Like the gaping holes that opened up on roads around St. John’s this week, the realities of Newfoundland’s financial mess keep knocking us off our bearings.
Last week’s update: employment insurance claims in St. John’s shot up more than 27 per cent in 2015. That’s 950 more people collecting pogey in the capital since this time last year. The average jump across the province was 10.5 per cent. Statistics Canada says the trend accelerated after last summer.
Unless you’re among those who’ve landed on the EI rolls, it’s something you may not have noticed in your daily travels. But it shows how insidious the plunge in oil prices since 2014 has been. And few people will escape feeling the sting at some point down the road.
None of this was unexpected, as Memorial University economist Wade Locke pointed out in March 2015.
“The immediate impact of the fall in the price of oil will be through people being laid off and projects being delayed in Alberta,” Locke wrote, as posted on Thinkpol.ca. “That will have a dramatic and notable impact on our particular economy.”
It’s estimated about four per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador’s workforce migrates towards oilsands employment.
When you add that to the fact Alberta lost at least 60,000 jobs in the first eight months of 2015 alone, you can see how the numbers are adding up.
But it is still Alberta that’s taking the biggest hit. In Calgary, the number of EI claimants has doubled, with about 10,000 more people receiving benefits.
And Albertans are getting testy. A few barbs have been flying around about easterners who’ve milked the booming Alberta economy for decades. Expect that resentment to linger.
Of course, Albertans didn’t put the oil in the ground any more than Newfoundlanders put it under the ocean.
It’s all just fiscal jitters at a time when there’s little to fall back on. It’s the federal government, after all, that has to back up EI claims. And the feds, along with pretty well every province in Canada, are awash in red ink.
John Crosbie, a veteran of provincial and federal politics, didn’t mince words Wednesday about this province’s woes.
“If anything happens that we get caught in a huge debt that we can’t handle, it’s quite possible that we end up back in a situation somewhat analogous to that of the 1930s,” he told reporters following a briefing by auditor general Terry Paddon.
You’d think it might be the perfect time for Canada to pull together, rather than point fingers in every direction.
A few barbs have been flying around about easterners who’ve milked the booming Alberta economy for decades. Expect that resentment to linger.