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

  • Feds investing nearly $200M in Mississauga, Ont. plant to mass produce vaccines

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The federal government will invest almost $200 million in Mississauga, Ont.-based Resilience Biotechnologies to eventually be able to mass produce vaccines domestically. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Tuesday, stating that the money will go toward creating and maintaining 500 jobs and 50 co-op positions for young people “to get their foot in the door in a growing sector. Source
  • 'Sheerness when wet': Joe Fresh recalls boys, toddler swim shorts out of 'abundance of caution'

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Loblaws' Joe Fresh clothing brand is voluntarily recalling swim shorts for boys and toddlers over concerns about the sheerness of the trunks’ fabric when wet. Joe Fresh said in a recall notice posted online that there are no safety concerns with the products. Source
  • Ikea recalls select dishes due to risk of breakage and burns

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ikea Canada has issued a recall for select dishes after the company received reports of some of these products breaking, leading to a possible burn risk. In a notice issued on Tuesday, Ikea Canada said it was recalling the Heroisk and Talrika style plates, bowls, and mugs "due to the potential risk of burns from hot contents upon breakage. Source
  • Container ship is the largest of its kind to visit Canada: Halifax Port Authority

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Port officials in Halifax say the largest container ship to visit a Canadian port has arrived at the city's south-end container terminal. A spokesman for the Port of Halifax says the CMA CGM Marco Polo is 396 metres long and can carry the equivalent of 16,022 containers that are each 20-feet long. Source
  • Investing in new coal, oil and gas projects must stop to hit climate goals, global energy agency says

    World News CBC News
    A report by the International Energy Agency says immediate action is needed to reshape the world's energy sector in order to meet ambitious climate goals by 2050, including ending investments in new coal mines, oil and gas wells. Source
  • Quebec reports 549 new COVID-19 cases, 9 more deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec has 549 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of people infected to 364,396 since the start of the pandemic. The province's health officials also confirmed nine more deaths, a total of 11,050 after it was ruled one death was not related to COVID-19. Source
  • Israel resumes airstrikes on Gaza, as Palestinian militants fire more rockets into Israel

    World News CBC News
    Israel bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and Palestinian militants resumed cross-border rocket fire on Tuesday after a brief overnight lull during which the United Nations sent a small fuel convoy into the enclave, where it says 52,000 people are now displaced. Source
  • Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada has marked 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started. The country reached the grim milestone on Tuesday, after Ontario reported an additional 17 deaths related to the disease. Many younger Canadians succumbed to the disease in recent months, as the third COVID-19 wave overwhelmed hospitals, especially in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Source
  • Ontario reports lowest number of COVID-19 cases in nearly two months with fewer than 1,700 infections logged

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Health officials in Ontario are reporting fewer than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19, marking the lowest single-day total in almost two months. The 1,616 infections recorded Tuesday represent a significant drop from the 2,170 reported by the province a day earlier. Source
  • Experts warn shuttered Australia is becoming a 'hermit nation'

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his "Fortress Australia" COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, as experts warned that plans to keep the borders closed for another year will create a "hermit nation." "Everyone is keen to get back to a time that we once knew," the conservative leader said in the face of growing calls for international borders to reopen. Source