No matter what the causes or possible solutions are for NL's chronic high unemployment, one feels a duel sense of loss, yet pride, when a family member has to move away for work. 1000's of families in Newfoundland & Labrador experience this every year. This weeks outmigration included my brother, one of his co-workers, and brother-in-law - three skilled, talented and valuable people. They are all in their 50's, and have left the Burin Peninsula because the fishing industry which employed them for decades has closed its doors. Though I feel the void of daily communications with my brother already, it is a good yet sad story. The sad part is obvious, leaving a home, wife, family & friends, community involvement, and comfort. A gifted musician, hard worker, and community volunteer, he continues to make me proud. At 52, he will work at least 60 hours per week in his new job. None of them wanted to leave, but the options are currently limited. The good side of the story is that they are like 1000's of other Newfoundlanders who leave NL each year, and proved their determination to work.
Also, because of Alberta's amazing economic growth, it has a big appetite for migrant workers from all over Canada, thus, mouth watering salaries and wages are earned by workers. In that regard it is great to see Newfoundlander & Labradorians get a piece of the rich economic pie. Fat is good when it is followed by 'pay cheque'. Often times money earned outside the province is sent home to help pay the bills, for kids' education, etc. It is still sad that so many long to stay home but have to stay away for long times. Newfoundland's economy is diversified, yet needs
to increase to keep more people here.
Our population has dropped by almost 3000 people between Oct. 2004 and Jan. 2006. From 5000 - 9000+ leave the province each year. There have been strategic economic plans for the province, comparisons to successful Iceland, and perhaps an over-hopefulness about what mega projects can do for employment right across the province. Some of the projects like the Lower Churchill, Hebron, take a long time to become a reality, and have stumbling blocks to development, like the energy bill from the Newfoundland government. Overall I think our economy is progressing but
While big projects are being developed, our leaders in whatever government in power, should always send a message to our people to never take any potential development for granted. As a people we should continually be encouraged to analyse the potential that our individual talents have, to not just Newfoundland consumers, but to international buyers. There are a number of internationally renowned high tech businesses, boat tours, and island lodge stay overs, but there is much more potential to develop not just more of that type of things, but products and services
from skilled people, be it art works, rentals, guides, different vacation packages, photograhy tours, entertainment (music, comedy) etc. The point is to promote a new perception of how we view value in the places we live, and the things we do.
Newfoundland and Labrador is a massive area of beauty, and for many foreign tourists, it can also be seen as, exciting, exotic, clean, innocent, and idealogical place to vacation, and to do business. I'll bet that many who leave home may be able to look back on their towns as having potential to draw tourists to see its beauty, perhaps be part of a cultural event, e.g., concerts, plays, berry fests, hiking scenic vantage points, historic re-enactments. We have a rich heritage and history, and we should remind ourselves that it is valuable, and outsiders may also find our province
There is no easy solution for NL's economic challenges. However, the current William's government, with the Blue Book guide, sounds like a sound approach, though whether the job & business initiatives are followed up on is
another matter. There very well may have been some overlap in programs to facilitate business, IT, etc. from previous governments, but the idea of promoting diversity in the economy is the best avenue for sustained economic development in NL & Labrador. We also have to learn what succeeds in places like Iceland, and listen to long-term advice about how we can best take advantage of economic opportunities. We need to continually educate ourselves about the world, what it needs, what it wants, and how our province can match those needs and wants. Hopefully, much of the talent and skill we export can be re-patriated to benefit our province. One industry of opportunity where geography does not matter so much is the IT sector. One can for example, do a software training session with a client in Texas, or a website for anyone in the world.
Many people take where they live for granted. But the geography, culture, and traditions may be very appealing to say, Japanese tourists. Just the broad expanse of land itself is a wonder to many from countries where land is a rare luxury. Just as a country on the other side of the world is seen by us as being exotic, we can be appealling to those same countries and seen to be "exotic". Our mindsets needs to view our province and communities that way. The Hibernia & Terra Nova oilfields are great discoveries to help our economy, but they and other mega projects will probably not reverse the outmigration flow, overnight. Our population is declining, especially since the 1993 cod moratorium. Outmigration peaked in 1996-97/ & 1997/98 but is still high - 11,882 in 2004/2005, and will continue for many years. Though the NL Statistics Agency projects a continuous population decline for at least the next decade, the rate can be slowed the more our economy diversifies. Even oil rich Alberta couldn't depend solely on oil revenue in the 80's, when the recession hit and oil prices dropped. Don Getty emphasized economic diversification in high technology, tourism, and forestry. Hopefully we will be hearing more about non-mega project business promotion and development to help keep our most valued resource, our people, here in Newfoundland and Labrador.