Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oct. 14: Questions on a Sunday

I would assume that most journalists in New Brunswick got their training from the journalism school at St. Thomas University. That's a small, but pretty good school, with some instantly recognizable names among its faculty.  So it must teach its students  how to ask questions. Why, then, do most journalists in this province seem never to have heard of a question? So, just killing time on a Sunday, I'll compose a list of questions to give them the general idea.

          The Sale of Moncton High School

1. On the sale of Moncton High School, the government has only one bidder to choose from. (An earlier prospect, Rompspen Mortgage, has dropped out.) The one left is OHMS Holdings. Who and what are these companies? Who sits are on their boards? Is there any connection between them?
2. The winning bidder is supposed to accept terms on the future use of the building. Most of these terms are written in government bafflegab; but there are obligations.
Will the government tell us, BEFORE making any decision, what the bidder proposes to do with the building?  Will we get that information in plenty of time so that there can be public discussion and input before the bid is accepted?
3. A question that should have been asked from the start--- if a builder can a)pay for the building and the land b) make the needed structural repairs c)completely renovate the building for a different use, then d)still make a profit ----wouldn't it have been cheaper for the province to simply repair the place as a school?
4. Given the seemingly high expenditures involved in this sale, will there be some special goodies in the contract for the buyer? If so, at whose cost?

          Contamination at Highfield Square

In his oped column of Oct. 13,  young Mazerolle  let slip that the contaminated soil might be moved to the old city dump, which already contains toxic soil from a previous experience. The dump is on low ground, right by the river.
1. Is he for real? Toxic materials have been dumped on low ground, in the city, beside a river? And it's possible the city plans to dump more? And no reporter has asked a word about this?
2. Does this have the approval of the Minister of the Environment? A highly toxic dump by a river and within city limits? Would it even be legal for him to approve such a thing?
3. When the city lawyer announced that the budget for cleanup of Highfield Square was already set, was this the dump he was thinking of? That would certainly be cheap. But it would be safer to spread it along high ground - say, Mountain Street - in one of the schoolyards.
4. We were informed this past week, that city hall has plans to protect Moncton in the event of higher ocean levels and the flood dangers this could cause.
How does dumping toxic waste onto low ground beside the river fit into those plans? In fact, instead of dumping more toxic soil into that spot, shouldn't we be moving what is already there?

           Shale gas

We have been promised, long ago by The Moncton Times and Transcript and by the Government on the issue of fracking and shale gas. We've heard almost nothing from either of them. We were promised the toughest possible regulations. Where is the open review of those regulations? Where are the expert opinions on them?

          Mass transit

We live in a city that feels it can spend a hundred million plus (probably a big plus) on an "events centre" - one with red and blue lines and goal nets. So how come paying transit workers a decent wage for one year is such a big issue that we have all had to suffer from the long, transit lockout?
Is there some towering, moral principle at stake here? You know and I know that there is big money in this province exchanged in questionable deals, in handouts to big business, in tax breaks,in the giveaways of whole forests etc. Would it kill us to give transit workers a slightly higher raise for the final year of their contract? This, unlike the other favours we hand out so freely, would be money spent in Moncton. So what's the big issue that makes this fight worth it?

It's okay. Journalists are supposed to ask questions. I mean, if we didn't want to know anything, we wouldn't buy a newspaper, would we? (Oops. Actually, we do buy it. Maybe we shouldn't ask questions, and maybe the paper shouldn't tell us anything. Maybe buying the TandT is a cheap way of checking out of a miserable world and getting permanently stoned.)

Oh - a blunder on my part.
I read on another site of a Visions United Church which seemed to be experimenting in an interesting way with its service, including using a move theatre. Is that the same Visions United I see advertised in the TandT? If so, I have not noticed anything about its experimentation in the newspaper. If this is the same Visions United, please drop me a note under comments. I'd be happy to give you what limited advertising reach I have.

I was interested to read that Kateri, a Mohawk woman from the Montreal region, will be canonized in Rome. So I issue fair warning to the Roman Catholic church. Reverend Zenon Decarie (a relative) is now being considered for canonization. That must make me eligible for some perks. Think about it.

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