What’s new? It’s 1997, what can possibly be new?
They say that during the Depression, unemployment ran around 20% in Cape Breton. That was our grandparents and our neighbours and this is where we live today. How we have survived here on this island all these years is a mystery to me, but somehow we have. According to the latest statistics, the unemployment rate on Cape Breton Island is around 27%. That’s more than a quarter of the population–one in four–living on pogey. And that doesn’t count the ones whose UI has run out and are now depending on welfare cheques, or the college students living with their parents for food and shelter, or the college graduates who can’t afford any more school and no longer qualify for UI, or the elders of our community drawing on their pensions. So many people are out of work here that they will do anything to survive. Driven to the underground economy some steal, some bootleg booze and some sell drugs. Others work “under the table” for cash which they don’t report to the government or will work for wages which would be less than acceptable in a more stable economy. Still others simply move away to find work. But nobody simply moves away from family and friends, whether they want to or not.
According to the labour unions, the Nova Scotia government is so corrupt that the only way to reach them, in Halifax, is by violent demonstration in Sydney. Unfortunately, they’ve turned Cape Bretoner against Cape Bretoner in the process. Union or no union, I don’t think that’s right. Too many people are in the same boat here to start fighting amongst ourselves. It’s obvious that the accumulated frustration with living conditions on Cape Breton Island cannot contain itself much longer, but what will we do about it?
The news that John Savage quit his job as Premier of Nova Scotia gave me hope. Wow, I thought, may something’s gonna happen. Maybe things are gonna change. But can things really change? On the day after his announcement, Savage was reported as saying, “I know I’m unpopular and I’m going for the good of the party”, explaining that this was his decision. Others say he was pushed out by the Liberal party who feared they wouldn’t get re-elected with him as leader. The question is, can anybody get the Liberals re-elected in Nova Scotia? Ot the Conservatives, for that matter? The NDP seemed pretty popular on Talk Back and even the Reform got a mention, but what are they gonna do? What can they do?
I used to think the government did whatever it wanted, regardless of what the people say, but now I wonder if maybe the people just aren’t speaking loud enough. It seems to me that the people around these parts are pretty fed up with Nova Scotia politics and finally realizing that the choices in front of them aren’t worth a damn. Maybe it’s time to fire up the political wing of the Cape Breton Liberation Army and run a candidate for office. The question is could we Cape Bretoners manage to work together towards the common goal of the liberation of our people?