Fort Amherst trail, St. John’s. Ryan Barrett/Twitter.

Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) Political Science student Ryan Barrett took to Twitter on May 8th, 2021, to express his irritation with people saying that the most rational option for youth in Newfoundland and Labrador is to move away. Barrett is originally from the Trinity Bay area but currently resides in St. John’s. He states that “I and many others in my generation want to be part of the solution. We’ve gotten through much worse in the past. This is a great place to live. It’s worth fighting for.”

The Editor-in-Chief of The Independent, Drew Brown, was first to respond. Brown says that he is in complete agreement with Barrett’s tweet and that “there is a future here worth building and defending.”

“…biggest complaint is the dishonesty of government and how young adults do not stand a chance as long as the same ole continues.”

Karen Hanlon

Karen Hanlon states that it is heart-wrenching and that she has a 21-year-old son who loves Newfoundland and who swears he will never leave. She says that “His biggest complaint is the dishonesty of government and how young adults do not stand a chance as long as the same ole continues.”

Barrett responds, stating, “Being 22 myself, I empathize with him a lot. These same old paths keep us in a constant cycle of loss, and Muskrat Falls etc., is just the latest iteration of it. Political apathy is high, but I want to stay optimistic. Things can be better.”

Kelly Hickey states, “Goddess guard thee Newfoundland. I NEVER would have moved away if we didn’t have to.”

Barrett states that “everyone’s life path is uniquely theirs, and I fully support NLers moving away for new opportunities and to explore the world, but writing this place off is wrong. I hope you can visit soon!”

Florence Button states, “I’ve always believed we lose as a province when our youth leave. Our youth are smart and should be part of the consultations of how we can have a better life for all. We have a province with so much to offer, and we all need to put our heads and energies together to make things work.”

“Our youth are smart and should be part of the consultations of how we can have a better life for all.”

Florence Button

Barrett responds that he is in total agreement and that “our culture lives in us.” He then states, “In this new era, people increasingly educated and have greater access to the world through the internet. These new and diverse perspectives are needed to strengthen us.”

Periphery Guy says, “I grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador ingrained with the notion that I had to go away, get a university degree and make a life somewhere else. I often wish I hadn’t.”

Barrett responds that in recent years MUN has been the most appealing and accessible option for Newfoundland and Labrador youths in his experience, and that is what keeps them here. He then states, “That’s why I’m against the massive cuts to MUN’s government funding (30% over six years) that the Greene Report recommends.”

Sophia states that another reason people leave is to escape abuse from individuals or communities that have traumatized them. She says, “It can feel liberating to leave an island and move somewhere less cut off from travel and other communities.”

Barrett states, “There is something liberating about getting out into the world and being yourself, and the anonymity that comes with being in a bigger city is in many ways refreshing. I haven’t travelled much outside, but a year+ of covid just intensifies my desire!”

Randell Caines states his love for the province “I was a rotational worker for years, mostly outside of Canada. I also worked in Fort McMurray. If anyone can afford to live in NL, you will never find a better life. I absolutely love NL, the ocean.”

Barrett states that “being by the ocean is very grounding, and the sea air refreshes me like none other.”

“You are free to leave and then, if you wish, return, without having to justify either choice.”

Geoff Budden

Geoff Budden states, “Do what’s right for you! It may be to stay; it might be to leave; you may leave and return a few times, like many of us have. ‘Doors held ajar in storms’ should mean, among other things, that you are free to leave and then, if you wish, return, without having to justify either choice.”

Krista Hazlie states that she moved away when she was 21 years old because she little choice. She said she stayed away for 13 years and moved back here to raise her daughter. Hazlie states, “Wouldn’t leave, and we need to fix this place now to make it better for the future.”

Gilbert states, “We were very young and graduated with combined 6 figure student loan debt, which at that time was plus interest, don’t do the math it’s terrifying. Going to school was the ‘right’ thing to do, but as soon as you sign those loan papers at 17 or 18 years old, your path is set.”

Gilbert then states that “You have six months to find work that pays enough to make mortgage size payments. Wait and get a foot in the door, not an option. Many did not want to leave plus still can’t come home – and visiting or looking for work at home to ‘you left’ attitudes is brutal. My advice – If you can stay, stay.”

Barrett responds that the “‘you left’ attitude is the kind that will keep us in the past. We should be eager to open our communities and economy to anyone returning or coming for the first time. This is how we can grow.”

Mark Whiffen states, “There’s nothing wrong with leaving. It’s a good thing to live somewhere else, get new experiences, experience different cultures, broaden your horizons. Especially if you are eventually going to bring that back expertise back home, it’s also good if you want to stay.”

“It’s a good thing to live somewhere else, get new experiences, experience different cultures, broaden your horizons.”

Mark Whiffen

Gilbert states that he “suspect we have grown so much more than if we had stayed (every situation is different). My lens and bias would definitely be what felt like student loan exile, really, really missing our families, and wanting to be home to help more, especially as our families get older.”

Melissa Jenkins states that she heard the saying that we should not work to live, but unfortunately, that is how it is for a lot of young people here. She then states, “it’s also not even an option for many others, who will continue to struggle. Change needs to happen.”

Randell Caines states that “There should be more good-paying jobs here for people who do want to stay home. My experience in Fort McMurray, people, are also working to live. That’s all they know. Get up at 4:30 am, – 38 in winter, work all day, go to bed at 9 pm. Repeat for 40 years.”

A Twitter user responds to Caines, stating, “Work all day, go to bed and repeat but then vacation time arrives and the whole world is available to them. I suspect per capita; Fort McMurrians are some of the most travelled folks in NA. Not short 2-week excursions either. How many Can’s can go south on six days off… regularly?”

Caines then states that “Yes, there is money there that’s why people go there. Not many people I knew go for vacations every six days either. I worked offshore for years. We went on regular vacations. The point is, people in Fort Mac work Hard, play hard, drink hard. Poor lifestyle. Not great to raise kids.”

Melissa Jenkins states, “Just for comparison, I haven’t taken a vacation off the island in 7 years because I don’t have any disposable income. And I’m in my mid-30s. We are now saving for a down payment for a house but still pay rent monthly. Can’t get ahead.”

A Twitter user responds to Jenkins stating, “I would tell young coworkers who are just out of school to apply themselves, and they could possibly make 200k in two years. Biggest smiles shown in two years. The world theirs! The hardest part for east coast young – leaving Mom.”

Jenkins responds, “Not sure what industries you are referring to, but I don’t know ANY new graduates who make that kind of money in 5 years, let alone 2. Plus, what about those who have limitations and can’t get to post-secondary?”

Janet Howell Pye states, “When my husband and I moved back home after post-secondary, many many folks said to us ‘it’s time for you to leave now’ and ‘go do something else.’ Well, we’ve been home now for 21 years and thankfully employed the full time, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Jody O’Brien states that “NL is not the best place in the world to live. Neither is wherever someone is moving to. You can make a life anywhere. The key is not to find the best place; find the place best for you.”

Jason M. says that “doesn’t work when the person to fight is ourselves. If you’re under 30 and don’t have a family, get out while the getting is good. This place will be a money sinkhole for 50 years because of this. Don’t sentence your children to loving this place as ‘home’”.

A Twitter user states that their son moved to NL and loves it there. Their son lives in the province for three years now and has a good job in his field. Their son spends all his free time hiking and exploring.  The user then states, “He’s planning to stay. We had to leave to find work in the late ’80s. I am glad he’s made his way there. We plan to spend a lot of our retirement in NL.”

Carol Miller states that “Unfortunately it’s the truth, I know many youths that left here to prosper, missed home and came back, only to struggle again. Went back to the mainland and flourished again. Yes, it’s a beautiful place to live, and we all live it, but when it doesn’t love you back, the relationship is X.”

Randy Gillespie states that “Before you know it, the pandemic will be over; the price of oil will be back in the stratosphere, and our government will be back to spending like a drunken sailor. And the cycle will begin again.”

Derrick Walsh says that “It is so unfair to be passing this burden onto our younger generations who don’t deserve this just starting out in life. All because of previous governments’ blunders and stupidity. No wonder they’re planning on hightailing it out of here when education finished. Very sad indeed.”

“It is so unfair to be passing this burden onto our younger generations who don’t deserve this just starting out in life.”

Derrick Walsh

Cyril Tapper states that “Those of us who go away go away because we had no choice, not because we would ever wanting to give up on our province. I agree with you that people need to give it up because it’s time for people to pitch in and help the province.”

A Twitter user states, “Especially now with so many work-at-home opportunities! And for those of us from away and slowly making our way east to NS NB NL, we want that beauty!”

Janet Headge states, “I’m 65 & retired, but I have family in AB [Alberta], two working people struggling to afford $400,000 townhouses with 20 x 30 yards. I lived in AB myself for nearly four years. Yes, those in housing markets early ‘struck it rich’ because they could cash out & move away! It’s a big trade-off.”

A Twitter user states that “Canadians, in general, cannot accept status quo while the rest of world charges ahead. Industry has always driven Canada. More industry in provinces or keep kids moving away.”

Ian Robbins states that “you are the solution, my friend. It’s just like those who claim they will not have children due to climate change. Those kinds of quitters never saved anything; we don’t need them.”

Derek Montague states, “Can’t argue with what works though. I moved to Halifax in 2018. Best decision of my life. A lot of people are considering a move right now, and I can’t recommend Halifax enough.”

Barrett responds, “Everyone’s path is different, and I have no bones against people moving away for opportunities. Individual choice matters most. My main point is that despite it all, this is a great place to live.”

Derek Montague then states, “You’re right; everyone is different, that’s for sure. But I’ve long argued that, even without NL’s financial woes, it’s going to be hard to retain youth. A big problem facing NL is the lopsidedness of rural vs urban. NL needs more cities outside the Avalon.”

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.


2 responses to “Is the most rational option for youth in Newfoundland and Labrador to move away?”

  1. A humbling collection of viewpoints. I chose to come to Newfoundland initially for two years, in 1967. That I stayed to raise my family of three daughters here is a testament to my love for this province and its people. Sadly, none of my daughters was able to pursue their careers here… in spite of very much wanting to.

  2. The Dame of MUN pulls in an annual salary of $480 000; that’s more than the Prime Minister of Canada! No room for cuts at MUN?

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