This recession is all rural

Lana
Lana Payne
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

St. John's really is in an economic bubble.

A trip outside the Paddy's Pond overpass highlights the growing rural-urban economic divide - a chasm that will be worsened by the current global recession.

So far, the economic crisis has not reached inside the overpass in any measurable way. At 7.5 per cent, the St. John's unemployment rate remains the lowest in decades. Neon-coloured help-wanted signs for minimum-wage jobs still dot the landscape.

St. John's really is in an economic bubble.

A trip outside the Paddy's Pond overpass highlights the growing rural-urban economic divide - a chasm that will be worsened by the current global recession.

So far, the economic crisis has not reached inside the overpass in any measurable way. At 7.5 per cent, the St. John's unemployment rate remains the lowest in decades. Neon-coloured help-wanted signs for minimum-wage jobs still dot the landscape.

The same can not be said for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Forestry. Mining. Fishing. All rural industries. All have taken or will take a big economic hit this year.

Alberta layoffs are also taking a bite out of rural Newfoundland and Labrador as it was mostly rural people commuting out west to work.

April's job losses as reported by Statistics Canada were all in rural areas of the province. St. John's continues to chug along, bucking the global economic trend.

The provincial government's infrastructure spending program will help mitigate some of the devastation this year, as will construction at Vale Inco's smelter.

And there is no doubt that Newfoundland and Labrador has been more resilient in the face of the current recession than most other Canadian provinces. There is also no doubt that the province is in the best economic shape in its history to weather the current economic crisis. The same could not have been said of past recessions.

But that does not change the fact that for some people, some industries and some communities in our province this recession is very real.

This growing disparity between rural and urban presents a considerable public policy challenge for the provincial government and - to some extent - Ottawa.

Public policy challenges usually translate into political problems.

In this case, the biggest rural problem facing both levels of government this year will be the fishery.

No species or sector of the fishing industry will go unscathed. Seafood markets struggle under the weight of a made-in-the-U.S. recession. Struggling markets result in lower prices to fish harvesters.

Price cuts hurt

Lobster harvesters are a good example of how the global recession has hit home. And if the economic crisis wasn't enough, many harvesters last week lost thousands of dollars in pots and gear because of nasty weather.

For the hundreds of small-boat harvesters dependent on that fishery for their main source of income, a 50 per cent drop in lobster prices and their incomes over the past two years is a big hurt.

And there is no doubt these harvesters are hurting. Yet the federal government, which should be acting to save jobs and help people and communities during this economic downturn, seems to have instead written the fishing industry off.

But then, Ottawa under Stephen Harper's mean-spirited ruling fist hasn't had much sympathy or empathy for anyone feeling the pain of this recession.

While the federal Liberals hammer away at the need to give our employment insurance a recession makeover, Harper isn't biting - despite some indications from his finance minister that there was an open window.

This prime minister is more interested in inflicting political damage on his chief opponent than in helping the jobless - launching another series of attack ads at the leader of the Liberal party. This worked with the ineffective Stephane Dion, but there is no indication that Michael Ignatieff will fall prey to Harper's political machinations.

No change for EI

Under questioning in the House of Commons in the last few days, Harper proclaimed that implementing some of the suggested changes to EI would do nothing for the economy or the recession.

That was a rather silly comment for someone who has studied economics to make, as putting money in the hands of those who have been thrown out of work by the winds of this global recession is the best economic stimulus there is.

And he knows it. He just can't bring himself to set aside his free-market ideology and do the right thing.

He should try a few days in a lobster boat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the fumes from an outboard motor vying with the seaswell for the worst kind of seasickness imaginable. And then take his day's catch to the local buyer and take home less pay than he did in three decades.

He should visit the solidarity line the AbitibiBowater workers have had set up every morning at the abandoned paper mill and look into the eyes and hearts of the 50-plus-year-old men who have lost the thing that defined them - their job.

He should spend a day with the young mother who has found, while at home with her baby, that the job she took leave from is no longer there. For any of this to work, though, you'd need a heart. With Stephen Harper, this was always in doubt.

Now, there is no longer any doubt. We have a prime minister with no heart.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns June 20.

Organizations: Statistics Canada, House of Commons, AbitibiBowater Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta Ottawa U.S.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Scott
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Fred from Beyond the Overpast, Nl writes: Of course St. John's is doing well. The bloody townies don't even know we exist.

    Huh? Who said that?

  • Randy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    The problem with rural nl at this time,is ,our elected gov.MHA's,are afraid to open thier mouths,in fear of being kicked out by Danny and the water street lawyer bunch,that's running the show..Danny Williams entered politics for one reason,to make sure ,just about all of our oil money,would end up in the hands,of his St.John's buddies..There is no rural plan,other then to fill a pot-hole,here and there,at election time..And if you ask for to many holes to be filled,you end up like Tommy Rideout.The peaple of rural nl.are seeing much more clearly,what this gov.ie really about.The winners--'Mount Pearl ,Paradice St.John's---The losers--Marystown, Bonavista,,Hr.Breton,The northern pin ETC ETC ETC

  • Barbara
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    For the love of God will this towie -bayman thing ever stop we are all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It shouldn't make any difference whether we were born in Chance Cove, Grand Falls, Happy Valley or St. John's. because for the most part most babies in the last 40 years were born in one of the St. John's hospitals or the bigger town hospitals. and for that fact most of the city or town residents were probably at one time from some smaller community. So people get a life here instead of fighting each other and showing the rest of canada that we raise idiots here lets stand together where once our father stood and proclaim that united we can do all divided well the political vampires have their fill instead. and By the way Lana no matter who is in power until we stand together and fight as one it won't matter if you are from beyond the over pass or not support your brothers and all your neighbours or or there will be no one to support on either side of the over pass. People loose their jobs in St. John's and have none to return to after maternity leave. That is happening everywhere it is a global recession. The old timers will tell you that those who lived around the bay in the last recession survived better than those who lived in town because thay could grow some of their food and held livestock. they supported each other and helped each other when they could. They certainly didn't start out as you do nor continue as you to pit one against the other maybe its time for another old statement if you don't have anything good to say about each other don't speak at all.

  • Fred
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Of course St. John's is doing well. The bloody townies don't even know we exist.

  • DB
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    What a socialist piece of crap.

  • Beverly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Lana my dear are you capable of writeing anything where you dont find a way to twist it around and blame OUR Prime Minister for everything that is wrong in the world? You my love are part of the reason there will NEVER be an NDP government in this great country of ours. You have all the answers just like Jack Layton but no plan just point the finger blame everyone else knowing full well he will never be in a position to have to make the major day to day decisions necessary to run this country.

  • Relocated Newfie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    When are people going figure out that Vale INCO are not building a smelter in Long Harbout, but a hydromet plant.

    And to Mr. Cubed; I've read a few coments of yours lately here. Do you have nothing better to do with your time than spread your dismal views and negative atitude on here. I make no wonder people accross the country think most Newfoundlanders have an attitude similar to your poor atitude...take a break from doom and gloom and say something positive instead of sarcasm and BS.

    Maybe we can go for a motorcycle ride soon. I have an R1 that goes 300 kms per hour............

  • Scott
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Fred from Beyond the Overpast, Nl writes: Of course St. John's is doing well. The bloody townies don't even know we exist.

    Huh? Who said that?

  • Randy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    The problem with rural nl at this time,is ,our elected gov.MHA's,are afraid to open thier mouths,in fear of being kicked out by Danny and the water street lawyer bunch,that's running the show..Danny Williams entered politics for one reason,to make sure ,just about all of our oil money,would end up in the hands,of his St.John's buddies..There is no rural plan,other then to fill a pot-hole,here and there,at election time..And if you ask for to many holes to be filled,you end up like Tommy Rideout.The peaple of rural nl.are seeing much more clearly,what this gov.ie really about.The winners--'Mount Pearl ,Paradice St.John's---The losers--Marystown, Bonavista,,Hr.Breton,The northern pin ETC ETC ETC

  • Barbara
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    For the love of God will this towie -bayman thing ever stop we are all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It shouldn't make any difference whether we were born in Chance Cove, Grand Falls, Happy Valley or St. John's. because for the most part most babies in the last 40 years were born in one of the St. John's hospitals or the bigger town hospitals. and for that fact most of the city or town residents were probably at one time from some smaller community. So people get a life here instead of fighting each other and showing the rest of canada that we raise idiots here lets stand together where once our father stood and proclaim that united we can do all divided well the political vampires have their fill instead. and By the way Lana no matter who is in power until we stand together and fight as one it won't matter if you are from beyond the over pass or not support your brothers and all your neighbours or or there will be no one to support on either side of the over pass. People loose their jobs in St. John's and have none to return to after maternity leave. That is happening everywhere it is a global recession. The old timers will tell you that those who lived around the bay in the last recession survived better than those who lived in town because thay could grow some of their food and held livestock. they supported each other and helped each other when they could. They certainly didn't start out as you do nor continue as you to pit one against the other maybe its time for another old statement if you don't have anything good to say about each other don't speak at all.

  • Fred
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Of course St. John's is doing well. The bloody townies don't even know we exist.

  • DB
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    What a socialist piece of crap.

  • Beverly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Lana my dear are you capable of writeing anything where you dont find a way to twist it around and blame OUR Prime Minister for everything that is wrong in the world? You my love are part of the reason there will NEVER be an NDP government in this great country of ours. You have all the answers just like Jack Layton but no plan just point the finger blame everyone else knowing full well he will never be in a position to have to make the major day to day decisions necessary to run this country.

  • Relocated Newfie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    When are people going figure out that Vale INCO are not building a smelter in Long Harbout, but a hydromet plant.

    And to Mr. Cubed; I've read a few coments of yours lately here. Do you have nothing better to do with your time than spread your dismal views and negative atitude on here. I make no wonder people accross the country think most Newfoundlanders have an attitude similar to your poor atitude...take a break from doom and gloom and say something positive instead of sarcasm and BS.

    Maybe we can go for a motorcycle ride soon. I have an R1 that goes 300 kms per hour............