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

  • China says misleading to suggest it needs trade deal due to slowing economy

    World News CBC News
    China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it was misleading to suggest Beijing needed a trade deal with the United States because its economy was slowing, following a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump. China's economic growth was "not bad," said ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in comments made at a daily news briefing in Beijing. Source
  • 4-story building collapses in India; several feared trapped

    World News CTV News
    MUMBAI, India -- A four-story residential building collapsed Tuesday in a crowded neighbourhood in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, and several people were feared trapped in the rubble, an official said. Fire official Ashok Talpade said rescuers had reached the site in Mumbai's Dongri section and pulled out three people and rushed them to a hospital. Source
  • How Zoe the lab sniffed out 2 missing girls in Ontario's Algonquin Park

    Canada News CBC News
    About 90 minutes after starting to search for two 16-year-old girls who had been missing in Ontario's Algonquin Park since Thursday, Zoe began showing the telltale signs that she had picked up a scent. "That's what you want to look for when the dogs acquire a track. Source
  • Jagmeet Singh tours Quebec in hopes of avoiding an NDP wipeout

    Canada News CBC News
    NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is taking a Quebec road trip this week, visiting a handful of ridings he hopes his party can hold in October's federal election. But even though his pit stops are in ridings that offer the NDP some of its best chances for hanging on, Singh still faces an uphill climb to win any of them. Source
  • National Métis group gave IT contracts to 2 companies linked to policy adviser

    Canada News CBC News
    The Métis National Council (MNC), facing its second federal audit in the last seven years, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to two companies directed by the same MNC policy adviser for IT-related work, according to records obtained by CBC News. Source
  • Tweets condemned as racist are part of Trump's plan, and strategists say it may work

    World News CBC News
    The chorus of condemnation U.S. President Donald Trump faced from pundits, Democrats and even a few Republicans Monday was loud and necessary but, ultimately, helped Trump accomplish what he set out to do, say some Republican strategists. Source
  • NASA's latest bid to return to the moon by 2024 may be a bit unrealistic, experts say

    World News CBC News
    This is part of our CBC News 50th anniversary coverage of the Apollo 11 mission resulting in the historic first human landing on the moon. On Dec. 14, 1972, NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan lifted his foot from the dusty lunar surface one final time. Source
  • Toronto man whose family died in Boeing 737 Max crash: Scrap the jet

    Canada News CTV News
    Paul Njoroge says he believes Boeing should scrap the 737 Max, and he wants the company's top executives to resign and face criminal charges for not grounding the plane after a deadly accident last October. Source
  • Pakistan reopens airspace, ending months of flight restrictions

    World News CTV News
    Pakistan on Tuesday fully reopened its airspace for all civilian traffic, ending months of restrictions affecting major international routes including from India after clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals brought them to the brink of war. Source
  • Quake damages buildings on Bali, other Indonesian islands

    World News CTV News
    DENPASAR, Indonesia -- An earthquake shook Bali and other Indonesian islands Tuesday, causing panic and damaging homes and other buildings, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. The magnitude 5.7 quake was centred at sea 82 kilometres (51 miles) to the southwest of Denpasar on Bali at a depth of 91 kilometres (57 miles), the U.S. Source