Return to East Coast from oilpatch a mixture of struggles and fresh starts

TRURO, N.S. - As the days go by with no phone calls offering work in the Alberta oilpatch, Jared Park worries about how he'll pay for his son's leukemia medicine.

See Full Article

"It's a struggle. You don't know when or if you're going to make it back to work. You just hope you get that call," said Park as five-year-old Mason wriggled and bounced on the sofa in his tidy Truro, N.S., bungalow.

"For Mason, it's important because part of our drug plan covers the medicine for his chemotherapy."

The 30-year-old father of three is among a wave of East Coast workers who have returned home from the Western oilfields after a downturn in the economy. Many are hoping for higher hydrocarbon prices and a return to the West in 2016, but others have begun trying to seek a living closer to home.

Kerry Morash, a former provincial cabinet minister, said rural parts of the Maritimes have been hard hit by the fall in the oil prices from about $95US to current levels of less than $40US.

Morash joined the migration west after the paper mill near Liverpool, N.S., where he worked as a health-and-safety consultant closed several years ago. He was hired on contract at the Kearl oilsands project north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

"There wasn't a lot of work back home, and there certainly wasn't a lot around Liverpool ... I was very fortunate to be able to go out there," he said, recalling his two-week shifts of 12 hours per day.

He said some maintenance jobs continue to draw East Coast tradespeople, but since the completion of Kearl, the former Progressive Conservative politician said he couldn't find another oilpatch job despite a resume that included a stint as Nova Scotia's minister of labour and environment.

Gradually, he's starting to hear about opportunities in the rural area of Nova Scotia where he lives. And he said he may be staying on the East Coast.

Some industries in the Maritimes, meanwhile, are using the opportunity to recruit skilled tradespeople to work in their hometowns.

The Halifax shipyard has been recruiting workers from the West as it builds Arctic patrol ships for the federal government.

Spokeswoman Mary Keith said by early December the Halifax site had 33 employees who had been working in Alberta, British Columbia or Saskatchewan.

Some workers are retraining to begin fresh careers that will keep them on the coast.

Twenty-three-year-old Jacob Stepaniak, who grew up in Margaree Valley, N.S., came home from Alberta last year after working intermittently in the West since 2011.

He returned to care for his 85-year-old grandfather, who was ill with cancer, and decided to stay home despite the attraction of salaries of over $90,000 a year in the oilpatch.

"You miss all those little things, the small-town way of life ... You run into someone here, you're guaranteed to strike up a conversation," he said. "You really miss that."

Stepaniak is retraining in marine engineering technology at the Nova Scotia Community College and expecting to begin a life at sea, possibly in the offshore oil sector.

He and his girlfriend have been hunting for a home in the Margaree Valley, where they plan to settle.

But for Park and his partner Jenny Mosley, 30, the West remains the family's best hope for a secure future.

Each time Park departs, Mosley joins the boys every day in writing down on a blackboard how many "sleeps" until Dad returns, knowing his absence means the bank account will fill up.

Park recalls sitting in an airport two years ago feeling helpless as a distraught Mosley called him to say that Mason had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

He said he longed to be home to hold his boy, but also realized work in the oilfield derricks would bring in $80,000 a year, along with a benefits plan for medicine and treatments.

Park's company plan provides full coverage for between $600 and $1,000 in monthly drug costs, while the province's pharmacare program requires that families contribute a portion of costs depending on their income level.

Meanwhile, there are two other boys, Mason's twin brother Maddox and nine-year-old Grady, to provide for.

"When there's no work, there's no planning on getting ahead. It's just planning on getting by," said Mosley, as Mason wriggled into her lap.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Bhutan fully vaccinates 90 per cent of eligible adults within a week

    World News CTV News
    GAUHATI, INDIA -- The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, its health ministry said Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by UNICEF as "arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic. Source
  • Clashes on Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave 3 dead, 4 wounded

    World News CTV News
    YEREVAN, ARMENIA -- Armenia's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that three of its troops were killed and two more were wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani forces on the border between the two ex-Soviet nations, which have been locked in a decades-long tug-of-war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Source
  • Tokyo sets another virus record days after Summer Games begin

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Tokyo reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting an all-time high and exceeding 3,000 for the first time days after the start of the Olympics. The new cases exceeded the earlier record of 2,848 set the previous day and brought the total for the Japanese capital to 206,745 since the pandemic began early last year. Source
  • Access requester told to wait five years for public health agency head's email, texts

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A requester seeking access to a week's worth of emails and messages from the head of a federal agency embroiled in controversy has been told to wait five years or more for a response under Canada's information law. Source
  • Tropical storm dumps rain on northern Japan, spares Olympics

    World News CTV News
    RIFU, JAPAN -- A tropical storm dumped rain in parts of northern Japan on Wednesday after moving away from the Tokyo region and relieving the Olympic host city of a feared disruption to the games. In Sendai, some trains were delayed and pedestrians braced themselves against the wind on the city streets. Source
  • The fashion industry's 'plus-size' label shames women to fit an unhealthy standard

    Canada News CBC News
    This First Person article is the experience of Laura Sang, a physician in Montreal. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ. Content warning: This article discusses eating disorders and suicidal ideation. Source
  • COVID-19 spreading faster in Alberta than during peak of 3rd wave

    Canada News CBC News
    Health and infectious disease experts say the rate at which COVID-19 cases are growing in Alberta is alarming, as it spreads faster than it during the height of the pandemic's third wave. The R-value, which represents the number of people infected by each infected person, was 1.48 (with a confidence interval of 1.38-1.59) in Alberta as of Sunday, according to Alberta Health. Source
  • Lac La Ronge Indian Band begins search for residential school graves, with 'a lot of work ahead'

    Canada News CBC News
    WARNING: This story contains distressing details The Lac La Ronge Indian Band has become the latest First Nation in Saskatchewan to begin searching for unmarked graves associated with a local residential school site. "We have a lot of work ahead of us," Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said. Source
  • Tokyo governor urges youth to get vaccinated to slow surge during Olympics

    World News CBC News
    Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Wednesday urged younger people to cooperate with measures to bring down the high number of infections and get vaccinated, saying their activities are key to slowing the surge during the Olympics. On Tuesday, the Japanese capital reported 2,848 new cases, exceeding its previous record in January. Source
  • Tokyo governor urges youth to get vaccinated as cases surge to all-time high

    World News CBC News
    Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Wednesday urged younger people to cooperate with measures to bring down the high number of infections and get vaccinated, saying their activities are key to slowing the surge during the Olympics. On Tuesday, the Japanese capital reported 2,848 new cases, exceeding its previous record in January. Source