on the beach and a condemned bridge I find no reason to go there.

This town needs to get its act together when it comes to sewage treatment and how we are destroying our beach.  As the story goes there is a hole in the pipe and sewage is leaking out of it and washing up on the beach and fixing that leak will fix the problem.  Excuse me! That will fix the problem?  Oh you mean that instead of the sewage coming out of that leak and washing up on shore it will go out the end of the pipe which is farther out in the ocean and won’t show up on the beach?

However it is still flowing out into Torbay Bight and contaminating the ocean and our bay.  Are you telling me that once the pipe is “fixed” and we no longer see the tampons and condoms washing up on the rocks that everything is fine?  If we can’t see it then it must be OK?  And if it does happen to wash up on the beach as I am sure it will because I have seen this crap long before the pipe broke, that Torbay’s extensive environmental cleanup policy will come into action.  What is that policy you ask?  Why it is waiting for a good storm, the rough seas and high waves will wash all the crap off the rocks, truly environmental cleanup, done entirely by the environment.

With this in mind I think that something needs to be done now with regards to putting a treatment plant in Torbay.  Ultimately though it seems that the priorities of council are a little skewed, they would rather spend time fighting a resident who wants to build a bed and breakfast on Dominion Hill because it goes against the 10 year municipal plan.  However continuing to allow untreated raw sewage to spill into the ocean is perfectly acceptable.

Speaking of the Torbay Municipal Plan for 2007-2017, I checked it out and there was NOT ONE WORD in it about a sewage treatment facility.  In my mind and I may be totally wrong about this but the Municipal Plan should be a blueprint outlining best practices and responsible guidelines to how our community should develop in a responsible manner.  How can any municipality that is growing as fast as ours not even plan to address raw sewage flowing into our historic bay?

The first thing that we should do in my opinion is put a moratorium on new houses being hooked up to the municipal sewage lines.  That shouldn’t be hard considering it is almost impossible to find a building lot now that has access to water and sewer in Torbay.  Regardless this is something I think they could do very easily and would at least prevent the increase of sewage running into the ocean.

We need to address this problem now!  We should not be putting this off for our kids to look after because that is essentially the situation we are facing currently.  I was a young boy when the water and sewer came through our backyard on Indian Meal Line.  Now I am an adult and after so many years the town has not taken any concrete action towards stopping this terrible practice.

In my opinion over the years the residents and the council have not done enough to protect and preserve our historic sites.  On the Town of Torbay website there is a list of these sites and when you read through them you are hit with a common theme and the realization that many of them are gone.  It makes you wonder when you talk to people about our historic sites and the first thing you have to say is it "used to be”, what kind of legacy is that?

Holy Trinity Church – It "used to be" a big beautiful church but it was torn down and replaced, it went without a whimper.
St. Michael’s Convent – It "used to be" the home to the Presentation Sisters but it was torn down and replaced with a monument and a prayer garden.
Tapper’s Cove – It "used to be" a hub of activity but is now a shell of it’s former self, allowed to disintegrate over the years. Of course the closure of the fishers certainly had and effect on this site.

Torbay Bight is also listed as a National Historic Site and we continue to deface it in the vilest way we could by pumping it full of what ever happens to be flushed down our toilets or washed down the drain.  It is time for the people of Torbay to wake up and let our council know that this practice to end.  It should be our top priority as a town to find a solution to this problem and go about the business of preserving our historic beach and respect our heritage.  I refer back to my original remarks about how much fun the beach “used to be” and I don’t want to fall permanently into that category like so many other sites in our town and our province in general.

We have a relatively new council in Torbay with a few new faces and hopefully they can help get the ball rolling on this.  I have been assured by the Deputy Mayor that the beach is a top priority for this council for both the short and the long term.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of Mr. Gallant and hope that he can help get this thing started.  I look forward to hearing from council on this is the near future and if we are lucky the more forward thinking members can influence some of the tired old faces on council to come up with some fresh ideas.  Should I start holding my breath now or hold off until I am in proximity to the stench coming from the beach?

Here is a video I found that is a nice montage of Torbay beach and I thank the person for posting it.  This is a beautiful beach and is a place where we should be able to go as families and enjoy the ocean and explore our past.  Why must I drive past the beach in my own town to take my kids to enjoy the ocean in Middle Cove?  It never "used to be" like that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Torbay Council Votes to Keep Skateboard Park

I noticed a story recently in The North East Avalon Times or as I would like to refer to it, The Portugal Cove Paper about Torbay council voting to keep the skateboard park at the Kinsmen Centre.  This brought back a lot of memories for me as I remember when I was growing up the Kinsmen Centre was a place that my friends and I frequented.

Now in those days there was no skateboard park or tennis courts or anything like that, just a park with some swings and a softball field.  That got me thinking about the lack of facilities for young people to use in or community.  You would think that in a town like Torbay with so many young families that there would be countless facilities and outdoor venues for them to congregate and make use of.

Don’t get me wrong, I know we have the new arena out on Torbay road and that is a great facility even though I think it is 30 years too late in my opinion.  I still remember all those cold Saturday mornings as I huddled at 5:30 am down by the bridge to wait for Johnny Evans bus to pick me up to go to hockey practice at Twin Rinks. Oh the memories :-)

Anyway, back on the topic, there are so few facilities in Torbay and I was glad they decided to put the equipment back.  I know one councillor Carol-Anne Smith was quick to challenge the motion and keep the equipment removed for good.  She was basing this decision on some reports of vandalism and drug dealing in the area.  I have been to that park with my kids in the evenings and they have a great time there.  The kids who use the skate park seem to be having a good time too.  I didn’t see any drug dealing going on so I can only assume that it happens later at night when most of the kids who are users of the park are gone home.

That leads me to believe that it would be the easy way out to just close the park and remove the equipment instead of really trying to deal with the issue.  If there is drug dealing going on and this is on a town owned property then it is the responsibility of the town to deal with it.  Judging from the people who I have spoken to with regards to illegal activities occurring at the Kinsmen Centre property, they didn’t stop once the equipment was removed.  So it stands to reason that the equipment is not the problem, it is the people who are committing the crimes.  These are the people who must be stopped and punished, not young people just trying to kids and playing at a park.

Deputy Mayor Geoff Gallant seems to be on the ball with this issue and understands that there are improvements that can be made and suggested that the recreation committee is looking at ways to improve the situation.  As a community we need to be looking at expanding existing facilities in our town and building new ones, not closing down the ones we have because a couple of residents don’t like the park being there.

If Torbay wants to mature and be seen as a place that young families are going to want to come to live we need to be more than a place to lay our heads at night.  We need to become a self sufficient town that offers more to the residents and their families then just a tax bill and garbage pickup.  I for one am sick of having to drive out of Torbay to St John’s every week to find activities for my kids to participate in.

Here is a video I found on YouTube of some kids using the skate park.

Torbay council remuneration, a serious issue for serious people.

First and foremost I am in favour of the new pay hike for the members of Torbay Town Council.  It is my opinion that municipal government is the most important level of government that we have in our democracy.  Most people tend to focus on Federal or Provincial politics and overlook the level of government that is closest to them.

Overlooking this level of government or not taking it seriously is a huge mistake for the average tax payer.  It is through our tax dollars that are collected by the municipality that we actually get the services that are most important to us.  Snow clearing, garbage pickup, water and sewer are just some of the most pressing issues that face us in our daily lives, not to mention long term planning and development that occurs in our town.

For this very reason we need to try and entice serious and qualified people into our municipal government.  Hopefully with this added incentive of increased remuneration we can lure even more people to the process.  I know that in the last election I gave serious consideration to running for council however the time I anticipated that would be needed for me to do an effective job was just not feasible.  In fact even if this pay regime had been in place before the last election I most likely still would not have jumped in the ring but it may have made the decision a lot harder.  It is a huge sacrifice to put aside your own personal time you would normally spend with your family to devote it to doing the town business so the people who do it should be commended.

That brings me back to the issue of having serious people representing us in that council chamber and the town in general.  During the debate about this pay hike, which by the way is perfectly justifiable according to the municipal act, there were some councillors who were outraged and certainly took their concerns to the people and the press.  One such councillor, Carol Ann Smith, who was so outraged that she was quoted in a CBC article saying, "I believe that people are unaware of such a significant increase, and I personally find it difficult to support."  Well low and behold when the time cam to put her money where her mouth was she shut her mouth and voted in favour of the increase.  Why was that?  It is because in my opinion she is not what I would call a serious person and part of what is wrong with the whole process.  If she personally was so opposed to it she should have voted with her conscience and voted against it.  She wasn't without an explanation though; she said that she wanted to hear from the people on the issue and when she was only contacted by a handful of people she decided to support the measure.

Some people would say, she did what the people wanted and so that is OK.  However I ask this question, what did she do to solicit opinions from the general public?  How did she go about educating the people on this issue that she felt they were so unaware of?  Isn't that her job to make us aware of it if she was so against it?  I know I didn't receive a phone call or a mail out asking me what I though and for direction.  Obviously she didn't try to hard to find like minded people in the community to support her original outrage. 

Then there is councillor Brian Whitty who was the lone councillor to vote against the pay hike.  Good for you Brian if you really and truly were against this raise in pay I applaud you.  I assume that you are making arrangements not to receive the increase in pay?  I would like to know what you are going to do with the extra money.  Are you going to donate it to charity or some children's programs in the community?  If I was a betting man I would say that you are just going to accept the increase the same as everyone else and say oh well, I voted against it, not my fault.  Again, not someone I would consider a serious person who is willing to put their words to action and stand behind it.

I applaud and give credit to the Mayor and the other members of council who realize the importance of the job they do and are paving the way for future citizens to consider throwing their hat in the ring to represent our community.  As our town continues to grow and the demands on council mount I am hopeful that not too far down the road we will have some new people come forward to serve their community.  There are many people living in Torbay with new and fresh ideas as to how the town should move forward and it is my hope that some of them consider participating in the political process in the near future.