Sunday, February 25, 2018

When home doesn't want you

I've been struggling with a couple of blog posts, including a review of Black Panther when I got one of those small gifts from the gods....

A story showed up in my Facebook feed on Friday about the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador trying to figure out why people are leaving the province. And if that seems like a joke, it apparently isn't. On any given day I think an easier survey may well be "On a scale of 1-10 how big of a masochist are you for staying?"

But no, money has been spent, admittedly a small amount by government standards, about why expats leave and what it would take to entice them back. And because I'm a curious sort and was, admittedly, looking forward to leaving some really sarcastic answers in response, I clicked the link to take me to the survey.

These are the first three questions:

Are you:

1. Residing outside of Newfoundland and Labrador

2. Between 19 and 44 years of age

3. Not a full time post-secondary student

I am residing outside the province, I'm not a student, however I'm also older than 44 years old. When I didn't check that button I got "Thank you for completing this survey."

I interpret this as meaning if you're 45 years of age and older, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador would like you to fuck off and die somewhere on the Mainland. They don't care why you left, and they certainly don't want you to come back. And they really, really, really don't want you to retire there.

I can almost respect the honesty in that. The province's finances can be charitably described as cataclysmic. When I was in St. John's over Christmas there was the palatable feeling of waiting for the hammer to fall. Open Line shows spoke about when, not if, the province is going to go bankrupt.

I realize that creative political leadership is about as rare as unicorn sightings in the province, but there is again, an overwhelming sense of despair that there is nobody to lead people out of this mess. Not the current Liberals, not the Conservatives and the NDP have never been taken seriously for more than 30 seconds. There is nothing there that passes for leadership.

A few years ago I wrote that I was in favour of a return to Commission of Government, which was a period in the 1930s and 40s when Newfoundland and Labrador was run by a group of commissioners from England. So we have a history of cocking things up and having others clean up the mess. During my more cynical moments I'm in favour of just evacuating the place and nuking it from space. It's the only way to be sure.

(Although if I'm honest, no, that probably wouldn't work. People would land there in protective suits with iodine pills and build cabins by the irradiated sludge that used to be a pond.)

However, I am a kindly sort. Here, for free, is why we left Newfoundland and what they would have to do to get us back.

It should be noted that under current conditions Cathy and I would take a huge pay cut to return. Now, my base salary is standard across Canada. I'd lose certain benefits from living in the North, but that would be the same if I moved to Toronto or Edmonton. So I'm good. However, as a teacher, Cathy would lose approximately two-thirds of her salary. So overall we'd lose about 50% of our income.

Second, there are tax benefits to living in the North. So we only pay GST. That means 5% sales tax vs the ridiculous 15% in Newfoundland. There's a Northern Tax Credit we get each year for helping overcome the higher costs of living. So we wouldn't be making half as much as we have now, it'd probably be closer to 40% of what we make now.

But wait, that assumes we could actually get a job, I might with some dumb luck, but there are no teaching jobs for Cathy and I doubt she wants to spend the next 10 years subbing her way in. If things were bleak for us professionally in 2005 then they extra special grim right now.

I always found it offensive that there is a view that if you're staying in Newfoundland employers can get away for paying you less. "You love this place and want to stay. Let's take advantage of that fact."

"Ok, sure, but you could retire there maybe one day..."

Well, as you saw above, they don't want us to retire there. Because whatever benefits we might bring to the economy with our pensions and whatnot, would likely be more than offset by the impending tsunami of elderly hitting the province that are going to require extra medical and home care. I will bet you money there's a plan somewhere to export elderly people to a third world country, or a consultant's report that reads "A Cost Benefits Analysis for Displacing Older than Average Residents to Temporary In-Transit Ice Developed Accommodations".

Or perhaps just an outright ban on anyone travelling to Newfoundland who is order than 44 without proper documentation assuring that you're going to leave, and not try to retire there.

Plus, by time time we retire we will have likely spent 25 years living in Nunavut. We love don't last if you don't. But when we retire we're moving to a place that has palm trees gently swaying the breeze 365 days a year.

So, to sum up for any Government of Newfoundland officials reading this:

Why We Left
1. Under employed and under payed.
2. Could not envision a future where that would change.
3. Better professional development and personal development opportunities elsewhere.
4. Over-taxed for the quality of services received.
5. Taken advantage of for wanting to stay.

Why We're Not Returning
1. Our life is in every measurable sense much, much, much better in Nunavut than if we were still in Newfoundland. It is a sure bet the travel we've done in the last 12 years would not have happened. Or buying and nearly paying off a house. Or that we're in a good financial position to retire before we're 100.
2. No opportunities for career development that does not involve a 50% pay cut.
3. Significantly higher taxes with services that do not match.
4. Lack of political leadership, Or common sense.
5. The province is doomed and everyone knows its doomed. It's like asking if we would like tickets on the Titanic an hour after it hit the iceberg.
6. They don't want us. Not really.

What You Could do to Entice us Back
1. Find a fountain of youth near Fogo since I'm 48 years old and they don't want me.
2. Import a bunch of Scandinavians to run the place. Seriously, they can really run a country.
3. I got nothing else, really. Because even if a new, magic source of revenue presented itself, I have every faith that the current political leadership in the province would find a way to squander it and fuck it up.

Being able to see the few family and friends that have not fled elsewhere and 10 days of nice weather in September is not the lure it once was, oh government officials.

That's what it boils down to....the Government is asking people to sacrifice a lot to come back to a place that's not functioning, and they not only don't have a plan to fix that, but believe that a cheap survey is a solid way to start.

I'll say now what I've been saying for years....find a place somewhere else and go. Get out while you can. Because it's not getting any better anytime soon.

Last Five
1. Anti-Pioneer - Feist
2. Protest song - Broken Social Scene
3. Somewhere else - Lynda Loveless
4. We are the champions - Queen
5. Walk away - Tom Waits*

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