Friday, October 07, 2005

The Caravan Unlocked...The Last Post

New! Click here for Shelagh's thank-yous and good-byes in her last Caravan Unlocked video blog. Windows Media required. [Runs 12:29, 12 MB]

VANCOUVER — Hello, from the West Coast. It's raining here today — quelle surprise. It's hot in Toronto and cool but sunny on the Prairies (my step cousin in Peterson, Saskatchewan, says they still need a good four days to complete the harvest — very late this year with all the rain). There's a chance of flurries in Iqaluit and it's showery and mozzy in St. John's — which is not so far from Corner Brook, where the picture above was taken.

One of the things I actually enjoyed on CBC Radio over the last eight weeks was the national weather forecast. It gave me a sense of the country as the caravan traveled through it.

I got home from St. John's yesterday and had a good sleep in my own bed. Never underestimate the gift that is your own bed. It is heaven. And in my waking hours, I have been trying to sort out what The Caravan meant through this eight weeks of lockout and what it meant...or means to me personally.

Let me go back to the very beginning of The Caravan. I remember talking it over with Sue and really needing some time to think it through. It had its genesis as a way to show people that the real Shelagh wasn't what they were getting on the radio in ad-nauseam repeat form. But it became a way of connecting — with colleagues on the picket line, with listeners, and with what public broadcasting is really about: the public.

The Caravan took on a life of its own. As we traveled from place to place, people were ready to greet us, feed us, sometimes water us and put us up for a night or two. Sometimes those people were complete strangers, like Laurel Walton of Castlegar, B.C., who sent us an email saying why we should stop in Castlegar.

As we made our way east, it was our locked out colleagues who accommodated us. And often, they were strangers, too. In every case, we were walking into other peoples' lives in progress: kids going back to school, elderly parents who needed to be driven somewhere, spouses needing injections of medicine for MS. In every case — no matter what — we were made to feel at home.

Just about every stop came with media appearances, talks about the importance of a strong national public broadcaster to groups in town halls, highschool auditoriums, university classes, public rallies and on broadcasts on campus stations. There were a number of benefits for food banks and, in the case of Stephenville, Nfld., flood relief.

No matter what the event was, the spirit was always the same.

It was about community. Public broadcasting is about building community.

Frequently listeners told me they didn't know what was really going on in their city or their country in the last two months. Often, I heard that the CBC was crucial to their understanding of who we are as a country. One of the things that stays with me was hearing a woman in Bruno, Saskatchewan, say she felt in danger of becoming parochial without the CBC, that she would be restricted in her outlook.

Through the odyssey of The Caravan, I've come to really believe that Canadians want to hear about each other, whether they live in big cities or rural towns. Toronto wants to hear about Stephenville. Castlegar wants to hear about Halifax. They want to hear their stories and the stories of other extraordinary Canadians. I've also learned that they want more of a voice. And maybe with the success of the podcasts and blogs that the indefatigable, irreplaceable Tod Maffin corralled into cbcunplugged we will see more room being made for the listener. As I have said before in a handy phrase, let's put the public in public broadcasting.

As for what The Caravan meant to our fellow locked out colleagues, it's up to them to say.

I can only report from my end it was an honour to walk with them and talk with them. And whenever we pulled in to a new location, the welcome was the same: warm, affectionate, and appreciative. I gathered a lot of strength and energy from speaking with them and hearing first hand the effect of the lockout on their lives and the lives of their families. They are, to a person, remarkable people and they must be cherished and respected.

What can I tell you is what The Caravan meant to me personally? I won't linger on this — if you've been following this blog, you've got a good idea already.

I learned a lot about camaraderie. I observed it on the picket lines, and I experienced it in the van itself. Traveling with Sue and Natasha was a blast and except for the occasional disagreement over music and McDonald's, it was smooth. The undercurrent of constant support we had from Webmaster Sean was amazing. He was our coach. And hasn't he done a wonderful job mounting these dispatches, the podcasts and the slideshows. I owe the three of them and Tod Maffin enormous, inexpressible thanks, bottles of litchi liqueur, scotch, rum and screech.

I took to assigning The Caravan crew roles from the John Sturges movie The Great Escape.

Natasha, in the backseat editing sound was the James Coburn character Sedgwick "The Manufacturer."

Sue, as she called ahead setting up the next location for our visit was Charles Bronson's "The Tunnel King".

Sean, as webmaster and ear-to-the-ground-guy was a combination of Flight Lt. Sandy MacDonald who got all the intelligence, James Garner who played the charming Hendley "The Scrounger" and with Sean's attention to visual detail on the blog space, I'd have to throw in a bit of Donald Pleasence who played Colin Blythe "the Forger".

Tod Maffin made sure it got to the outside world, so he would be David McCallum's Lt. Cmdr. Eric "Dispersal" Ashley-Pitt.

That leaves me — and this is the first and last time I'll ever be able to liken myself to Steve McQueen. So I guess I am Virgil Hilts, "The Cooler King." I am the one with the mouth, the one out in front, and hey, I ride a motorcycle — who knows if these blogs and podcasts will land me in the cooler?

This has been an incredible journey. I have a renewed faith in public broadcasting that came to me in this chain of visits across the country as opposed to one big leap. I believe we can meet all the challenges of new and emerging technology as long as we don't sit on our big, fat complacencies.

This part is really personal: for years, I have been a CBC host without opinions. The lockout unlocked something in me and somewhere along the road, I realized the value of "speaking your truth." Of asking for what you want. Of not being nice all the time. Of being real. Of breaking the mirror. Of taking a stand and standing by it...

I want to thank all the people who put us up and fed us, the people who organized events, who got the word out about The Caravan, campus radio stations across Canada, and especially our colleagues across the land. Wish we could have come to every location. And thanks to the CMG executive who didn't laugh this idea out of their office. We could not have made this trip without you. And you returned all our phonecalls, too.

This idea, by the way, was Sue Campbell's. She didn't know what it would be or become. But she acted on her gutso guts. And she was right.
Speaking for the women of the caravan, thanks also must go to the men in our lives: Charlie, Paolo and Thoby.

Thanks also to the women in Sean's life: Maud, Léa and Zoé.

I want to thank you, too, for the e-mails, phone calls and blog responses and for just reading all this stuff. Thank you for listening.

See you on the radio.

— Shelagh
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Facts of The Caravan Unlocked

Here are some fun facts about The Caravan Unlocked:

- Number of blog entries (including this one) : 38

- Number of words written on this blog: more than 22,750

- Number of e-mails received: 245

- Number of days on the road: 36

- Number of food stops: 43

- Number of Chinese restaurants visited: 7

- Total Caravan mileage: 10, 566 kms

- Number of hotel stays: 6

- Number of gas stations visited: 27

- Cheapest gas on the trip: Esso Toronto, 97 cents a litre

- Most expensive gas on the trip: Husky Radium, B.C., $1.199 a litre

- Cellphone usage: 3,760 minutes, or 63 hours

- Aproximate length of this blog if printed & pages laid end-to-end: 24 meters

- The value of Tod Maffin's assistance in operating this blog: priceless

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Note About The Caravan's Mail And Blog Commentary

The good folks at have given us lots and lots of space for your e-mail (your 245 e-mails have used about four percent of the e-mail space available to us) so you can continue to send mail and it will be checked and posted when we can get around to it.

So, even though The Caravan Unlocked has pulled into its last parking spot and Shelagh has moved on to other things, our mail page will continue to be updated, if you contribute to it.

Just write:

The same goes for blog commentary. As far as we know, blogs are forever and, in theory, you can keep adding your commentary on postings on this blog into eternity!

And on that note...adieiu.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shaken, Stirred, Fried – Emotions On The Cape

ST. JOHN'S – "Hallelujah, hallelujah,"...the Leonard Cohen song keeps playing in my head. I can't believe it's all over.

Woke up Monday morning in Grand Falls at the Mount Peyton hotel. Got a call at 6:12 am that a deal had been reached. And then a follow up call from our webmaster Sean who had more details than anyone I know. Great calls, both.

Headed off to the picket line in Grand Falls-Windsor. A fishing hut, essentially, filled with the exuberant employees who had built it. Then off to Gander to a sister hut. And more exuberance.

It is a wonderful day.

And then to a pond en route to St. John's where Sue and I HAD TO swim. And then to Barkley's Bar in Mount Pear, just outside St. John's, to do sound checks and get ready for Stepping Out for Stephenville, the benefit for people hit hard by the flood last week.

Music, merry making, good humour, bad jokes, new bands, rum and coke, beer, and draws for prizes. The CMG in St. John's, in three days, created a wonderful party that raised an amazing $15, 000. Congratulations to Bob Sharpe and all his people!

It was an extraordinary night for relief...and of relief.

This morning, the 120 members of CMG St. John's and Sue and I gathered at Cape Spear, the eastern most point of Canada, to cheer the end of the lockout and the last day of The Caravan and the CBC employees across the country who have been strong, determined, resilient and resourceful throughout the past seven weeks.

What a marvelous group of people.

I want to write more about this. And I will. There's a lot to process. But right now I can't. All of a sudden, I've lost my energy. I relaxed in the knowledge that we are going back and I've just turned to jelly. I'm fried. So I'll conclude The Caravan blog in the next couple of days when I get back to Vancouver.

Thank you for being with us. And as I say on the air, thank you for listening.

- Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at:

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The End – Almost!

(photo copyright Greg Locke)

Well, as you can see from the picture above, Shelagh Rogers and The Caravan Unlocked did it! Along with many of the locked out Guild members of CBC St. John's, she made it to Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost point.

This incredible photo was taken by freelance photographer Greg Locke and is copyright by him. So, please do not re-use it without his permission. If you follow this link to Greg's personal blogsite you will see more pictures of Shelagh and friends in Cape Spear, plus a lot of other images of interesting Newfoundland people and places.

As Shelagh said from the beginning, she was heading as far as the shores of the North Atlantic, or as far as she could get by the end of the lockout, whichever came first. As fate would have it, her tour and the labour dispute ended almost simultaneously. Who knew the Caravan and the lockout would end up so closely synchronized?

Shelagh is gathering her thoughts right now for a short blog on the last few days' events. A final summing up will follow her return home to the West Coast – so keep visiting this blog site. Yes, there's more.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

No News Bad News In The Midst of Disaster

CORNER BROOK, NFLD. – Hello from western Newfoundland. We arrived at Deer Lake International Airport yesterday afternoon and were whisked off to meet with listeners and colleagues at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre.

Just a simple meet and greet, coffee and baked goods. Purely social. But there were at least seven people I would love to have interviewed. And there were probably other people with stories that I didn't get to hear.

One of the extreme frustrations of this time in CBC history is meeting people I know would be compelling on the radio, but holding off because we can't do what we normally do. Even when a powerful, universal human narrative presents itself.

Such as the Stephenville Flood (see the damage in the photo above). Suffice it to say, it drives me nuts.

Anyway, Sue and I are staying with Doug and Shirley Greer. Shirley is an artist and quilter. And Doug is a locked-out video journalist based in Corner Brook. Doug is chauffeuring us across Newfoundland, to Grand Falls-Windsor for picket duty tomorrow morning, Gander at noon and into St. John's for a benefit for the people hit by the flood earlier this week in Stephenville.

And it is Stephenville that is today's destination.

Newfoundland is so ruggedly beautiful and western Newfoundland has its own singular beauty. Mountainous, lots of "ponds" (lakes by any other province's standard), tons of trees that have formed the basis of a once-thriving pulp and paper industry, and the ocean, of course. The mountains are saturated with colour so bold it is almost lurid.

We set off at 7:30 and the rising sun illuminates the landscape. It's hard to imagine being anywhere else. People are taking advantage of this gift of weather, pitching their trailers at gravel pit campgrounds beside the ubiquitous ponds and just soaking it in.

In the midst of this landscape is the town of Stephenville, population 8,000. Like many places in Canada, it has had, if not exactly times of boom and bust, then times of prosperity – and bust.

Here's some recent history. During the Second World War, the Americans leased land from the (then British) government and established a military base and later a Strategic Air Command unit. Stephenville can claim "Elvis was here" since he visited the base at one point in his youth.

It was good for the economy...the base, I mean. But it closed in the 1960's and the economy, like the service people, went south. But then The Labrador Liner Board Mill opened, so-called because the wood supply came from Labrador. It was a Joey Smallwood scheme that soon became unaffordable and the mill was closed. However, during Premier Frank Moore's tenure, Abitibi Consolidated took the mill over. And times were better if not downright good. Now, though, Abitibi Consolidated is closing up shop because the cost of power to operate the mill has vaulted prohibitively in recent years.

As you come into town, there are signs in all the store windows that read "Support Our Mill– Save Our Town." But layoff notices have gone out. The town is girding itself for another bust-time. This is the backdrop to our visit. And now with the flood, as one resident put it, people are being battered on all sides.We have brought shovels, gumboots and gloves.

We have a colleague, Chris Norman, whose sister's house has been severely damaged by the storm. When CBC is functioning, Chris is the executive producer of radio news and current affairs in Corner Brook. When CBC is functioning, she would be one of the first to know about a flood in Stephenville. Tuesday, though, she got a call on her cell phone out of the blue from a friend in New Brunswick while she was walking the picket line asking if her sister Valda in Stephenville was okay. Chris didn't know what her friend was talking about. It turns out Valda was not okay. Her home, and the homes of some 250 other residents, has been declared uninhabitable.

Valda lives beside what is normally a stream. On Tuesday, a 100 mm rainfall turned it into a gushing river. It came into her basement. She walked out to her car in waist-high water. All the main bridges were closed and many still are. And many roads have buckled with the force of the water. Some have have been washed out. Mature trees have been upended. Some of the sewer lines have ruptured. Drinking water is contaminated. Cars have been undermined. I guess you could say a lot of the town has been undermined.

Chris is taking us on a tour of Valda's house. She is dressed in hipwaders and a heavy-duty face mask hangs around her neck. We go into the basement. The wooden floor is coated with a thick slick of slippery mud. And there's a scum of water on the walls.

You may have seen some of the pictures in the paper. But what you can't tell from those pictures or the images on TV is that it stinks. The mould, the retreating wetness and the sewer smell make your eyes water. Everything is out of place. The large freezer was flipped over on its lid. The big piece of furniture that holds the TV and VCR was lifted right out into another room and placed against a wall. The Christmas decorations were damaged. Bunched up by a window are sprigs of artificial fir and a family relic – one of the miniature log cabins her father built for each of the kids. Now it's contaminated and has to be left where it is.

As Chris describes what the basement used to look like as a cozy family room, her voice is breaking. One day her sister's house was a home. The next day, a disaster zone.

The EMO people haven't come to Valda's yet, but they will. They have issued warnings at some houses already and evacuated others and are poised to put yellow tape across the whole area.

In light of what Chris's family is facing, the impact of the lockout pales in comparison. Chris is deeply saddened by what has happened. But she also feels deeply frustrated that CBC Radio wasn't here to cover it.

The "privates" are pulling out of town as things "normalize." This is a time when a compassionate country should be hearing about fellow citizens who are in dire straits. But Stephenville has become a 30-second script on the CBC hourly news.

Chris and I talk for about 10 minutes into a recorder. And then she goes over to the front license plate holder on her truck. She has a promotional plate that says: CBC Radio One: News and More. She gets out a black sharpie and changes the wording to CBC Radio None: No News and Nothing. It feels good, for a moment.

There's a crew of family, neighbours and lockout friends helping move Valda's salvaged furniture and "the stuff of her life" out of the house and into a nearby storage centre. Luckily almost everyone here has a truck. With many hands, the move goes quickly. Valda says she understands how awful it must have been for the people of New Orleans and adds, "when this dream is over, we're gonna have a party and drink some really strong Pepsi."

Everyone laughs.

Soon afterwards, the officials from Health and Environment come to assess her house. It isn't condemned, but there are orders: No furniture to be removed from the basement. No staying overnight. No drinking the water. Well, that goes without saying. With every minute, the toxins are settling in more deeply and spreading. Already, there are houses with telltale red stickers on their doors prohibiting entry.

In some cases, there has been looting. The RCMP is on patrol, making rounds 24 hours a day. In this close-knit community, it's so surreal.

This Monday night, there is a benefit in St. John's for the Stephenville flood victims. Newfoundland is a place where people pull together and help each other. Some of the musicians performing that night are from Stephenville. It's being put together by locked out producers and technicians and support staff from CBC.

They are saying it's the least they can do.

Were they at work, they would do so much more.

- Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at:

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Show of Support For The People of Stephenville

On Monday, October 3, Shelagh will be hosting a benefit for the flood-stricken people of Stephenville, Newfoundland.

The Step Out For Stephenville show is organized by the Canadian Media Guild and will be held at Barkley's in Mount Pearl.

The doors open at 7 p.m. and admission is $10.

As you can see from the photo taken above by locked out CBC employee Doug Greer, damage to homes in Stephenville is extensive.

Doug Greer, incidentally, contributed to our first blog on the Stephenville disaster.

Performers at the event include: Larry Foley; Sandy Morris; Neil Bishop; The Firewires; Mahers Bahers; Pete Soucy; Janet Cull; Glen Downey and Mopaya.

The event is the first official fundraiser for the Red Cross’s Stephenville Appeal. All proceeds will go directly to Stephenville and surrounding communities.

For further details click here to visit the CMG St. John's webite, or go to John Gushue's famed Dot Dot Dot lockout blogsite.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Yes! The Caravan Unlocked Gets Its Own Song

Following the footsteps of artists like Woody Guthrie, Utah Phillips and Valdy, Jian Ghomeshi has updated protest singing for the 21st century. Ghomeshi, a singer, songwriter, performer and locked out CBC journalist, has caused a lot of excitment on this blogsite with his new podcast protest song, which is called...Shelagh's Caravan.

The song was given its first live performance at End The CBC Lockout gala at Massey Hall in Toronto last week. It has now been recorded for free distribution on the Internet.

It may be the world's first podcast protest song...and Shelagh is delighted by the tribute.

The song is available for download and listening on this site and on

Ghomeshi spent the last week mixing and recording the song in studio. He was produced and engineered by Stuart Cameron (son of John Allen Cameron) who plays with Ashley Macisaac, Shaye, and many other groups and has produced some Crash Test Dummies albums.

Link Connected This Blog Entry:

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at:

Friends, Hospitality, A Good Cup of Coffee: At Home In The Maritimes

HALIFAX – Saint John, New Brunswick has come and gone for The Caravan.

We were there yesterday. First thing in the morning was a "meet and greet" at the Saint John Arts Centre. It was scheduled from 7 am to 9 am. I said to Linda Forrestal, (the studio director for the local Information Morning) that I'd show up around 7:45, thinking no one would be there before then. She looked horrified and said to come at 7:00. We did and people were streaming in.

Coffee and muffins are always a good lure. But people really wanted to talk about the stories in their community that simply weren't being covered. Such as a cabin that's been built especially for troubled youth. Or Sister Angie's fight against poverty (an older nun introduced to me
as a social gladiator). The director of the art gallery told me she wasn't getting anywhere near the same crowds.

The message was that the community is suffering because CBC wasn't there in its community-building role. And this is a close-knit community.

After the gallery, which was something of a CBC love-in, my colleagues from Saint John and Sue and I went to Reggie's. Reggie's is a Saint John institution – it assumes the role that cafes did in Paris in the twenties. People talk. And eat good, high cholestrol food and drink great coffee and talk some more. No one gets special treatment at Reggie's, even if your picture is up on the wall. Mine is. But Phil behind the counter still landed a few well-aimed barbs. All in good fun...right Phil?

The next item on the agenda was addressing a high school assembly. I was terrified that I would put the kids to sleep with the story of my life so far. But they were hugely engaged, especially when I talked about interviewing politicians and how tedious it is trying to get past the spin – or what I called,"the walking wall of bullshit."

Maybe it was seeing someone their parents' or their teachers' age swear. More likely they are already so smart and so socially aware that they don't swallow spin either. They applauded wildly. You will be able to hear some of this session and their unsuing questions in a day or two.

Still having a problem sending sound files...should be resolved soon.

Today I am writing to you from Halifax. We spent four hours walking with our colleagues from radio and TV. The picket captain here is Brian Nordlund. Brian produces the Maritime TV news.

We worked together at CKWS TV and radio in the late 1970's. Brian left for a job at CBC. And it was he who told me about an opening at CBC in Ottawa that he thought I should go for. I did...and look what happened...

In spite of the last seven weeks, I am still grateful he called me. And it is some wonderful, as they say here, to re-connect.

Around noon, there was a concert on the street right outside the CBC Radio building on Sackville Street (pictured above). It was co-ordinated by Karl Falkenham and the technician was Pat Martin. It featured the Celtic rock group Mackrimmon's Revenge, the singer/songwriters Dave Carmichael and Meaghan Smith. Musicians throughout the country have been so generous in playing for us and with us. And this was a great event.

I really want to single out Karl and Pat, though, for special attention. I have worked with them on every "remote"...that is, outside-the-studio-broadcasts...I have done in Halifax over the years. They have always been technically complicated – quick changes from musicians to panel discussions, to audience participation, to monologues over music. And they have always been flawless. Karl and Pat are two of the best in the country, or anywhere in the world. I know Hollywood would love to have sound guys of such calibre. I've always called them my good luck charms.

A few years ago, after I took some time off to deal with raging high blood pressure and a prolonged bout of depression, I came back to radio on July 1st, 2003, with a live broadcast from Pier 21, where many Canadians first touched foot in this country, I didn't know if I could do the
broadcast, I was wracked with nerves after being off the air for six months. But both Karl and Pat told me they would be there if I fell. They were the net under the high-wire act. And it went well.

So it was mighty fine to see them in action again today. And it seems no lockout can keep these good men down.

- Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at:

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Letters, Letters And More Letters...From You

Up until now, we inside The Caravan Unlocked have shared just about everything that we've experienced, except our letters. Our blog comments are open and instantly accesible and we cherish them very much. But until recently, the velocity and tempo of the trip have been just too great to allow us to slow down and share all these letters (although Shelagh has written as many individual replies as she could). And sometimes these e-mails bring wonderful surprises, like this image (above) of St. Rest's Beach, N.B., where Shelagh and Sue took a bracing swim a few days ago.

So, as of today we'd like to announce the opening of our new mail page.

For a small, shoe-string operation that is confined to the Internet, we have generated a lot of e-mail in the last seven weeks – about 170 e-mails at last count – and the number e-mails we receive daily seems to be growing. Rest assured, these letters have contributed to the health, well being and morale of all those on this journey. And, since we can't keep all this to ourselves, we are going to start sharing it with you.

Below, you'll see the mail we've received in just the last couple of days. To see the rest follow this link to our new mail page, which we will try to update daily until the end of this journey.

Of all the e-mail received so far:
  • roughly a third is from fellow employees – the journey of The Caravan Unlocked seems to be stirring strong emotions both inside and outside CBC ranks
  • precisely two e-mails are critical. One blog early on consisted of a single line: "This is not about you, Shelagh!" which was noted. But the two e-mails were reasoned, articulate critiques of the trip and the union tactics in this lockout. And reasoned critiques are alway welcome.
  • mail of a purely personal nature has been screened out (family members write often). Other e-mail has also been screened for liable (some people are so passionate about the lockout that they name names of people whom they think are at fault, which could get us into legal trouble).
  • a number of letters are appeals to steer The Caravan to their home or community. This has worked on a few occasions. For others, previous committments have regrettably, kept us going down the road. We're still interested in these appeals, however.
  • a few of e-mails are from foreign locations (The Caravan is being followed globally) or have a foreign angle to them. One of the most impressive included a message from a woman in Switzerland who is posting her own blog on Shelagh's blog – written entirely in Italian!

There are several days to go before this project ends and we ask you to keep those letters coming. They make our hearts sing and the going a little easier.

I would like to nominate as my personal favorite message one that wasn't actually written to us. It was a CC of a September 20 letter (written in long-hand, not e-mailed) from 11-year-old Jacqueline Donner of Winnipeg. It was scanned and sent to us by her mother Lissa.

In it, Jacqueline expressed her strong opinions on the lockout to Prime Minister Paul Martin. If there are many more concerned young citizens like Jacqueline out there, the future of Canada is assured. As you will see if you visit the letters site, Jacqueline should also receive some sort of medal from the producers of CBC Radio's Between The Covers.

I have to conclude by saying the most impressive and moving thing about editting these letters is that even though most of the writers have never met Shelagh in the flesh, they write as if they are close colleagues and personal friends, which means, I guess, they really are friends and close colleagues now by virtue of writing them.

Clearly, the bond is strong between Shelagh and the authors of these messages and it has been a privlege to see them all.

- Sean Prpick, the Web Editor, Saskatoon, 29/9/05


WOW....The locals can't even dip their toes in that water (at St. Rest's Beach, N.B.) this time of year! You're an extremely talented woman/journalist and you and your caravan are doing an amazing job of making a very difficult situation better by your presence and camaraderie. Thank you Shelagh and hopefully everyone will be back where they belong very soon....Although I'm sure Newfoundlanders don't want a deal until after you've arrived...Frankly who can blame them. Safe travels and God Speed back to Vancouver and the airwaves!

- Mary Beth Cronin Proud Saint Johner and Life Long CBC Listener


Hey Shelagh,

We met during the Mitzi's Sister pub renovations and then the other day outside of U of T; my partner Lee and I brought our 15mth old twins down to support the Morning Show crew. I'm the one with the salt'n pepper hair and my partner Lee has the beautiful red hair. She's the one responsible for your egg cracking certificate. How did Premier Williams find out about that? Anyhow, I just wanted you to know how much we miss you and the CBC folks coming into our home every day. I grew up in a small town in NS, Amherst, which you are probably driving through this morning, and my parents always had the CBC playing in some form or another. I will always remember giggling with my dad at the RC Air Farce while I helped him with home repairs; staying up late with my Mom because we were both addicted to Barb Frum on the Journal, and of course before that, and still to this day, listening to the quirky stories on As It Happens. I still miss people like Barbara Frum and Peter Gzowski. Now that I have a family of my own, my boys are dancing to Canada's top 50 songs; all though I have to say, I didn't always agree with the picks...haha. We still enjoy the carrot, cabbage and curry soup that Buffy Sainte-Marie called her comfort food, on your show a few years back. I'm sorry this is going on a bit. I guess all I wanted to say is, you and all the folks on the CBC are very much missed, in the day to day lives of a lot of people and we wish you luck and send you our support in getting back on the air. I've written to my MP, Sam Bulte, and I'm encouraging everyone I come in contact with to do the same. Good luck and i love the "Caravan"...this would make a great come back show; you could start in Halifax! Haha. Thanks for reading.

- Lisa B.


Hello Shelagh and Sue,

Lynn and I thought you might like to have this image of Lynn's painting of Saints Rest Beach (see the image at the top of this blog). We will never forget our conversation on the beach with two very brave or ... very adventurous visitors from away. You looked very cold and all I could think of was, we've got to let them get back to their car to warm up and who in their right mind would swim in the Bay of Fundy at the end of September - who in their right mind would swim in the Bay of Fundy on the hottest day in August ?We hope to hear you again on air soon. Cheers.

- Lynn Wigginton and Dale Peters


Hi Shelagh,

Loved reading your piece about Dalton’s bar. I’m so glad to have this spot to read about all of you. Feeling so homesick for my people on the radio! I’ll try to watch for when you’ll be on the way back west.

- Mary-Kay , Your St. Joseph Island Friend


Dear Shelagh,

I am normally one of the very silent majority in nearly all things, but I would like to try to express at least a fraction of my appreciation for your last 25 years and for your current trip across Canada. In the last few weeks I have come to understand just how important CBC Is to me, and I am sure I am not alone. It seems that there is a reason why I don’t listen to any other radio stations. I now understand, however, that the CBC which I love consists of you and the other people who somehow string Canada together with the airwaves. Without all of you, the truth is not there, the substance is not there and the magic is completely missing. I miss the people I trust presenting me with things I want and need to know on Radio One. As for Radio Two, I think I am going to break something the next time I hear Bach segue-ing into Bartok into some unknown thing, then back to Vivaldi via Grieg - one measly movement at a time! I need the informed commentary and the human presence between each piece to keep my brain from shattering. I already knew that you were my absolute all-time favourite person on the radio from the days of your relatively minor role long ago with Max Ferguson on Saturday mornings, through the Hum Line to your current exalted state on Sounds Like Canada! You have the ability to interview someone about something in which I have absolutely no interest and to grab my attention -- and possibly even change my mind. Thank you for that. My mind is often in desperate need of changing. On the other hand, when you are talking with someone about something I do already find of interest, you ask all of the questions I would like to ask. Thank you for that, too. And for being so simply human. I think your cross Canada journey is a wonderful thing, although it is obviously an example of the right thing being driven by all the wrong reasons. The three of you deserve a great deal of admiration for undertaking such a trip -- and from visiting CBC Unplugged, it seems thousands agree. The hearts and hopes of your colleagues and of your fans are with you.


- Avaleigh Crockett, Edmonton


Hi Shelagh,

My name is Matthew Briggs. I'm a fourth year journalism student at King's College in Halifax. I am doing my honours thesis on the lockout and how it will affect the future of public broadcasting (specifically, regional programming, considering the cuts that have been made to news programming in the Atlantic provinces). I just happened upon your blog on and noticed that you Were coming to walk the picket line in Halifax on Friday. I was just wondering if I could talk to you briefly about the situation for the article?


- Matthew Briggs


Just had a good weep over your Dalton piece. My Uncle Finn and Dalton were good friends. I just love that you sat in Dalton's usual spot and drank his drink! It was lovely, touching, poignant.Take care and remember us to Sue,

- Ellen, Winnipeg, Manitoba



Don't neglect Saint John. I know the new beautiful re-aligned Trans-Canada Highway wants to take you from Fredericton to Moncton, but do make the trip down The 7 to the Port City. Lots of great CBC personalities spent time there including Brent Banbury (a fellow Saint John High School alumnus), Leon Cole, Jacqui Goode, Molly Hughes, Costas Halevrezos. Okay, Leon and Jacqui started out in Fredericton along with Anna-Maria Tremonti. Ian Hanoomansing started in Moncton. It's not just for the staff there that you should make the diversion there. Where else, for example would you find a high school celebrating it bi-centennial? That's not to mention that Saint John is one of the most architecturally interesting cities in Canada. I've found nothing like it either on the West Coast, where I lived in the nineties, or here in the GTA.

- Gordon Emmerson, Whitby, Ontario

(Editor's Note: As of today – 29/9/05 – we're in Saint John and happy to be here!)


Dear Shelagh,

Come up here in the Yukon and support our workers.... you'll get great food and great company.

- Judi, an avid CBC supporter

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Unplugged in New Brunswick, But Loving It

FREDERICTON – You would not believe the difficulty we have had trying to send sound and light and words about today. Other than that, it's been a great day.

We joined the Fredericton picket line at eight o'clock in the morning. I must say I've never heard more honks from motorists passing by a picket line anywhere so far. But then again, they are at the busiest intersection in all of Fredericton.

Then I sat with Terry Seguin, Myfanwy Davies and Jacques Poitras at the mic to become part of the Fredericton Unlocked #3 Podcast. At nine o'clock we were joined by journalism students from Fredericton High School. And we were asked some very smart questions by kids in their late teens. I can't wait for you to hear what went on and we hope to have this for you later in the week.

Trust me, we tried very hard to send this to you, including a long spate in the Room 105 at the City Motel that operates as the Guild headquarters here in Fredericton. You don't want to know the details – they are very boring involving connections, modems and V-cards – all of which failed.

In the afternoon Thom Swift of the Hot Toddys joined me for an interview about their latest CD. Hope to have that interview for you soon as well! (See above excuses) Thom lamented the lack of CBC Radio for the promotion of this new CD. He despairs that his upcoming tour will play to houses that are half full because CBC wasn't there to talk to him about it. And it's a great CD.

We walked the picket – once again – with colleagues who are bright, talented, funny, thoughtful, innovative and just generally great human beings. And it makes me wonder – once again – what are we doing on the outside of our buildings when we should be inside making programs?

Sue and I left Fredericton in the late afternoon heading for Saint John. And a night with Paul Castle, outgoing host of the morning show in Saint John. We stopped at Saint's Rest Beach for a bracing swim in the mighty Atlantic and readied ourselves for another stop on The Caravan. Will write to you as soon as we can find a computer connection in Saint John. Then onward to Halifax.

In the meantime stay tuned for further documentary evidence of our day – pictures from Fredericton are slowly trickling into Caravan World Headquarters in Saskatchewan, but they should be up in this spot by morning.


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What We're Missing When The CBC Is Missing

FREDERICTON – This morning I had an email from Doug Greer, a colleague in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and I wanted to post it on this blogsite immediately.

It is to weep. All I can say is that this is why we have to get back to work:

"Dear Shelagh...The town (of Stephenville, Newfoundland) had (this week) the worst flooding in living memory. And, of course, CBC was not there to cover the story.

"Neither have we been there since Abitibi (Consolidated) announced last week that it will definitely be closing its paper mill in the town. It's a reminder of why it's important that we get back to work but that we've paid such a high price to our reputation that we've earned the right to go back under our conditions. Regards, Doug"

- Shelagh

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tales Of A Road East And Cheers! Dalton Camp

FREDERICTON – Finally, Fredericton. After miles and miles –okay, kilometers and kilometers – of highway driving in the pounding rain, The Caravan Unlocked has arrived here at the home of our colleague Lori Wheeler, husband Jeff Williams and her two Shih Tzus.

The drive from Ottawa was hard.

Sheets of rain, Montreal at rush hour, a stop on the road for what absolutely had to be one of the worst meals of the trip so far (a motel restaurant that offered fondue chinois – thin slices of beef dipped in a boiling vat of salt, essentially, with crudités and gluggy curried mayonnaise – I thought it would be healthy) and crossing from Quebec City to the other side of the St. Lawrence in the dark, to the hypnotic staccato beat of the windshield wipers, and on to the hypnotic Highway 20 Est, inky in the rain.

Music got us through. We got a copy of k.d.lang's Hymns of the 49th Parallel. And hearing her sing Helpless as we got sloshed by an eighteen-wheeler passing us was perfect.

We listened to the Doobie Brothers getting out of Quebec City and Kathleen Edwards' Back to Me CD on our way into Montmagny. We camped there for the night and headed for Rivière-du-Loup in the morning...the turn you make away from Quebec to head for Edmundston, New Brunswick. The Caravan pulled off Highway 20 Est in favour of the far more scenic Highway 132. Beautiful old manoir houses with the traditional sloping mansard roofs. Big brick barns. The cathedral spires piercing the sky. And sunshine.

We listened to the music of the talented young Québecoise artist, cellist and composer Jorane. And as we headed into New Brunswick, we got out Stevie Wonder's Greatest Hits, including his early stuff when he was known as Little Steveland Morris. He's always been a genius in my books.

We stop for a swim in the Saint John River...yes, it's September 27th. But Sue and I have never encountered a body of water on this trip that we could resist. And so plunged we into what turned out to be fairly warm water. If you are a whale. And for me, with my perma blubber, it felt fine. Sue is more stoical by nature. We both enjoyed it. And then drove to Fredericton.

As we were driving, I had a brainwave. I wanted to go to Dalton's bar in Fredericton...Dalton being Dalton Camp, the Tory strategist, the journalist and the C in KCL (Kierans, Camp and Lewis) on Morningside.

Dalton died three years ago. He was a good friend. My relationship with him was mostly over the phone. For instance, when Pierre Trudeau died, I called him and asked what he thought I should bear in mind the next morning on the air. He said, "Just remember: it wasn't all good."

We had some great conversations about politics, softwood lumber and friends from the past. But geography prevented me from ever having a drink with him at his watering hole. So, I had to find it.

First, we went to the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel. We found a server named Anne who knew him. And when I asked him where he used to drink she said, "Wherever he wanted. If the Governor's Room (the private, darker room off the restaurant) was closed, we would open it for him. Same with the patio. But this wasn't his bar."

Anne directed us to the Delta...the old Sheraton. We walked in to the spacious, contemporary lobby. It just didn't look like Dalton. Then we heard some raucous laughter. And turned towards the sound. It was D.J. Purdy's Bar. Old dark green leather chairs. Wood panelling. Low lighting. Much more like it.

I went up to the bartender and asked where Dalton Camp used to sit. He knew and directed us to the back of the bar, just in front of the bookcase, "Camp's Corner" it's called.

We ordered whatever he used to drink. And there before us were the biggest, Jeezes martinis I have ever seen...three ounces of Beefeater Gin, a drop of vermouth, and five olives, all served over ice in a highball glass with a spoon. The spoon is for fishing out the olives and stopping the ice from spilling all over your front.

We vowed to finish them. And somehow the world got a bit nicer for an hour or so. Jokes were funnier. I knew I was funnier. Wasn't I, Sue? And more profound, too, right?

Then I felt a real pang sitting in Dalton's seat, having a "Dalton" and imagining the conversations he used to have.

There is a framed poem that hangs in "Camp's Corner" with a picture of Dalton right beside it. I read it as I drank my Dalton. The poem goes:

Welcome friend, this is the place
that Dalton Camp once used to grace

With cheerful greeting, twinkling eyes,
a man both eloquent and wise.

He told of struggles fought and won,
always with a sense of fun.

And loved to listen when among
acquaintances both old and young.

He helped students on thier way,
enouraged them to have their say

Advice and wisdom freely shared,
He was a man who clearly cared.

Upon our lives he left his stamp.
We sorely miss you, Dalton Camp.

Lovely, isn't it? And a fitting tribute from his friends at D.J. Purdy's Bar.

I have had thoughts of Dalton Camp, Urjo Kareda (longtime artistic director of the Tarragon Theatre and opera critic extraordinaire) and, of course, Peter Gzowski many times over the past six weeks. I think I know what they would be thinking about this lockout mess. And how they would understand just how much is at stake the longer it goes on.

So, here's to absent friends.

– Shelagh

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Shelagh (Gets More) Listening Help In The Caravan

The Caravan Unlocked crew is beginning to getting more and more advice on what the Sounds Of Their Lives should be as they prepare to move further east on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Shelagh and Sue are devoted to good music — not the kind of musical re-runs that are getting played over and over again on CBC Radio these days. So, they brought along piles of their own CDs on their swing through Western Canada.

Now, they're deep into Atlantic Canada on Phase II of their tour, which may take them all the way to far shore of Newfoundland, barring a settlement in the interminable CBC contract talks.

They've asked for suggestions for their next batch of music and the ideas are coming in. Here's what's being proposed so far:

"You should check out the new album by the Acid House Kings. I'm really loving it." - Lee

"How can you be on the road and not have Joni Mitchell's classic CD, 'Hejira' with you? It is an entire album made for The Road!! Beautiful travelling music. I just discovered your blog this morning so have got it bookmarked and will be checking it daily. I miss your CBC broadcasts and hope CBC management gets their heads out of their asses soon." - Kate, on a farm six miles northeast of Wadena, Sask.

"Boards of Canada, 'Turquoise Hexagon Sun'...(and) all of 'Music Has The Right To Children' is really chilled're sure to enjoy!" - Anon.

"Sufjan Stevens, 'Jacksonville,' and the whole 'Illinoise' album is great!" - Nick

"Dear Shelagh, I had the privilege last year of spending 5 months on the road, travelling in my campervan from Whitehorse to St. John’s and then down through the States on my way to Victoria. I had never travelled our country before, but it turned into not so much a voyage of discovery but a journey of recognition. CBC makes the whole country home. Having listened to programs like Morningside, Sounds Like Canada, or the Roundup I felt like I was visiting communities that I already knew. And somehow, I had a shared connection with folks that lived there. I got to see places for myself that I knew only from songs that I first heard on CBC. And, I got to hear Yukon music in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick and Newfoundland. If I had been travelling this year, my whole experience would have been diminished by the absence of CBC. I feel for your quest for road tunes – I don’t know what I would have done without real radio....I wish you well on your journey, but I wish even more that you could turn in the van and get back on the air. Meanwhile, if you need a bit of spirit lifting, try Ruthie Foster’s 'Runaway Soul.' It’s impossible to not sing along!" - Jean, Whitehorse, YT

"If you like Rufus, then you gotta love Martha Wainwright too! She’s awesome! From your new best friend." - Mary-Kay

"Hey, Shelagh! I have some musical suggestions for you...I'm not sure what you folks are into, but here are some of my favs....Sufjan Stevens (neo-folk and current indie sensation) 'Do Make Say Think'...good Canadian post-rock..their 'winter hymn.' (The) record is really great....(From) Dundas, Ontario (a) rising star of the electronic scene, 'Up in Flames'...(by) Four Tet...his label mate is also really good....Interpol...their two albums are quite good if you like the post-punk thing that's all the rage....if you're in a down mood, Portishead will always take you that one step below...Oh, and one last suggestion: The Dirty Three...another post-rock group from violin, one guitar and drums...great! ...Oh and if you see Patty Schmidt from Brave New Waves...say hi for me...keep your head up." - Paul

"Hi Shelagh! My suggestion for a good song to listen to on your trip would be 'Good People' by Jack Johnson. It's a catchy little tune and there is something haunting about the lyrics given the situation we find ourselves in right now. Keep up the great work!" - Andrew Ferguson, locked out TV employee

"Shelagh! I'm awed by your fantastic journey, and the tremendous spirit and dedication shown by you and your locked out compatriots. Here's hoping things get resolved SOON...I think you need some fun music for your eastern leg. I suggest 'Take Me Out,' by Franz Ferdinand. Also, some angry middle-aged woman (yes, I'm all three) music, like Green Day. Anything from their second album, (like) 'Insomniac,' will do just fine. Finally, how about 'Lies,' by Arcade Fire? You can dedicate it to CBC management. Keep fighting the good fight!" - Debbie Robinson, Winnipeg

"Hi Shelagh! I just finished reading the list of tunes from the Caravan travels. Here is my suggestion. You can never get enough of Rufus Wainwright so why not crank up his version of 'Hallelujah'? It always give me a lift when I listen to it. It is also an add value to hear his voice. You gotta love the man for that! Anyway, all I am trying to say is spend some time with Rufus..." - Florence Spencer

"In the spirit of your podcasting journey, why not listen to some podsafe music, i.e. music, often not from major record labels, that its creators have authorized anyone to play for free? (Editor's Note: Cool!) Check out the Podsafe Music Network and the Association of Music Podcasters Library for some good starting points. Oh, and don't forget the excellent all-music 'Studio Zero #4' podcast that was just posted from Vancouver." - Derek K. Miller, Vancouver

"Since I am a firm believer that all Canadians (heck, everyone else, too!) should be listening to the Cowboy Junkies, and since you are on a really long road trip... may I humbly suggest 'Miles From Our Home' by the Junkies. It's a good song." - Toben J

"I've been enjoying the podcasts from your cross-country caravan, all the while despairing the need for them in the first place. For that, and for the last 25 plus years of broadcasts, thank you! If I may, I'd like to suggest a song for your drive; it's not only charming (as it would have to be, coming from Lenni Jabour — see the link in my signature below) but also encapsulates how I feel about the loss of the CBC, 'Les Fleurs Mécontentes' goes: 'Quand tu n'es plus là/Moi, je n' suis jamais pleine/Et il n'y a pas d'étoiles/Parce que le ciel est trop sombre/Je n' serais pas contente/Jusqu' ce que je (t'écoute) encore...'

"Lenni's got another song, 'A Little Sad,' that I'd love to send along too for similar reasons, but that will have to wait until her CD is out next month. By the way, all of her songs aren't quite so melancholy — she's one of those singers who can change your mood in an instant, and you just can't help but feel joyful by the end of one of her 'Third Floor' concerts. I've missed the Real CBC terribly for the last six weeks; thanks again to the four of you for your efforts, and thanks to all the others who are telling their stories and making their voices heard any way they can." - Peter J

These are great suggestions — and we'd like lots more since it's a long road to St. John's, Newfoundland. So, keep those musical ideas coming.

Now, just for references sake, we'll keep up the list of tunes, so far, that they've listened to on the road (just to give you an idea of their eclectic taste):

  • Spencer Davis - So Glad That We made It
  • Sting - If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
  • Glenn Gould - Beethoven Sonata from 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
  • Mojo Mamas - Grana Louise: Good Woman Go Bad
  • Cold Play- Amsterdam
  • Ed Picco - My Way
  • Jacksoul - Love Jones
  • MIA- Sunshowers
  • La Vent Du Nord - Au Bord de la Fontaine
  • Erykah Badu - On and On
  • Sade - Smooth Operator
  • The Guess Who - Hang on to Your Life
  • Buck 65 - The Floor
  • The Beatles - In My Life
  • Kia Kadiri - New Foundation
  • Rufus Wainwright - One Man Guy
So, again, if you have a suggestion of another tune or two for our driving trio, just use the comment feature on this blog.

Or e-mail your ideas to:

Say it with music...and help make it a Happy Trail as Shelagh, Sue and Natasha barrel on down the road, ever eastward, towards the far side of Newfoundland.

Update! Shelagh's Itinerary

Shelagh is homing in now on Fredericton and expects to meet and picket with CMG members there on Wednesday, September 28.

She's also refining her schedule and expects to wrap her trans-Canada tour in St. John's, Nfld. next week...Week 5 of The Caravan Unlocked...barring a sudden contract settlement with the CBC!

As service to those living east of her trajectory, her updated schedule is below.

And if you should live in any of the places mentioned below, you are more than welcome to come down to the local CBC picket line, meet her and discuss the situation at the Corporation.

Remember, as always, it is subject to change, especially if you have a great story that will (happily) steer her off course.

You can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at:

- the Web Editor

Shelagh's Itinerary, September 28 – October 4, 2005
  • Wednesday, September 28, picketing with CMG Fredericton
  • Thursday, September 29, picketing in Saint John, N.B., with CMG members. Departing aprox. 11 am for Halifax
  • Friday, September 30, picketing with CMG Halifax and will be joined by members of CBC Sydney
  • Saturday, Octotber 1, flying to Deer Lake, Nfld.
  • Sunday, October 2, touring CBC locations in Newfoundland, including Deer Lake, Corner Brook and St. John's. Special event in St. John's Sunday evening ,TBA
  • Monday, October 3, picketing with CMG St. John's
  • Tuesday, October 4, return home to Vancouver

Monday, September 26, 2005

After The Protest: Rallying My Thoughts

OTTAWA – The rally at the Peace Tower has come and gone. I was called up to the front to M.C. with my colleague and old friend from Radio-Canada, Michel Picard, the French supper hour host for Ottawa.

Cètait un grand plaisir.

Standing on the steps leading up to the entrance to the Parliament Buildings we were looking out on an army of umbrellas. The rain was pouring. And as speaker after speaker came to the microphone, I became the official umbrella holder for the MPs lining up to talk, including the NDP's Jack Layton and Charlie Angus, a Whitehorse Liberal named Larry Bagnell (who spoke passionately about how much CBC is missed in the north), Tories Ed Komarnicki and Bev Oda, BQ leader Gilles Duceppe and, finally, Liza Frulla, Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Lise Lareau, the Guild's president, was also there (pictured above) to tell us that the Minister of Labour, Joe Fontana, met with the two negotiating teams this morning and that he had expressed his, "great concern about this."

Lise reported the Minister has had many lettes and emails. He said – according to Lise – that he wants the two sides to get focussed and find a solution. He is expected to see the both parties again this afternoon. And we are awaiting a statement from him.

Lise said it would be best for us (the picketing crowd of more than 500) to stay right here, right under the eyes of Joe Fontana.

I felt somewhat heartened by the words that came from the Heritage Minister, Liza Frulla. Frulla is a former Radio-Canada employee and she was locked out herself during a labour dispute at our sister service.

She said she understood the difference between a strike and a lockout.

To chants from the crowd of, "Rabinovitch Out! Rabinovitch Out!" she responded, "First of all, we'll try to solve this conflict. Afterward, we'll see."

She added that she will continue to watch the situation closely.

Let's hope for a quick settlement to all this.

What would we do – and who would we be – without hope?

We are now off to Fredericton. Which is fine. I am drenched head to toe, jacket to underwear. And my fingers can barely move on this keyboard. So, if you see typoes, please pardon them. They are mine alone....

I never thought we would make it to Winnipeg, let alone Frederiction....

Let's hope, even though I love the place desperately, that we don't make it all the way to Newfoundland.

- Shelagh

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Rumbling On The Hill: Guild Protests in Ottawa

OTTAWA – It's a rainly, blustery morning in the nation's capital. It reminds me more of Vancouver than Ottawa. Nevertheless, more than 500 locked out employees are picketing the opening of Parliament. Six busloads of Guild members left Toronto at 1 am and arrived here around dawn. And there are 100 of our colleagues from CBC Ottawa, plus many from our French service in this area, too.

Speaking of our locked out Radio-Canada people, it all sounds so much better in French: the opening of Parliament = ouverture du Parlement; Wellington Street picket line = piquet Wellington. I like the element of "pique" included in that last phrase.

Well, no matter what language is used and no matter how you describe it, the current situation still sucks.

But there is some hope...the Minister of Labour, Joe Fontana, is to speak today with chief negotiators from management and the union. In fact, as I write, he is talking with them at a location across the river in Hull. Needless to say, we fervently hope there is a breakthrough that will get us back to work.

At 11 am, there will be speakers at the Peace Tower – among them, MPs Charlie Angus, Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton and Ed Komarnicki. I'll try to get back to you after that and let you know what happens.

- Shelagh

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ottawa's Bring Back Our CBC Rally Podcast

Here is the Bring Back Our CBC Rally at Glebe Collegiate in Ottawa, which Shelagh describes (and participates in) in her previous blog.

This occurred on Friday, September 23. The podcast version is described by its producer Mark Blevis of Electric Sky as a "Lock-u-mentary."

It includes a collage of comments from cast, crew and members of the audience at the beginning of part 1 and the end of part 3.

It's hosted by Alex Munter and features the following speakers and musical performers in order of appearance: Arthur McGregor, Heather Menzies, Sen. Jim Munson, Ian Tamblyn, Marion Dewar, Henna Sodeen, Ember Swift, Mayor Bob Chiarelli, Luba Goy, David Halton, Nubia Cermeño, Coun. Clive Doucet, Julian Armour, Mighty Popo, Shelagh Rogers, Jennifer Noxon, Anthony Germain, Arthur Lewis, Baobab Youth Performers, Gil Levine.

Notable members of the audience that night were: Coun. Alex Cullen, Coun. Diane Deans, Coun. Diane Holmes, MP Ed Broadbent, Richard Mahoney, Paul Dewar.

Special thanks to for the bandwidth and storage.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Switch It Back On! Rally Demands Real CBC

OTTAWA – As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz "there's no place like home, there's no place like home." Last night, I came home to Ottawa where I was born and where I began my time with CBC Radio 25 years ago.

The activist group Our Public Airwaves staged a night in support of public broadcasting at Glebe Collegiate Auditorium. I hope no fire marshals were there...the place was packed. It was a vocal, robust, raucous crowd...young, not so young, multi-hued, multi-lingual.

The brainchild for the evening came from a long time Ottawa activist Gil Levine. Gil just thought something ought to be done. And he felt the public was not being heard. Or listened to, by the government.

If the name Levine tweaks your ear as a CBC listener, you're right. The longtime producer Karen Levine is his daughter. Karen has been executive producer of As It Happens and is now (well is not now, but will be when this mess is over) the overseeing documentary producer for The Sunday Edition. Engagement with the world runs in the Levine blood.

The line-up included musicians Ian Tamblyn, Ember Swift, the Mighty Popo (whom I finally got to meet after many years of interviews over the line), former CTV reporter and now Senator Jim Munson, former mayor Marion Dewar, the author Heather Menzies, the inimitable Luba Goy – who actually began her career on that very stage at Glebe Collegiate, the recently retired
CBC news correspondent David Halton, Anthony Germain – host of The House...

And I got up there, too.

It was a homecoming for me. My friends and colleagues from "back in the day" were in the audience. It was emotional to return to where I had started...and criminal to see so much talent, commitment and probing intelligence silenced. I get angry thinking about this...angrier with every passing hour. And I am far from alone. It is still beyond me why a lockout of employees was necessary. In fact, I had never felt like an employee...until I was locked out.

You can probably tell this is not my most objective moment. And when I think about last night I get all I am going to hand the overview of last night over to my dear friend and former CBC Ottawa colleague, Wendy Robbins, who produced the following for the Ottawa Guild Website.

Wendy has been a long time radio and tv producer and before the lockout was producing Studio Sparks with Eric Friesen. We re-produce her account below with her permission

I'll be staying in Ottawa a few days, catching up with Mom, Dad and stepmother Pat. And I will be at Parliament Hill on Monday morning at around 8 am with hundreds of my colleagues, picketing the first day of the new session of the House of Commons. If you can make it, I hope to see you there.

And now, here's Wendy:

The people of Ottawa spoke out on Friday night, and the message, which came loud and clear, was "Bring Back Our CBC!" The auditorium of Glebe Collegiate Institute was packed to the rafters with about 1,700 enthusiastic supporters, as writers, politicians, musicians, and locked out CBC workers made passionate presentations on behalf of public broadcasting.

The CBC headliners included David Halton, Luba Goy, Anthony Germain, and Shelagh Rogers, who commented that, "It was wonderful to be in a room where David Halton is treated like a rock star.'"A long list of Ottawa-based musicians that included Jennifer Noxin, Ember Swift, Ian Tamblyn, and the Mighty Popo shared the bill with a former mayor, Marion Dewar, and the current mayor, Bob Chiarelli, as well as writer Heather Menzies, Chamber Fest artistic director Julian Armour, city councillor Clive Doucet, and others.

Many speakers lamented the impact of the lockout on public discourse, and on Canadians' knowledge and understanding of different parts of the country. Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli noted that CBC, a popular choice for Ottawa residents, is missing. "When we don't have choices...our society is weakened," he said, and called for a quick, fair resolution. "Our public demands it," he said.

David Halton, retired foreign correspondent after a distinguished 40-year career, talked about the damage the lockout is causing. He reminisced about how the late Peter Jennings, a U.S. network anchor with enormous resources at his disposal, was envious of the breadth and depth of the CBC's international coverage. "Ramp up the pressure in any way you can,'"Halton told the crowd, "Pressure the government to tackle the underlying cause of the problem, chronic underfunding of the CBC."

Locked out host of Ottawa Morning, Anthony Germain, apologized to listeners for the news and information they are no longer getting, such as the recent shutdown of the Queensway. Luba Goy, who grew up in Ottawa ("Not very well," she added, she "only made it to five feet"), said she didn't want to play the blame game in the lockout. "I have no trouble pointing a finger," she said. "It's just a matter of which finger I'd like to point." Shelagh Rogers invoked the name of Peter Gzowski, saying, "He would weep, and call it a crime.'"

Ottawa Chamber Fest artistic director Julian Armour talked about driving around in his car trying to find something to listen to... among the stations that play Rod Stewart all day, and those that boast about being a background service. He finally found a repeat of Sounds Like Canada, which caused him to muse that radio, "may be the only industry where you can be locked out and have yourself as a replacement worker." More seriously, he noted that for arts groups and festivals, "the damage (from the lockout) is deep and continues to get worse."

Still pumped by the audience's enthusiasm, Shelagh Rogers said afterwards, "It was so good to be home, I was just blown away by the support. It was an evening that bolstered all of us who have been locked out. We have to send a signal that any democracy worth its salt has to have a public broadcasting service operating at the top of its game and this is proof that this is what people want. And this is what they deserve as citizens."

Ottawa CMG local president Marc Philippe Laurin, was ecstatic about the public support. "It shows we're on the right track, fighting this," he said.

The "Bring Back Our CBC" event was launched by longtime Ottawa activist Gil Levine, who wanted to find a way for the people of Ottawa to show support for public broadcasting. It was organized and produced by Chris White, artistic director for the Ottawa Folk Festival, which also provided volunteer stage crew and technical support for the event. Alex Munter, who is among his other roles is a locked-out contributor to both French and English local CBC morning shows, hosted the event. In addition to directing traffic on stage, he also made time to thank the many businesses that contributed goods and services to make the evening a success. Arthur Lewis, whose organization Our Public Airwaves has launched an email campaign to send messages to
Paul Martin, is also part of the organization.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Massey Hall Rally: They Stand On Guard For Thee, CBC

TORONTO – Still here. But off to Ottawa Friday for a rally in support of public broadcasting. Last night, there was such a rally at the venerable Massey Hall.

R.H. Thompson hosted it and there was a line-up that was perfectly programmed by pros: CBC producers. They worked from home, without the benefit of their locked-in Rolodexes, phones, e-mail, or regular communications channels. And they packed the place for a line up that included:
  • Alice Munro – the very private Alice Munro, who came out to talk about what CBC Radio had meant to her as a writer, effectively launching her career with $50 for a broadcast of one of her short stories.
  • The baritone Russell Braun and the tenor Benjamin Butterfield singing The Pearl Fisher's Duet. Both Russell and Benjamin were aided in their careers by Radio Two and the great ear of producer Neil Crory.
  • Serena Ryder – the young blueswoman whom Hawksley Workman heard on the Toronto afternoon show Here and Now. He called her and invited her to record on his label. She has just returned from a tour of Australia.
  • Don Ferguson of The Air Farce reading a "newscast" that ended with a story about the Right Honourable Joe Clark. Don morphed into Joe and then the real Joe walked on stage, calling for the preservation of the CBC as one of our last truly national institutions.
  • John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate, talking about the trial of Socrates and the silencing of truth.
  • Africa Blues with lightning fast guitarists Madagascar Slim, Donne Robert and the fabulous vocals of Ndidi Onukulu.
  • Mike Ford squeezing in every Canadian place name (except, it was noted by Bob MacDonald of Quirks and Quarks, Orillia) in Hank Snow's I've Been Everywhere.
  • June Callwood saying, "CBC managers must receive labour training from Wal-Mart. This is a crime against Canadians. This is our network. We own it."
  • And Jian Ghomeshi, of Newsworld and Fifty Tracks with Jian Ghomeshi ™ with a song he wrote three days ago called Shelagh's Caravan. It was fantastic. Really. He is mightily talented. Hope to have a version up for you in a day or two. Now, I suppose, I have to be really nice to him.

The evening concluded with all the on air people filing onto the stage, saying their names and the names of their shows. There had to have been almost 50 hosts, anchors, and reporters.

The evening got underway with the Mark Eisenman Trio and Bonnie Brett doing Something's Gotta Give. And indeed it does.

Last night was an argument – and the best kind of argument – that the real CBC, which is the producers, technicians, researchers, writers, production people, on air people and support people, should be doing what we do best.

Reflecting Canada. Making programs. Engaging hearts and minds. And souls.

- Shelagh

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On The Air And On The Line In Toronto


Due to an editing error on my part, an analysis I wrote on the CBC Board of Governors meeting Wednesday was accidentally and briefly inserted into Shelagh’s latest blog. I would never presume to speak for Shelagh — and have never done so. Her original blog was solely an account of her day with
Toronto Unlocked at CIUT radio and her time picketing with fellow CMG members in front the Toronto Broadcast Centre. I sincerely apologise for this error and — above all — apologise to Shelagh for any distress this may have caused her. You will find Shelagh's original account of her day yesterday, just as she intended it, below. - Sean Prpick, Web Editor

TORONTO — Forgive me for the void for the past few days. It's been busy. Time goes faster here, it seems, which was, in fact, one of the reasons I wanted to move to Vancouver.

Now, I find myself missing the sheer buzz of Toronto. I have done my, "My name is Shelagh and I am a Torontonian," on the program I used to host (I haven't hosted it for 14 weeks now!). So, I will spare you that here. Except to say, I love the noise, the grit, the architecture, the smells, the life after 9 pm on the streets.

I had my first tour of The Globe and Mail yesterday. My friend Alison Gzowski is an editor there. Yes, that Gzowski. Peter's daughter. Alison took me on a tour and made me bet whether or not we could see Eddie Greenspon, the G&M editor, without an appointment. I bet her a Toonie.

She took me up the stairs and we just walked in. WE JUST WALKED IN! I could never do that at the Corp. I have to make appointments. With assistants. Even for phone calls. I just walked in to Eddie's office. And I talked to him about being interviewed by Rick Mercer. My first advice to him was wear a wet suit like I did when he talked to me. The next thing I told him was don't try to be funny. Rick is the funny guy. You are the straight guy.

I met a whole bunch of other editors, and the lovely Leah MacLaren. Leah’s column sometimes drives me crazy, but I never miss it. And I loved her on Fifty Tracks with Jian Ghhmeshi ®.

Some of the other writers I never miss reading weren't there. John Doyle, Rick Groen, Heather Mallick...they were all out. But I met Michael Valpy. Nice to put a face to the byline. Then it was back to the picket line around the Broadcasting Center.

It is a very stimulating line...there's Michael Enright, Ideas producers Sarah Wolch and David Cayley, Karen of Hanna's Suitcase and documentary producer at The Sunday Edition. Karin Wells, Brent Bambury...My God! There's Ralph Benmergui — over from JazzFM doing the show he was always meant to do (Benmergui In The Morning).

The list goes on and on since there are hundreds of people walking. The line is full of old friends. I worked in Toronto for almost 20 years and many of the people who made me sound smarter than I am and with whom I worked closely are here.

Elizabeth Gray, friend and radio documentary maker (and former host of As It Happens...remember that?) keeps seeing me embrace people and dubs it all an (expletive deleted) hug-a-thon. She is right.

I know it's gooey. Tough, Elizabeth.

It's so good to see everyone. There have been concerts on the line — last week The Barenaked Ladies. Monday, there's music by the young blueswoman Serena Ryder and the Skydiggers.

But before that, I have to give a speech.

It's a formidable crowd. Hanna Gartner is over here, (wearing pants that have “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch” written all over them), Brian Stewart is over there...his producer Harry Shachter (long time Morningside political producer) over to my right, Robert Cooper, producer of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Choral Concert is just in view...But just as with every line that The Caravan has visited across the country, the Toronto line is bolstered by news of the firm spirit and determination of other picket lines and how, in fact, this lockout has created a real union.

Wednesday morning, I joined Andy Barrie, Kevin Sylvester, Jim Curran and Jill Dempsey for some of Toronto Unlocked. I haven't seen any of them looking so well in a long time. They say the same thing about me. Clearly they are enjoying themselves. Something about feeling liberated.

What is lost in terms of packaging and presentation is more than made up for by raw honesty and the spontaneity of the moment. I love the sound of the creaking door as guests go in and out while they are live. I love Jill Dempsey's newscasts not exactly starting on the hour.

"It's 7:04. Here is the news," says Jill, with freedom of not having to hit her pre-lockout mark at exactly the top or bottom of the hour. Maybe you can't time when to catch your streetcar by Jill's newscast, but it sure is authentic.

Campus radio stations across the country have opened their doors to locked out CBC broadcasters. And what we have learned— or re-learned — from them is the human-ness of live seat-of-your-pants radio. Shit happens. So what? Move on. Laugh. (like I need to tell myself that)...get over yourself. Or rather, BE yourself.

I hope we can take this guerrilla spirit back into our broadcasts.

One more thing before I go...

In a few days the wheels of The Caravan Unlocked will roll again, heading first to Ottawa to tell people there about the need to re-open the CBC. Then it’s on to Atlantic Canada to spend time with the good people who are the heart of soul of the CBC in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

So following this blog, I'm attaching an a tenative itinerary of the days ahead We could, of ocurse, get the contract settlement we all want and that oculd shorten the trip. We may also come across a good story on the road that could temporarily pull us off course. and on that note, if you’re east of Toronto and you've got a good story to tell, we just may just detour out to see you, if you call or write.

— Shelagh

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bumps On The Way To A Day Fit For Heroes

OLD WOMAN BEACH, ON LAKE SUPERIOR — You have to have one of these days when you are on the road — a day where every turn has a new mishap where you know someone — or something — is out there waiting for you.

We departed Winnipeg following our host Terry MacLeod's directions. As we left, I was thinking how much fun it was this week to co-host with Terry on local “unlocked” radio Radio Free Winnipeg on CKUM-FM and to do an interview with my old pal Robert Enright and to be interviewed, in my turn, by host Terry MacLeod. Terry is a real pro and thanks to him, we did a great hour of radio. The plum of my morning was interviewing Robert Enright, erudite über-man of the arts and newly invested into the Order of Canada.

On the way out of town: more radio. I was to do a phone interview with CFRC radio, the campus station at my alma mater, Queen’s University. For an hour last week, locked out Guild on-air people, including Bernie MacNamee, Mary Lou Finlay and Keith Boag, were given the run of the place.

We pulled over to fill up with gas just before the interview. My plan was to stay in the van while I spoke on the phone. But Sue told us about people on their cell phones being blown up while topping up their tanks. So, I walked away from the pumps and stood behind a Pizza Pizza restaurant before connecting with CFRC.

So much for the glamour of show business.

After batting down a playful suggestion during my interview with Alan Neal that we re-name The Caravan Unlocked to The Love Shack (not going to happen) we got down to business. I shared my impressions of the trip so far. I told him almost everyone I spoke to wants the CBC back – and wants to see the service protected into the future.

Afterwards, it was back on the road and then a crossing into Ontario. It’s amazing how the trees and rock begin right at the border.

Another thing that commences with the border is a 90kmh speed limit.

So, there we were, marvelling at the trees as if we'd never seen one before and, suddenly, there was a police car right behind me. With all the lights going!

I pulled over, got out of the Caravan and went up to the constable in his police cruiser (not correct protocol, I now understand). I leaned into his open window and said right up front I must have done something terribly wrong.

“Indeed,” he said kindly.

The only other person I know who says “indeed” is my other favourite Enright, Michael.

It turns out I had been going 75 in a 60 kmh zone. I really hadn't seen the 60 sign. Honest!

Following my brush with the law, we had a long drive ahead of us because we were planning to reach Thunder Bay that evening. So, we set the cruise control and spent most of the drive with big trucks inhaling our exhaust.

Just outside of Thunder Bay the van hit its first mammal!

It was a raccoon. It was an awful feeling. But we know we are lucky that after more than 2,000 kms that there haven't been others.

We pulled into a Chinese restaurant, about the eighth on the trip so far. It was freezing and it felt like we were extras on the set of The Big Sleep. So, we moved down the road to another that is more brightly lit. Great vegetables and wonton soup. We now felt ready to suss out accommodation.

A number of hotel and motel chains came highly recommended by our CBC Thunder Bay colleagues…but they were way too expensive for our locked out wallets.

I espied a motel that looked perfect: the lobby had moose antlers and stuffed walleye mounted on the walls. We agreed to two separate rooms and the bill was around $100, whereas the chains were offering us three rooms at $100 each.

Natasha and Sue said they would share one and I went to the second. It was right next door to another room with a smashed-in window. My room also had a window onto the parking lot that wouldn't close. The bedspread looked as though Brylcreem has been used to smooth out the wrinkles…kind of shiny and greasy.

I felt vulnerable, even though I am Big Shelagh from the Ottawa Valley. I knocked on Natasha and Sue's door and slunk in with my sleeping bag. I spread it out on the cigarette-burned sheets of a spare bed.

Next morning, after hearing the people upstairs breathing in the air of what turned out to be a smoking-room, we called our Thunder Bay contact Gerald Graham, afternoon show host.

We told him where to meet us and he said, "Oh, that flea-bag motel!"

Great. And all of a sudden I felt very itchy. All over.

Later that same morning…

Gerald, who sounds like Alan Alda and looks like Clint Eastwood crossed with the playwright Norm Foster, took us to the Finnish section of town for breakfast with seven of the Thunder Bay CBC crew…about half of the workforce here.

We got to the restaurant and things were definitely looking up. We had Finnish pancakes — thin and crepe-y, with blueberry sauce.

Our colleagues there were wonderful and helped me make a wonderful podcast. I know I have said this time and time again across the country. But once more I felt proud to work with such intelligent, compassionate and committed people. And they're fun, too.

They went off to the rest of their Saturday and Gerald guided us to the Terry Fox Monument.

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the Terry Fox runs and, of course, it was in Thunder Bay that Terry had to stop his Marathon of Hope. It is moving to be at Terry's monument this particular weekend.

What a legacy…and what proof of one individual believing in something and having the perseverance to carry it out.

According to CBC TV last fall, Terry was the Greatest Canadian after Tommy Douglas. Yes, he really does belong in our Pantheon.

Our goal tonight is Sault Ste. Marie and we stop here at the azure waters of Old Woman Beach on Lake Superior, for a swim. It is a long strip of sandy beach that backs on to stands of pine trees.

Glenn Gould used to drive his big old Ford LTD up to this beach just to stare out at the water. Terry Fox ran right by here on his marathon.

The trees are just starting to turn, the late afternoon sun is strong and the air is warm.

It is a day made for heroes.

- Shelagh

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