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  • VOCM Year in Review 2016

    January: New Arrivals and Old Problems

    The province rang in the new year on an up-beat note, with new governments on both the provincial and federal level.

    Refugees, particularly from ongoing conflict in Syria, had been a major issue throughout 2015 and became a touchstone during the federal election with the Conservative hardline stance failing to gain as much traction with voters as the Liberals' more open policy. During the election Justin Trudeau had pledged to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015, though in reality was only able to process around 6,000.

    In Newfoundland and Labrador refugees had started arriving already, sponsored by churches such as St. Mark's Anglican (left) in St. John's, and groups formed to help as in the case of the Syrian Refugee Support Group in Corner Brook. By January dozens of families had arrived in the province, including the Sulaiman family, sponsored by the Dobbin family of St. John's (pictured above).

    Support for Seamus

     


    Early in the month newly elected MP Seamus O'Regan announced that he would be seeking treatment in order to "adopt an alcohol free lifestyle". Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signaled his support.

    O'Regan was back at work by the time the House opened.

    Fraud Case Thrown Out for Taking Too Long

    Also in January, a decade after the story surfaced, a Supreme Court Judge threw out fraud charges against former real estate developers Myles Leger.

    The judge ruled that police had taken too long to lay charges against the company and its officers and had breached their charter rights. Bill Clarke and Terry Reardon had been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud involving incidents that allegedly occurred between 2000 and 2004. Criminal charges in the case were not laid until 2007.

    The RCMP claimed it did not have enough resources to investigate the Myles Leger case and the Hickman Equipment case, which involved more than $100-million.

    Firestorm in Spaniard's Bay

    Meanwhile, the town of Spaniard's Bay was still dealing with fallout of the resignation of 20 men from the fire department following accusations of sexual harassment by its sole female firefighter, Brenda Seymour.

    The majority of the department walked out in support of Chief Victor Hiscock, leading to national scrutiny on the community.

    The scandal extended past the fire department and into council and other communities as well, after it was discovered Bay de Grave Fire Chief Jeremy Hall had played pornography during a training session. Mr. Hall later resigned.

    In the end council and public opinion came down on the side of Ms. Seymour, with Mayor Tony Menchions issuing a public apology and almost the entire fire department being replaced.

     


    February: Exit Realty on the Rocks

    The month of February began with one of the biggest business stories of the year.

    It started when government officials moved in to revoke Exit Realty On The Rock's real estate license. A police investigation would ultimately lead to charges of fraud and breach of trust against broker Anne Squires. Police allege she had created fictitious purchase and sale agreements to obtain commission advances.

    The story took a bizarre twist when Squires fired back, claiming she had been charged exorbitant interest rates on personal loans from numerous individuals, including St. John's Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth. Squires filed a statement of claim at Supreme Court, Ellsworth responded with documents stating he did nothing illegal.

    Dozens of former real estate agents with the now defunct company are still waiting for outstanding fees owed to them. Squires will appear in court on January 3rd.

    That Sinking Feeling

    The driver of a dump truck on the Change Islands ferry narrowly escaped a dangerous dip in the frozen Atlantic after his truck slid between the ferry and the dock. Witnesses said the ferry was not adequately secured to the dock and had drifted away as the driver, Dean Snow, had attempted to drive away.

    The incident left the dock unusable for several days.

    You Can't Fight City Hall, But You Might Throw Some Jabs Inside It

    Back in St. John's, the embattled city council, under fire from business owners and the community alike for cuts and fees in the city budget, began fighting amongst themselves. Chair of Finance and Administration Councillor Jonathan Galgay, who had bore the brunt of the public criticism struck back at the rest of council for failing to have any input into the budget or even attend finance meetings.

    Meanwhile, council began discussing the leadership of Mayor Dennis O'Keefe, with Councillor... saying there was "a vacuum of leadership". Eventually a private meeting was held for council to work out their differences, but there were still calls from the business community for provincial intervention to sort out the chaos.

    On the provincial level Premier Dwight Ball and the freshly minted Liberal government were enjoying high public approval, but problems were already beginning to show, as the Premier reluctantly agreed that it was necessary to revisit the PC idea of raising the HST, an issue they had campaigned against during the election.

     


     March: In and Out of Pickles


    Five people, four teens and one 22-year-old man were arrested after a stabbing and assault at a Southlands party left one in critical condition.

    Shocking video of the attack in the midst of a party out of control went viral online, showing a group ganging up on the victim, kicking, punching, and stabbing him to the ground. He remained in critical condition for several days, and his mother appealed to the public to identify the attackers before arrests were made.

    All four teens, as young as 15, have plead not guilty. The man, Robert Mills, has since been arrested again for breaching conditions of his bail.

    Dollarama Assault

    It was a season of violence, as in late March the Conception Bay North are was shocked to learn about a stabbing at a local store.

    45-year old Jason King is facing a charge of attempted murder following a stabbing in the Dollarama. It all happened while other customers were shopping in the store. The victim and accused are known to one another. The case is still before the courts.

    Paul Davis returned to the house for the first time as leader of the opposition as Dwight Ball assumed the seat of Premier.

    But confusion over policy led to a bizarre situation at the Confederation Building after government allowed the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr to fly a controversial "Christian Flag" on the Confederation Building flagpole (right), which the previous PC government had refused. Outcry from the public and from other churches led to its removal, with shifting blame over who had allowed the flag in the first place.

    Tragic Accident Claims Five Lives

    Each year many people are killed in highway accidents in this province, but a firey crash in March was by far the worst. Five people died as a result of the early morning crash near the Long Harbour turnoff. Police say a pickup and van crashed killing the occupants of the van. The driver of the truck was pulled from his vehicle from his vehicle by a passing motorist.

    And He Walked Away

    While there were many tragedies on our roadways this past year, the driver of this car was very lucky to escape injury after his vehicle was split in half by an accident on the harbour arterial. Emergency responders were baffled by the fact that the driver was able to walk away from this accident unscathed.

    RIP Zest Mustard Pickles

    But the real story that touched the heart of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian was the discontinuing of Zest Mustard Pickles, resulting in runs on grocery stores and panic on social media. Some shared family recipes for mustard pickle substitutes, while others held contests to auctioned off the last few precious jars available. Gregory Crane, below, decided to immortalize the condiment in song.

     

     

     

     


    April is the Cruelest Month

    The honeymoon was over as the Liberal government brought down their first budget, sending shockwaves through the province and eliciting widespread protest on an enormous scale.

    Among the more controversial aspects of the budget, an up-to $900 levy, called a "head tax" by critics, additional gas taxes of 16 cents per litre, and the reinstating of the previous government's planned HST increase.

    Outcry led to the reversal or delay of several measures, including the closure of the courts in Grand Bank, Harbour Grace, Grand Falls-Windsor, and Wabush, and the closure of over half of the province's libraries. The latter decision is still under review.

    Thousands rallied at the Confederation Building in St. John's to protest the budget. Activist Gemma Hickey described it  "We've gone from have-not, to have, to been had."

    It was only the beginning of the trouble for Dwight Ball's administration, as following soon after the budget the Chair of the Board at Nalcor, and the face of the embattled Muskrat Falls project Ed Martin left the company followed by the entire board in solidarity.

    However more confusion around whether Martin resigned or was fired left government tangled in mixed messages and controversy while Martin pocketed a $6-million severance. He was replaced by former Fortis CEO Stan Marshall.

    The province was already reeling when a blaze in Bay de Verde destroyed the Quinlan Brothers fishplant, the region's primary employer.

    The fire forced the evacuation of half of the town and threw hundreds out of work. But the town of Bay de Verde is in the process of turning tragedy into triumph and rebirth, as just months later, the new fishplant is well underway and on track to begin processing snow crab in the spring.

    Meanwhile, personal tragedy become unspeakable crime as a fire in Carbonear resulting in the death of five-year-old Quinn Butt was deemed suspicious by RCMP. Quinn's father Trent, who survived the fire in critical condition, was charged with first degree murder.

    The town rallied around Quinn's mother and family, and thousands gathered for a candlelight vigil for Quinn. Just four months later, Quinn's Place a playground dedicated in her memory would open at Paradise Elementary, the school Quinn would have been attending.


    May: Mr. Ball's Wild Ride

    As fallout from the budget continued, Angus Reid pollsters called the 43% drop in approval ratings for Premier Dwight Ball "staggering" and "unprecedented."

    Coming into office along with the red wave of the federal Liberals, Ball had enjoyed 60% approval earlier in the year, making him the second most popular premier in the country. After the budget, Ball was knocked back to 17% approval, with only one in five Newfoundlanders and Labradorians happy with the way things were.

    Ball would continue to struggle in the polls, finally recovering with 31% approval in a CRA poll conducted in November, more than doubling his numbers from a few months earlier.

    Protests continued in front of the Confederation Building, but the turmoil could not be kept outside of the House however. Paul Lane, a former PC member who had crossed floor to join the Liberals, declared he could not in good conscience vote in favor of the budget, and was subsequently removed from caucus.

    The 'End of Days' at Fort Mac

    The month began with more tragedy, as wildfire swept through the town of Fort McMurray, destroying over 2,400 homes and growing to become the largest ever recorded in Alberta, and the costliest natural disaster in Canada's history.

    Witnesses called it "the end of days" but the reaction from back home was strong, with over a million dollars raised and a response Anna Power of the Red Cross called "overwhelming."

    Venus Slithers Home

    In other parts of the province the Long Harbour nickle planet celebrated a milestone as they began exclusively processing Newfoundland and Labrador nickle.

    In Corner Brook terror stalked the streets when a hungry boa constrictor was released from the Wild World pet store and was loose, ravening for delight. It turned out the snake (or Venus as she was affectionately known) had in fact been abducted, but was fortunately returned a bit shaken but none the worse for her ordeal.

    "It's Over"

    Finally, after a decade of litigation and having been left out of an official Federal apology in 2008, survivors of the residential school system in this province were vindicated and awarded a $50-million settlement, affecting some 800 people who had come through the system suffering immense abuse and cultural loss. The settlement was approved in September.

    Emma Reelis from Nain said it was a bittersweet victory, remembering those who did not survive the system, or who hadn't lived long enough to see the issue settled. Survivor Tony Obed broke down after exiting the court.

    "It's over," he said. "We did it."

     


    June: Boondoggled

    Public displeasure with the Liberal government continued to grow, with "Resign" posters bearing the premier's face appearing along the parkway in front of the Confederation Building. It didn't help endear them to the public when the posters were ordered removed with seemingly no one at the top knowing who gave the order.

    The wasn't the only government misstep in early June to draw ire, as after controversially hiring outside negotiators to help in contract talks, the deadline to do so with several unions was simply skipped due to internal error.

    The Registered Nurses Union was one of those for whom government missed the negotiation deadline. President Debbie Forward (right) announced that they would not be negotiating, saying that in the current "unsettled climate" it was nice to provide her membership with some stability.

    Can't Stop, Won't Stop

    Meanwhile, inside the house the climate was no less heated, as a marathon three-day filibuster took place to block passage of the controversial deficit reduction levy.

    PC and NDP members, as well as the newly-independent Paul Lane, stood for hours speaking against the budget and the levy, challenging Liberals to vote against their party, and reading emails and even tweets from the public. Despite the effort in the end the measure passed, albeit with a significantly altered levy from what was originally presented in the budget itself.

    One Giant Leap at the Pumps

    One controversial part of the budget that went untouched was the doubling of the gas tax, which came into effect June 2. Prices skyrocketed after days of line-ups at the pumps with drivers stockpiling gas, prompting warnings on proper fuel storage from police. Adding a further dent in your wallet, the HST 2% increase would kick in at the end of the month.

    Muskrat Falls Resting on a Foundation of "Faulty Assumptions"

    After years of a skeptical public being told by Nalcor and the province alike that Muskrat Falls was doing fine, new CEO Stan Marshall held nothing back in his initial report on the project, calling it "a boondoggle".

    Cost of the Muskrat Falls project, which Marshall said was already problematic at the original tag of $5.9-billion, had ballooned to $11.4-billion dollars, with first power delayed by approximately 2 years.

    While Marshall insisted the cost of stopping the project was already far more than letting it continue, he admitted no study had been done to determine that cost. It was now too late to change course. Premier Dwight Ball had a simpler summation of the project: "Blame the PCs".

     

    Some light at the end of the tunnel: Statoil announced the end of a two-year survey of the Bay du Nord basin, with the potential for hundreds of millions of barrels of oil ready to be drilled, undoubtedly providing doubled gas-taxes to the province for ages to come.


    July: Giants and Heroes

    A century after a generation of men was lost on the battlefield at Beaumont Hamel, thousands gathered in St. John's and in France to remember what had become the tragic defining moment of Newfoundland's national identity.

    Broadcast across the country, the ceremonies featured a wreath laid by Princess Anne and dignitaries from both sides of the conflict; old enemies turned allies by time and grief.

    Later, at the unveiling of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment gallery at the Rooms, MP Seamus O'Regan gave an impassioned address: "As we take a moment to reflect, let us consider the bravery of each and every man that day, because they are giants. They are heroes."

    "It's All Gone. A Complete Wipe-out."

    As Bay de Verde was still trying to rebuild, tragedy repeated itself with the Long Cove Dorset Fisheries Plant burning to the ground in Norman's Cove - Long Cove.

    Residents reported hearing an explosion before the blaze erupted, leading to speculation about a blown transformer. Over 200 people worked at the plant. Town Councillor Henry Brenton said it was a devastating loss for the community.

    Love is Love

    Pride Week in the province started off in the shadow of hate after a shooting at a club in Orlando left 49 dead and 53 wounded, but according to organizer TJ Jones the St. John's parade saw its highest attendance yet.

    Municipalities around the province showed their support for the LGBT community, with both Corner Brook and St. John's painting rainbow sidewalks. But the biggest news was the Anglican Church of Canada's decision to allow same-sex unions, a decision at odds with the international Anglican community and one that very nearly didn't happen, as the vote initially called to reject the motion but was overturned on recount.

    Finally, the 89th running of the Tely 10 saw record numbers of runners, with over 4,300 people taking part. Paradise resident Colin Fewer won his ninth Tely 10 after missing last year's race due to injury, while Kate Bazeley of St. John's came out on top in the women's race breaking a 30 year record and winning the event for her fourth time.

    As well, after a year of fires highlighting the work of first responders,  firefighter Andrew Bragg ran the length of the course wearing his fire gear, including oxygen tank.


    August: Crimes and Punishment

    A violent crime shocked Conception Bay South and the province after a young man was abducted from his home, stabbed, and left in a driveway in another part of the town with both his house and the car he was taken in torched.

    Steven Miller, 25, was taken from his home in Seal Cove and found with multiple stab wounds in Kelligrews.  Less than a week later three suspects, 35-year-old Paul Connolly, 25-year-old Calvin Kenny and 19-year-old Kyle Morgan had been arrested on charges of first degree murder, forcible confinement, robbery, and arson.

    A fourth man, Chesley John Lucas, was located in Halifax after a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest was issued.

    "I hope he stays in that jail cell until the end of his days."

    Also in court, the long delayed trial of accused serial rapist Sofyan Boalag, delayed several times since his arrest in 2012, finally concluded after witnessing tense, emotional testimony from several of the victims. One came to court but refused to testify, instead yelling at Boalag that she hoped "they cut your f-ing head off."

    The youngest of the six women who accused Boalag of a violent sexual assault told VOCM News that she "hopes he stays in that jail cell till the end of his days." The victim, who was 15 at the time of the offence, was pleased with the final verdict and said she has managed to get passed the attack, and move on with her life.

    Though several charges were dropped, Boalag was found guilty on three of the charges. He is undergoing psychiatric assessment to determine if he should be designated a long-term dangerous offender, resulting in an indefinite sentence.

    Sundara Raising Ethics Questions

    More controversy dogged Dwight Ball's administration as after the government mandated closure of the Masonic Park nursing home, nearby Sundara Condominiums put in an application to shift to assisted living. Sundara is partially owned by Dwight Ball, leading to questions about conflict of interest and whether or not Ball himself would benefit from government decisions.

    Aside from that, in August owners and residents of condos in the Sundara complex met on the issue, and were not pleased to suddenly find themselves living in a potential assisted living facility.

    To make matters worse, a Sundara employee was fire apparently for his public criticism of the premier.

    Adam Pitcher, a chef, was volunteering as coordinator for NL Rising organizing anti-government and anti-budget protests. While Pitcher says he had previously spoken with his supervisor at Sundara about his political activities and had been told there was no problem, he was later let go specifically because of his politics according to a record he made of the firing. Pitcher is now pursuing a human rights case against Sundara.

    Great Deals on Half-Price Cats

    Finally the fur was flying out the door when Humane Services Animal Care and Adoption Shelter, finding itself at feline capacity decided everything must go and offered a sale on half-price cats.


    September: Breaking Apart and Coming Together

    Former federal NDP MP and provincial PC candidate Ryan Cleary fired the debate of having separate unions for fish harvesters for plant workers, leaving FFAW President Keith Sullivan warning of a fractured union, perhaps echoing Benjamin Franklin's famous line "We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

    Both Sullivan and the Labour Congress would go on to accuse Cleary of opportunism and working against the labour movement, but many fishers seemed to agree with the underlying issues Cleary was raising and joined with the newly formed FISH-NL. Tensions ran high with insults and in some cases threats traded on both sides and encounters that almost came to blows at several meetings. Though it is unclear how much support the breakaway union has, the issue will be decided this month.

    Missing

    Tragedy brought national attention to the community of Shea Heights, when four men, including a father, son, and grandson, were reported overdue after sailing out to pull their nets.

    An overnight search found the empty fishing boat. Two of the bodies were recovered.

    Former NHL player Terry Ryan (right) knew all four, but was close friends with Keith Walsh and Billy Humby whom he got to know through ball hockey. He and others referred to the men as pillars of their community, as hundreds gathered at the narrows in St. John's first in hope for their return, then in grief.

    Poisoning the Well

    Peter Whittle stepped down as President of the Federation of School Councils, citing Dale Kirby as the reason. Whittle had been critical of Kirby, accusing him of being "combative and arrogant" and "poisoning the well" when it came to education issues.

    Shortly after the comments were made Whittle received a letter from the Federation's executive asking him to step down and emails saying that if he did not their funding would be revoked. He did resign, placing the blame squarely on the education minister. Soon after he ran for a seat on the school board and won in Zone 16.

    Scotsburn Plant Closes

    Scotsburn Ice Cream Company announced that its facility in St. John's would be closing at the end of the year. Instead of manufacturing in St. John's, the work would move to the company's other locations in Truro and Quebec.

    The move was met with shock, as the union representing workers said they were blindsided by the closure, affecting up to 200 jobs.

    Foxtrap Man Aces It

    After 50 weeks and thousands of participants, the Assumption Parish Chase the Ace fundraiser in Bay de Verde finally drew a winner.

    Chris LeDrew of Foxtrap went in on the tickets with nine other people, including his cousin and father. They came out with $733,000, leaving over $500,000 for the parish to do much need upgrades and renovations.

    The action wasn't over, as McIvers on the west coast also hosted a Chase the Ace this month, with a jackpot of over $500,000.

    Katarina Roxon Gets Her Own Way

    Finally at the Paralympics in Rio, Kippens native Katarina Roxon took home the gold for the 100-metre breaststroke, saying she won "not just for me, but for everyone who's helped me, and for all Newfoundlanders".

    Upon her return Roxon was celebrated with a motorcade and a portion of Route 490 renamed "Roxon Way". Roxon said she was blown away by the attention, and was just happy top be back on home soil.


    October: Stopping the Flood

    Torrential rain from the remains of Hurricane Matthew hammered the province, washing out roads, stranding whole communities, and cutting the province in half at the TCH in Terra Nova.

    A state of emergency was declared and many families were displaced by the flood. Over 150 mm of rain fell on the southwest coast and in parts of central Newfoundland with over 100 mm in the Clarenville area.

    Morrisville, St. Alban's, Hermitage and Seal Cove were completely cut off from the rest of the province. Buchans as well, with victims from accidents on the washed-out Buchans Highway having to be airlifted from the area. Landslides in Harbour Breton forced evacuation from residents. Cars and sheds were washed away.

    VOCM listeners shared their photos of the situation on our Facebook page:

    In the end close to $7-million in damage was estimated to have been done in the province, and it took weeks to recover and reconnect the communities in need.

    Search Ends, But Investigation Continues

    More than two years after his disappearance the remains of 26-year-old Joshua Whelan were found off Roaches Line.

    The discovery comes just two months after a memorial service was held for Whelan. The young man was last seen in the Anspach Street area in August of 2014, two weeks after the body of Bobby Pitcher was found in a building lot in Paradise. Police have since linked the two cases, deeming each to be homicide.

    Rowe Takes the Seat

    For the first time ever a Newfoundlander will preside in the highest court in the land.

    Veteran judge Malcolm Rowe was the sole nominee as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new selection process aiming at greater openness and accountability.

    Justice Minister Andrew Parsons called it a big day for the province and for the entire Newfoundland and Labrador legal community. Rowe told those in attendance at his swearing-in ceremony that "my one sorrow is that Marty and I have to leave St. John's."

     

    "Yelling the Truth" at Muskrat Falls

    Finally discontent with the Muskrat Falls project, particularly in regards to methylmercury levels downstream of the project, exploded into protests that ground the project to a halt, occupied both the site and the Confederation Building in St. John's, and brought national attention to the indigenous peoples of Labrador.

    The crux of the issue was the clearing of vegetation in the reservoir, which would spike methylmercury in the water during decomposition, prompting protesters to demand a delay to the flooding of the reservoir until clearing the area was complete. Nalcor officials said this was impossible due to potential ice damage to the site in the approaching winter.

    A hunger strike by Inuk artist Billy Gauthier and others underlined the urgency to the protest, which the "land protectors" said was about stopping a threat to their communities and in some cases their lives by potentially poisoning the region's main food source. Gauthier said "This is not an easy place to be, but we've got to be here.

    After weeks of protest and a marathon overnight meeting between Premier Dwight Ball and the leaders of Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut, and the Innu Nation, an agreement was reached for more indigenous oversight and assessment. The flooding was stopped, for the time being.

    In the Ottawa offices of Labrador MP Yvonne Jones, credited with helping protesters voice their concerns, the hunger strikers declared a historic victory and broke their long fast with a dinner of smoked Labrador char.

    However, the aftermath of the protest has yet to be entirely decided. Delay to work on the upstream boom at the project did, as Nalcor predicted, leave the powerhouse vulnerable to ice damage throughout the winter. As well, Justin Brake, a reporter for the Independent who had been embedded with the protesters throughout, was charged alongside them for breaking the court injunction and entering the Muskrat Falls site.

    In a statement, Nalcor said, "Brake was treated in the same manner as all individuals who chose to enter the site and take up occupation at the camp" but national group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression called for the immediate reversal of the charges, saying a court ordering a journalist to stop reporting sets a bad precedent, calling it "a slap in the face to journalists across Canada." That case is ongoing.

     


    November: Lost and Found


    November began with happy endings to two search efforts in a single week. 82-year-old Bill Snelgrove was found alive in the woods near CBS after spending a night in the woods after getting lost berry picking.

    A 49-year-old hunting guide was reported missing after he became separated from his hunting party near Jeffrey's. Days of extensive searching for the man showed no results. That is, until he walked out of the woods and showed up at his hunting lodge apparently none-the-worse for his ordeal.

    'This is Really Cool,' the Cannaleaf Saga

    The opening of a marijuana dispensary in downtown St. John's raised eyebrows, and controversy in the capital city.

    Hundreds of people took advantage of Cannaleaf's over the counter service before the dispensary was raided by police.

    Four people were arrested as result of the raid, as well as the seizure of a large amount of cannabis products including marijuana, shatter, and edibles infused with THC.

    Changing Flags Raises Flags

    The Seafarers International Union members launched protests over the layoffs of over 100 ship crew at Woodward's in Lewisporte. The company reflagged four ships, allowing them to replace local workers with crew members from the Philippines.

    Union President Jim Given said the move was completely unacceptable. While Woodward's indicated the local workers would be rehired, Given says it's not guaranteed.

    Roaming Houseboat

    Irish authorities were surprised to find a solar powered houseboat washed up on their shores, last seen just weeks prior in Newfoundland.

    The boat was docked in Portugal Cove-St. Philips, and was apparently abandoned by its creator, environmentalist Rick Small. A note on the inside of the vessel, purportedly from Small, pledged the boat to homeless youth in the province.

    Near-Miss Video Goes Viral

    A local video went viral when a dashboard camera caught images of a near-miss accident on a rain-soaked Peacekeepers Way. In the video, the vehicle narrowly misses a head-on collision with a pickup truck passing dangerously

    After an investigation, RNC charged a 34-year-old CBS man with dangerous driving.


     

    December: Out Like a Lion

    [caption id="attachment_12805" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The 2016 Santa Claus Parade (Courtesy Earl Noble.)[/caption]

    We usually wait for March for things to come in like a lion, but December made a good showing for itself when after a relatively calm fall, winter struck with multiple storm systems shutting down sections of the province several times in a single week. Even the St. John's Santa Claus Parade was postponed, taken place in slightly less snowy conditions the following week.

    Schools and facilities were closed several times and there were several accidents, including a car that left the highway near the Foxtrap access road, and ended up in deep water with the driver sent to hospital.

    All this prompted concerns in regards to the lack of 24-hour snow clearing on the highways, but government defended the decision, saying that the change was meant to address downtime for plow operators.

    The Dark Side of Being a Woman in Public

    While many had spent the year critical of Finance Minister Cathy Bennett's policies, the conversation changed when she went public to reveal the abuse that she had received online since taking office.

    From sexist attacks, to bodyshaming, and threats, Bennett says while she was prepared for disagreement following the controversial budget, the level and frequency of personal attacks had been shocking.

    "Why don't you kill yourself?" said one poster in a private message, revealed in a press conference the minster held to highlight not only the abuse she had witnessed, but that was commonly directed at women in public positions. Hundreds united to condemn online abuse, using the hashtag #LiftHerUpNL to share stories and give support.

     

    MHAs Give Themselves an Early Christmas Present

    Just before the house closed for the season, MHAs elicited shock across the province by voting to grandfather in 20 new MHAs in the previous higher-paying pension plan against the recommendation of the Members Compensation Review Committee.

    This would result in a cost of an estimated $3.6-million, at a time when government is considering closing over half of the province's libraries to save close to $1-million.

    Some, such as Liberal Andrew Parsons and PC Leader Paul Davis defended the vote, saying that it would be unfair to make changes on new members who had the expectation of higher pensions, but widespread outrage had many changing their decision with Davis and opposition member Keith Hutchings calling for a reversal of the vote.

    Quick Response Prevents Worst Case in Fires

    A fishing crew of six was rescued safe and sound from a burning vessel 110 nautical miles south of Burin thanks to a bit of luck, and the help of another fishing vessel which happened to be in the area.

    Images of the Cape Mariner—a 60-foot fishing vessel out of St. John's—engulfed in flames emerged, showing the intensity of the blaze. Later in the day, Transport Canada conducted a surveillance flight finding the vessel still afloat and burning through the remnants of its 2,000 litres of on-board fuel.

    Six days after what could have been a devastating fire, Islander RV in central Newfoundland was back up and running thanks to quick action from firefighters.

    Nights earlier, fire broke out in a building which houses two apartments used by out-of-town staff. General manager, Tony Martin says everything was in favour that night, including wind direction. He credits quick work from firefighters for helping prevent the fire from spreading through their entire compound.

    Tragedy Strikes Home

    62-year-old Linda Vatcher was one of ten people killed on December 18th when she was caught in the middle of a surprise attack at a Karak Castle in Jordan. The Burgeo native was in the Middle East visiting her son Chris who works there. He was also shot, but is expected to make a full recovery.

    Vatcher, who is a retired school teacher, spent the last twenty years living in Corner Brook. Mayor Charles Pender, who worked with her, said Vatcher was a generous and kind person who was always doing things to help others. He said her loss will be deeply felt in the area.

    In Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove a shocking crime cast a shadow on the festive season after a brutal series of events killed one man and sent two other people to hospital.

    18-year-old Graham Veitch was charged with first degree murder in the death of 55-year-old David Collins, as well as with assaulting his mother and brother with a hammer.

    Veitch is also charged with assaulting a police officer, theft of a motor vehicle and flight from police.

    The town of Lark Harbour experienced tragedy over the holidays with the loss of two members of the community. Merle and Marilyn Sheppard were walking home from a family gathering in the early hours of Boxing Day when they were struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver.

    45-year-old Walter Joyce is facing two charges of impaired driving causing death.

    Canada 150 Starts Here

    The end of the year is the beginning of a new one, and  2017 marks the the 150th anniversary of Canada's birth as a nation.

    Because of this province's unique time zone, we were the first to welcome the new year and a series special events to mark the occasion. Thousands of people flocked to New Gower Street for the event which started at 9:00 pm and ended shortly after midnight.

     

     


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