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Alberta

Have Alberta’s Skilled Workers had Enough?

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The Canadian oil and gas industry suffered another blow on Sunday, October 25, when Cenovus Energy Inc. announced a $3.8 billion merger with 82-year old Canadian oil and gas company, Husky Energy. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Husky is projected to lose up to 25% of its workforce as a result of the merger, approximately 2,150 jobs – mainly in Calgary. 

The news, which fell on Alberta’s increasingly restless population of unemployed workers and struggling families, many of whom believe Alberta has been left out in the cold for far too long already, has fueled ongoing discussions of a provincial brain drain. 

Simply put, brain drain is defined as “the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector or field, usually for better pay or living conditions”. Recent statistics show this concept is rapidly gaining traction in Alberta as residents seek to escape the increasingly grim economic landscape to pursue opportunities elsewhere, beyond the provincial borders. 

As Canada’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, Alberta is no stranger to the boom and bust nature of the industry, experiencing cyclical periods of economic prosperity influenced by global conditions followed by detrimental crashes and ensuing hard times. Prior to this year, Alberta experienced a major economic crash in 2015, with the Canadian oil and gas industry suffering a $91 billion loss in revenue and layoffs reaching 35,000 workers in Alberta alone (1).

In the last 5 years, countless Albertans have struggled to regain their footing on shaky economic and political grounds, suffering substantial losses and insecurity. In this setting, the catastrophic impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with pipeline delays and ongoing cuts in the Canadian oil and gas sector have left many Albertans with the feeling of being kicked while already down. 

According to the Government of Alberta Economic Dashboard, the price of oil for many Alberta oil producers fell 36.6% from September 2019, averaging $28.43 USD per barrel in September 2020, according to the Western Canada Select (WCS) price. The coinciding unemployment rate in Alberta was 11.7% in September 2020, down from its 15.5% spike in May 2020, but still 6.6% higher than in September 2019 (2).  

At this point, it seems a number of Albertans have simply had enough. According to The Alberta Annual Population Report 2019/20, “Alberta’s interprovincial migration patterns are heavily influenced by the economic conditions in the province, and as the economy cooled, the province experienced net outflows.” The report shows that 2,733 residents left Alberta between April and June 2020. 

The loss of another 2,150 oil and gas jobs as a result of the Cenovus merger comes as a disappointing yet predictable defeat for industry workers who have remained “down on their luck” for many years in Alberta. Effectively decimating industries worldwide, the pandemic has also successfully pulled the rug from beneath Alberta’s shaky footing, tanking oil and gas once more and leaving countless skilled workers with nowhere to go but out.

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

World Cup super-G called off in Lake Louise because of too much snow

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — A World Cup men’s super-G race was cancelled Sunday in Lake Louise, Alta.

It was the second race called off because of too much snow. Friday’s downhill was also cancelled.

Matthias Mayer of Austria won Saturday’s downhill at the ski resort west of Calgary in Banff National Park.

The cancelled downhill in Canada has been added to the program for the next World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colo., starting Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

'For the greater good:' Indigenous financial advisor works to empower others

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CALGARY — It’s often said that every name tells a story. 

For Theodora Warrior, that couldn’t be more true.

“My name doesn’t lie,” says Warrior, a Blackfoot member of the Piikani Nation in southern Alberta. “The purpose of a warrior is not meant for battle. They are meant for protection and sacrifice for all for the greater good.”

Warrior is the first Indigenous financial facilitator for Momentum, a Calgary charity dedicated to community economic development.

Jeff Loomis, executive director of Momentum, says it’s committed to having a role in reconciliation with Indigenous communities and bringing Warrior onboard ensures a culturally relevant and supportive environment to aid in financial reconciliation.

Warrior views her job as one that empowers others, particularly Indigenous families such her own who experienced poverty as a result of the residential school system. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report says the schools amounted to cultural genocide, stripping Indigenous people of their language and customs, and has led to chronic unemployment, poverty, poor housing, substance abuse, family violence and ill health.

About two years ago, Warrior attended a money management workshop hosted by Momentum, similar to one she now teaches, and was asked to write down a vision for her future.

She had lost everything — her house, job and belongings. She says it was a cycle she had repeated for years, from housed to homeless, employed to jobless, hopeful to disheartened.

Her vision on a piece of paper, now tucked away in a safe spot, listed 17 goals, including having a two-bedroom apartment, a healthier mental state, being debt-free with savings and having a steady job. 

Most of those dreams came true.

Warrior is now bringing the program that helped change her life to other Indigenous people in Alberta communities. She calls the workshop series Money Moccasins.

“Financial wellness is a lifelong journey,” says Warrior. “Walking barefoot can make the trip more difficult. Moccasins are very sturdy and strong.”

Thinking about the workshop she attended, Warrior says the information was helpful but the facilitator, who was white, lacked an understanding of unique barriers faced by Indigenous people.

The facilitator talked about spending $200 on plants, almost the same amount Warrior had received monthly on welfare.

“It had nothing to do with where we come from, what we really encounter, what we have to work with,” says Warrior.

Warrior’s mother and grandmother attended residential schools. 

As a child, she remembers living in apartments with cockroaches, using food banks and moving frequently, both on and off reserve. Her mother, who has three university degrees, often worked multiple jobs. 

Warrior says she believes the repercussions of the residential school system left her mom struggling to find financial stability.

As Warrior became an adult, she also had trouble staying afloat.

There were months when she had money from working in the trucking or hydrovac industries. At one point, she had a five-bedroom house and was financing a new vehicle.

But, she says, everything fell apart in about nine months when a friend moved out without paying their share of the bills and work opportunities disappeared.

When looking for a place to live, she says she faced encounters with landlords who hurled racist and prejudicial comments. Sometimes she left showings in tears.

Warrior says she stayed in women’s shelters and slept in empty apartments.

“I’ve been through it all,” she says. “Homeless. Hitchhiking. Food banks. Relying on the kindness of strangers … the depression that comes with it, domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction.”

She says she openly shares her experiences now with those in Money Moccasins. She remembers one participant who laughed when Warrior told the class she was in bankruptcy.

“‘Who better to learn from than somebody who’s been there?’ Warrior recalls telling the woman. “Being open and vulnerable with them like that drops their guard.”

Warrior keeps a constant reminder of how far she’s come at her desk. Her computer screensaver shows Warrior looking into the distance with her sprawling First Nation behind her.

The photo was taken the day before she lost her driver’s licence for drinking. Shortly after that, in 2019, she attended her first class at Momentum and got a job with the charity.

She describes her Money Moccasins program, which started this year and explores assets, budgeting, banking, credit and consumerism, as generation changing.

“In this Western world, money is life. In our world, water is life,” says Warrior.

“This course, these classes, they give you something to hold that water. They show you that you can save your water, that your water is meant to be saved for the next generation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2021.

Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press

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