My name is Pino Demasi, a newcomer to the journalism life. I was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario on January 12th, 1984. From a young age, I was fond of electronics and computers especially. Shortly before I turned 6 years old, my family got a computer, a Tandy 2500 in which I tried to use as much as possible.
Growing up, I developed a love for biking through the forest trails and swimming with friends. I believe I was well known with a diverse circle of friends. During summer breaks and the occasional Saturday, I would work with my father in the family-run construction company off an on throughout my early years.
After finishing high school I went on to live in various cities across Canada, trying out different career paths along the way. Shortly after turning 21 I set off for the west coast, to beautiful Victoria British Columbia, where I landed a job as a Deli Clerk at his local Save-On-Foods to make ends meet upon arrival. Shortly after living in Victoria, I made friends and began work as a roofer for a small contractor, who was also a new friend.After about a year in Victoria, I decided it was time to check out Alberta and moved to Calgary, due to many friends and family sharing stories of massive success in the city. Arriving in -35C during a Calgary winter storm was a big change from the +5C temperature in Victoria. I was picked up by my friend Dave from Thunder Bay, and off we went to his house to play some PlayStation hockey and catch up on old times, as we hadn’t seen each other in years. Within 2 days I was able to secure work as a sheet metal worker.
After a few short months in Calgary, my childhood best-friend Matt (who was living in Thunder Bay at the time), came to visit and off on a ski trip we went, in the beautiful mountains of British Columbia. After the ski trip, Matt offered me a ride back to Thunder Bay, to come home for a visit. That visit turned into Pino remaining in Thunder Bay for a few years. Being surrounded by friends and family was something I missed and needed at that point in my life.
Soon after, I once again left Thunder Bay in search of greener pastures. Andrew, who is one of my longtime best friends, invited me to the northernmost parts of Quebec to perform some staking and line cutting in the bush, completely isolated from civilization. Of course, I accepted and off we went.
After the 45 day stint in the bush, I was planning on moving to Toronto to start up a tech company and grow my dream to maintain servers and home computers, as well as website design and maintenance. This plan was abruptly interrupted when I took a stop off in Montreal for a visit along the way, and quickly fell in love with the city and attempted to make a living there. I settled in the area of Mont-Royal and tried valiantly to sell my services to the hundreds of businesses in the surrounding area. After 3 months, 2 successful website contracts, and hundreds of rejections/no responses to my solicitation of services, I came to terms with the fact it was time again, to move on.
Another of my good friends Jeff, suggested I move out to Medicine Hat with him, and that we would quickly get work in the oil patch. So I packed his things and took a flight to Medicine Hat, Alberta. It was back to ‘berta.
After my first month of being in Medicine Hat, a small community of 63,000 people, I was left scratching my head wondering why no oil companies were hiring. It was January 2009 by this point. I had never thought of oil prices, oil crashes, and the such, I’ve only ever heard about how booming Alberta was, and my previous experience in Calgary cemented my thoughts about it. I started to cold call companies further and further from Medicine Hat in an effort to find someone that would take us. I kept hearing the same phrase “I’m letting guys go, not hiring” and “The downturn shouldn’t last long, call me again in a month”. I had no idea what they meant by “downturn”, which was the fact oil prices were low enough to cause companies to cut back. I assumed it was just like construction, things slowed down in the winter and once the weather warmed up I would be out in the field with oil and grease all over me, making the big bucks.
At this point, I decided to develop some websites for some locals until the weather warmed up. I couldn’t muster up much, the town was very welcoming and warm-hearted, but the “downturn” had trickled down to almost all the local businesses as well. I developed 7 websites in the course of 2 months and after a short stay of 4 months, I decided it was time to pack up and head out again, this time, to Kelowna BC.
I headed out to Kelowna and quickly secured employment at a truss shop. I was at least in a familiar element and making good money. I worked hard and loved the surrounding scenery, being nestled in the Okanagan Valley. My life was just work work work, only day off was Sunday, which I used to explore the various hiking trails and downtown life.
After over a year, I got a call from my mother that her health was not in such good shape, and she asked me if I could come back to visit her. I quit my job, sold my things, and came back to visit in Summer of 2011. I worked with my father, we did a few fun jobs together, such as an addition to a home in the east end, new windows for an upscale home on Oliver road, etc. After several months of visiting, and my mother’s health returning to a better state, I applied for jobs in the oil patch of Alberta in an attempt to finish that dream of working in that field. I had got a call, and I started work on Dec 17th. I was excited and celebrating with my parents about the great news and bucket list tick to check off my list. Then tragedy struck.
My father suddenly passed away on Dec 12th, 2011. I was broken into a million pieces. My father and I were very close. My mother was completely devastated. One of the hardest memories I have is watching my mother clawing at the window, begging for my father to “just come home”. I called my new employer and informed him I couldn’t make it, and I would reach out to him if there was still work available at a later date.
A few months after my father’s burial, I spoke to my mother and told her I wouldn’t leave until she was comfortable with her new living arrangements. Being married for 42 years and then being alone must have been a difficult transition for her. In February 2012 I began work for a large contractor in town. I excelled at my position and was working my way up the ladder. In June the company offered me to go around Ontario with their bridge-crew, to perform forming and pouring related work. I spoke to my mother and she was ok with it. I left at the end of June and returned shortly before Christmas.
I enjoyed the winter break with my mother, we now had my nephew living with us as well. The three of us were making the best of our first holidays without my father. The first round of holidays was the hardest.
So during the first half of 2013, I was working for the same company, but just at their Thunder Bay job-site. I was offered to join the bridge crew yet again, but at this time I decided it’s time to spread my wings and leave Thunder Bay yet again, as my mother was still devastated, but had my 18-year-old nephew to keep her company. With my mother’s blessing, I moved out west to Victoria BC with my girlfriend of the time.
This time around, moving to Victoria BC I managed to secure work finishing cement for one of the larger contractors in town. It was a relaxing move to get out of Thunder Bay and live somewhere that didn’t remind me of my father at almost every turn.
I got to show my girlfriend and her daughter around the city, and they fell in love with it just as quickly as I did.
After about 9 months of living there, I was reading an article about how hot the Edmonton skilled trades market was. Curiosity got the best of me and I sent a few resumes out one morning. within an hour of sending out my resume, my phone began ringing. The first call the contractor asked me what I want for a wage as a cement finisher, I said 25$ an hour, just to see what he would say. He said to call me when I get to Edmonton and he would have work for me. Then the phone rang again. It was another contractor with the same question, I said $30 an hour this time, and he said to call him when I was in town and he would hire me.
At this point, I got 3 more calls and just told them I would contact them when I got to Edmonton. I spoke to the girlfriend and kid, and they were interested in the idea. My girlfriend checked her field of work, and it turns out that her field was also very high in demand as well. So off we went.
Upon arrival in Edmonton, we got a hotel and started searching for a place to call home. It never struck me that with such a booming employment market, that finding a home would be so difficult. Two weeks into our search and we still haven’t found a home. This was day 15 and we agreed if we didn’t have something by the end of today, we would have to continue driving our UHaul back to Thunder Bay, as our funds are now getting low.
Later that night, we end up finding a place, the landlord likes us, we pay him, we’re in. We got a nice two bedroom freshly renovated home in Mill Woods. Awesome. So I called one of the contractors I spoke to and went to work 2 days after we moved in.
After being in Edmonton for a month, I decided to look into my dream of working in the oil patch. I send out a few resumes and call my union. Nothing is available at the moment, but everyone is promising to call as soon as there is any work.
Another month goes by, I’m on the job site forming some footings for a new Canadian Tire, my phone rings, it’s my union, and they need me up near Fort McMurray as soon as possible for a job. Tomorrow is preferred. I quit my job, pack my things and head up there.
The entire trip up there, I’m so excited, I can’t believe it. Upon arrival, I go through orientation, etc, then when it’s time to get my badge to become a full-fledged employee, tragedy strikes.
My Ontario ID is rejected. They want Alberta ID for residents of Alberta. They turn me back and send me home, unemployed, as it takes a few weeks to get an Alberta ID, and they need the positions filled by the next day.
I head home, bothered but not defeated. I go and apply for my Alberta ID the day after I arrive back home. I call another contractor on the list and go back to concrete. The union calls me a month later with another offer, I take it and go. I end up working straight until February 2015, when the oil price crashed again. I remember this, this is what happened in 2008. Everyone is talking about gloom and doom.
I started calling contractors in Edmonton, looking for work. This isn’t the same as before, nobody wants to pay more than $23 an hour for a cement finisher, and even less for carpentry. That, along with some health issues I was having at the time, added to the decision to move back to Thunder Bay
Shortly after arriving in Thunder Bay, my daughter was born, and it was the happiest moment of my life. Words cannot describe the feelings I felt that day, so I won’t do it an injustice by attempting. The picture says it all.
After being in Thunder Bay for 9 or so months, sick and working as my own boss, so that I could work around my sickness, my illness caught up with me and I was bedridden.
It was hard watching everyone around me going out and living their life, while I laid in bed suffering from my new found friend “Crohn’s Disease”. I started to pass the time by sharing and discussing local news and concerning events in a Facebook group I started the year-earlier called “The REAL Concerned Citizens of Thunder Bay”.
The page helps me keep my mind off the aches and pains I was experiencing. More and more people continue to join the page and the discussions. I started this page to annoy the admin who booted me from the other “concerned citizens” page for Thunder Bay back in early 2014. I had totally forgotten the page existed shortly after creating it, until about a year after I created it until I got a notification from it one day. I was only occasionally posting to it and discussing it until I was bed ridden. Once I became stuck in bed, I was posting and discussing so often, that many people would ask me how I find the time to do it.
After about a year of being bed ridden, the page started to explode with people joining it. Now people are sending me news tips and pictures about whats happening in town, and I’m submitting it to local media and posting it on my page.
After a year of 90% of my tips submitted, not being reported on, and the 10% being heavily edited at times. I decided I’m just going to start my own news website.
And here we are. I’m typing out an “About The Author” and you’re reading it.
Stay REAL Concerned Thunder Bay.