CAN - As N.L.'s Oil Industry Sputters, the Emotional Toll of the Cod Moratorium Looms Large

Some wonder if dark days of 1990s can provide road map to get through current crisis

Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around Newfoundland and Labrador, trying to get enough hours to qualify for unemployment insurance in an economy levelled by the collapse of the cod fishery.

Like many other workers in the province, his fortunes turned with the growth of the oil industry. In 1995, he got a job with Hibernia, the province's first offshore oil platform, and it became a decades-long career.

Mercer, now a union president, is once again witnessing the province shed thousands of jobs in a major industry — the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the global demand for oil and gas.

But while the downturn is causing similar damage to what was suffered after the cod collapse, some are wondering if the dark days of the 1990s can provide a road map to get through the current crisis.

"The stress levels, the mental health, goes further than just somebody that's working offshore," Mercer said in a recent interview. "It goes to the wife, it goes to the children, because the parents are stressed out. There is separation, there is arguing, there's desperation."

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