28 June 2011

The federal government is out to kill you

If you want an example of the sorts of irresponsible, partisan rhetoric that usually gets wound up in some types of issues in this province check out a post at a local blog.

It’s titled in an appropriately hysterical way, given the subsequent comments:

“They will not be happy until we are as extinct as Northern Cod.”

Yes folks, the local Quisling hunter is back with his claim that the federal government is on a campaign of genocide against the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Normally your humble e-scribbler would ignore this sort of garbage but it is such a fine example of the sort of political myths that Tim Powers complained about recently that it’s worth singling out.  And what’s more, both Tim and the Quisling Hunter share a common political hero who, not surprisingly, also loved political fairy tales.

These days in Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s par for the course:  no facts to make the case?  Make ‘em up, instead.

According to the post,

The decision to close regional sub-bases and consolidate has been in the works for nearly twenty years, just as the federal government has been automating and decommissioning light houses for the past thirty years.

He then cites a 1996 crash at Stephenville airport as evidence:

In it's findings, the Transportation Safety Board found that the St. John's FSS operator did not have the actual Stephenville wind direction and speed. The wind velocity he passed to the crew was from the latest Stephenville observation and was 040° at 17 knots, within the tailwind landing limitations of the aircraft. The actual Stephenville wind of 040° magnetic at 20 knots with gusts to 22 knots exceeded the aircraft's maximum allowable tailwind component for landing.

Had there been local air radio and weather staff, those pilots would have had accurate up to date information.

They might very well be alive today.

My point is that abandoning regional facilities like St. John's can, and in fact, has cost lives in the past.

And then the finish:

Emotional, partisan rhetoric is not going to force Ottawa mandarins to change their minds.  The reality of the dangerous conditions that our men and women toil in to retrieve fish, deliver and pump oil, and transport goods is as foreign to the bureaucrats on Wellington Street as our dialects and unique phrases.

This closure is just the latest evidence of a  continued lack of understanding and sensitivity in official Ottawa towards the economic, social, and safety needs of this province.

They will not be happy until each and every one of us are as extinct as the Northern Cod.

Big problem? 

Well aside from the oxymoronic appeal to emotional, partisan rhetoric right after acknowledging that it won’t work on bureaucrats, that is.

The big problem is that Transportation Safety Board report on that crash investigation didn’t finger local air, weather and radio staff.  Nor did it give any basis for getting to that conclusion.

You can find the report on line at the Transportation Safety Board website.  It is easy to read;  TSB reports are in plain English.

Notice that there is no link to the report in the post.  That should be your first clue that something is amiss. take a look at the description of the tailwind information, though and that’s where things go off.  The TSB found that the tailwind given by the St. John’s air controller worked out to 10 knots.  That’s the actual recommended limit for that aircraft type.  The observed conditions on the ground at the time – according to the TSB  - worked out to 12 knots. 

That’s still 20% beyond the maximum tailwind for the type but at no point does the TSB connect the difference in weather conditions – reported versus actual – as being a factor in the crash. The claim the pilots might have been alive had someone been in the tower is pure fiction.

You’d see that by reading the whole report.  Investigators found the aircraft in the middle of the airfield, upside down and with its landing gear retracted.  It appears the aircraft struck the runway while the pilot tried to abort the landing and go around for another try.  The TSB notes there was no explanation why the pilot tried to land with a tailwind at the aircraft’s limits while he could have approached with a modest headwind.

What you have here is someone taking a case and bending it to fit the desired outcome.  Aside from the date, the aircraft type and the fact it crashed, pretty well everything else the post author claims about the mishap is just wrong.  The conclusions are equally out-to-lunch.

The post fits, though, with all the wild claims made about the shifting of the jobs from this particular centre to Halifax where the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre has been running for years.  It also sits alongside the host of other mistaken beliefs, whether it is about incomprehensible dialects, bizarre place names,  the supposed closure of coast guard operations in the province full stop or that federal bureaucrats are out to commit genocide in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That’s the thing about political myths:  rationality has nothing to do with it.  In fact, rationality is the enemy of a political argument built on fables, fantasy and fairy tales.

But that’s what you get in Newfoundland and Labrador these days.

That and the myth mongers wondering why no one outside the province takes them seriously when they make all these improbably claims.

- srbp -