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

  • Alberta Railway Museum steam locomotive coming out of retirement for Canada 150 [Photos] [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The 104-year-old Montreal Locomotive Works 1392 is packed up and ready get back on the tracks for the first time in 62 years. The 1913 locomotive acquired by the Alberta Railway Museum in 1971, which served in the Edmonton-area in the 1950s on work and weed trains, will be back in action as part of the Rails and Tales Canada 150 celebrations. Source
  • Ex-ski coach Bertrand Charest guilty on 37 of 57 charges in sex trial

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    SAINT-JEROME, Que. — Former high-performance ski coach Bertrand Charest was found guilty Thursday of 37 of the 57 charges against him in connection with sexual relations with his students. The 57 counts included sexual assault and breach of trust involving 12 females who were between 12 and 19 at the time of the offences and alleged offences. Source
  • Republicans unveil bill to replace Obamacare, change Medicaid

    World News CBC News
    Senate Republicans released their long-awaited bill Thursday to dismantle much of Barack Obama's health care law, proposing to cut Medicaid for low-income Americans and erase tax boosts that Obama imposed on high-earners and medical companies to finance his expansion of coverage. Source
  • Power still off for 400 properties in Red Deer after Tuesday's windstorm

    Canada News CTV News
    RED DEER, Alta. -- The City of Red Deer says 400 homes and business are still without power after a violent windstorm hit central Alberta earlier this week. In an update on its website, the city says it could be another two days before electricity is restored to everyone. Source
  • Legal clinic challenges Ontario panhandling law as unconstitutional

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A Toronto legal clinic has launched a constitutional challenge against an Ontario law that targets panhandling. The Fair Change clinic argues that the Safe Streets Act violates the rights of people who beg for money, including freedom of expression, the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Source
  • 6.8-magnitude earthquake measured in Guatemala's Pacific coast

    World News CBC News
    A major earthquake struck off the coast of Guatemala on Thursday, damaging buildings and downing trees as well as causing powerful tremors in neighbouring El Salvador. There were no reports of casualties. The quake, measured at a magnitude of 6.8 by the U.S. Source
  • Woman lights cigarette at end of wild police pursuit

    World News Toronto Sun
    Los Angeles police say a woman led officers on a wild chase in a suspected stolen car that lasted a half-hour and ended when she crashed into a pole. Officials say at one point during the pursuit early Thursday the suspect stopped the sedan suddenly and then backed up and rammed a patrol car. Source
  • Champs Elysees attacker had arsenal of weapons: prosecutor

    World News CBC News
    The man behind this week's attempted attack in Paris's Champs Elysees had been to Turkey several times in 2016 where authorities questioned him over large amounts of gold and jewelry in his possession, and had a huge arsenal of weapons, the Paris prosecutor said. Source
  • N.S. government sends teen suicide expert to Cape Breton to address deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government is sending an expert on youth mental health and suicide to Cape Breton in the wake of several teen suicides. It says Dr. Stan Kutcher will go there Monday to talk to "families, schools, and the community" about addressing mental health concerns. Source
  • Holocaust survivor asked to move seats to accommodate Ultra-Orthodox Jew wins Israeli court case against El Al Airlines

    World News Toronto Sun
    JERUSALEM — An advocacy group representing an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor suing Israel’s national airline for discrimination says it’s won the case. The Israel Religious Action Center representing Renee Rabinowitz on Thursday called this week’s ruling “revolutionary.” It said an El Al flight attendant asked Rabinowitz to move from her seat next to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv following his request. Source