No Jobs in New Brunswick? Pity...8/31/2012
A pity, that.
Last week, almost 2,000 people stood in line in Fredericton. It was a hot day, yet hundreds waited hours for a slim chance to hand their resume to a representative of one of the 11 companies inside the Delta Fredericton. According to the organizer, 1,997 people walked through the doors of the Alberta job fair in Fredericton last week.
Each could likely tell a story of desperation, of a willingness to move, of a need for a job. Many complained the New Brunswick government isn’t doing enough or has failed to create work in their hometown, in their province.
The irony is the government has tried, and there are companies in New Brunswick that are more than willing to step up to the plate. Those 1,997 people lined up under the hot sun for a chance at a job in western Canada, in the oil patch, in the oil and gas industry. That’s the same industry that is trying to build an ‘oil patch’ in New Brunswick, but is being rejected at every step, every corner, every opportunity.
A group in McAdam is tracking the exodus of people from the village. The exodus list is up to 83 names of people who have packed up and left. Their destination? You guessed it; western Canada. Not only that, but the 83 people on the McAdam exodus list have all moved to one western location, Fort McMurray.
Deputy Mayor Doug Laking is quoted as saying, “As unfortunate as it is that they leave, you know, we all understand why. That’s where the work is.”
So what is it that creates jobs in western Canada, and for those on the McAdam exodus list specifically jobs in Fort McMurray? It is of course the development of Alberta’s unconventional oil and gas resources.
However, it is ironic and rather frustrating that community leaders shrug their shoulders say you can’t blame people for going ‘out west’ because ‘that’s where the work is’.
SWN Resources Canada holds exploration rights for a swath of New Brunswick, including the McAdam area. Residents bemoan the exodus of their neighbours to western Canada in search of jobs created by oil and gas development, but are unwilling to do anything to encourage the same development in their own backyard. Development that could stop the exodus and create those same jobs right here at home.
I’m not picking on McAdam specifically. The story is the same in villages throughout rural New Brunswick (and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island).
Other villages may not keep an exodus list, but they are suffering the same fate – slow death. Instead of those neighbours working together to figure out a way to enable an industry that will provide the jobs needed to keep people here, they say it can’t be done. That’s frustrating.
The irony? According to some polls and everyone who speaks against the industry, people in rural areas, like McAdam, are opposed to any oil and gas development in their backyard, or for that matter their province.
Yet people from those same rural communities are willing to move to another province to work and live in an area where development is in their backyard. So why is it okay to have it in your backyard when you live in Alberta, but not when you live in New Brunswick?
Is there a differing degree of ‘backyard’? So is the backyard in your hometown more sacred than the backyard where you live and work in Alberta (or Saskatchewan or British Columbia)?
Maybe we should contact the people on the McAdam exodus list (and other recent transplants to the western oil patch) and ask them what they think of oil and gas exploration and development. Maybe they can say to the folks back home, “Guess what? I have seen the light. Oil and gas exploration and development – conventional and unconventional – can take place safely and does take place safely. It’s right here in my new backyard.”
How far behind do we need to fall before people realize the backyard you have in Alberta or British Columbia or Saskatchewan is no different than the backyard you have here?
Energy drives the economy. Energy is economic development. Energy can transform our region. But it is the mix of energy sources that will be our success. Natural gas is an important part of that mix, and it is proven daily in this country that it can be developed safely.
Only in Alberta you say? Pity that.
Barbara Pike is the executive director of The Maritimes Energy Association, a not for profit industry association representing local businesses that provide goods and services to the energy industry