An American subsidiary shuts a plant in Ontario and moves to Indiana to save money.
A couple of hundred people lose their jobs. A department store in Quebec goes bankrupt and 60 people are on the street. We read the stories and look at the numbers. We shake our heads. We might think about our children and their future in a seemingly jobless world. To be unemployed, to be out of work of some kind. It corrodes the soul. Unemployment destroys worth. It reduces human value.
Unless we have a personal connection. The Toronto Star is the largest, richest newspaper in the country. This past week it announced it was laying off 55 employees in its editorial and advertising departments
I guess it was inevitable. Newspapers across the continent are slowly bleeding to death. Advertising, particularly classified advertising, is disappearing. Despite the grisly reality, the paper still offers some of the best reporting in the country. I worked at The Star twice. First as a copy boy and decades later as a feature and editorial writer.
It was a grand place to be a young reporter. Money was no problem. It was a noisy, gaudy exciting forum for splashy headlines, stylish, muck-raking journalism. For those of us who started as reporters in our 20s, it was the best of times. If you didn't like your job at one paper, you went down the street and signed on at another. But no more. The practice of journalism, evolves, changes, newspapers refit trying to adapt, people get laid off.
The village of Salvage, Newfoundland, is as far away from the organized cacophony of a big city newspaper as you can get. It sits at the end of a peninsula jutting out into Bonavista Bay on the East Coast of Newfoundland. It has been a human settlement for more than 400 years. Some of the tombstones in the tiny cemetery on Burden's Point in the harbour date back to the 1700s.The beauty of the place stuns the eye. The silence catches your breath on first sighting.
There are no gas stations or convenience stores, supermarkets, or video outlets in the village.There is a church, St. Stephen's, one Stop sign and a pub called the Ocean Breeze which used to be the Orange Lodge.
The harbor is crowded with fishing boats, long liners mostly, and is protected by a looming headland called Cow Head.
The center of commerce in the village is the fish plant. Up until this week, it employed about 40 people, most of them women. Women are the heart of Salvage. A number of years ago, the plant burned down. While it was being re-built, the women organized a program to build a series of scenic trails around the high hills overlooking the village.
In each August for the past 11 years, we have rented a small salt-box house in Salvage. Each year my son has celebrated his birthday there. We were from away, but we felt and still feel a binding connection with the village and its people.
To hear this week that the fish plant will close putting 40 people out of work, was heartbreaking news. One villager told me on the phone it was a catastrophe.
There may be work for some of the unemployed in a nearby plant but it's iffy.
This is a story that has been played out over and over again along coastal Newfoundland. For business reasons, for economies that nobody can articulate, fish plants close, fishing boats are sold to pay debts, workers are laid off. Parents look at their children and wonder if they will have to fly away to Fort MacMurray for work.
Experts in these things say that in 2013, there will be 202 million people around the world out of work. They say the number will rise to 205 million next year and on up after that.
These are the numbers. We shake our heads. We move on. Behind the numbers are the people, the out of work people. On a big city newspaper. Or a tiny fishing village in Newfoundland