On September 20th, 2016 Bernard the Roughneck made national news as he presented an impassioned speech in Ottawa on behalf of the oil workers of Alberta. His speech was respectful, intelligent, thoughtful and researched. Due to his educated and well-spoken demeanor some have accused him of being a paid actor and a fake. Those who have had the opportunity to meet Bernard in person quickly find out that he is absolutely the real deal. Despite pockets of vicious opposition, and even some insane threats to his own safety, Bernard continues his advocacy efforts, speaking all over Alberta on radio shows, at rallies, and wherever he can to get across his message of support to the hard-working men and women of Alberta.
Cindy had moved to Calgary from B.C. in June of 2015 to help her daughter care for her newborn granddaughter and her three year old, recently diagnosed autistic son. She quickly found work in a medical office were she did very well and things were starting to look up. Six months later, she was told that she was being laid off. Faced with the pressure of mounting financial hardship she made the difficult choice to move back to B.C. and try to regroup. Her daughter's husband, finding it hard to make a living as a car salesman in the tough new economic reality, has chosen to move the family east to Nova Scotia, where he's from originally, to try for a new start. What began as journey to be closer to her daughter has now found Cindy and her family at opposite ends of the country.
Kyle, like many young men, had come to Alberta from the maritimes to find work in the oil fields. For more than four years he made a very decent living and, unlike some of his fellow young co-workers, hadn't succumb to the temptation of buying fancy new vehicles and wracking up big debts. These decisions proved to be very helpful when he was laid off along with thousands of other hard working men and women. After waiting and weathering the storm for about six months, keeping his commitment to his landlord by not breaking his lease on his apartment, Kyle has moved back to the maritimes where he hopes to find work in the fishing industry. There are thousands of people like Kyle facing similar struggles in Alberta. Many have fewer options plus the added stress of families who are depending on them.
Lori is an I.T. specialist who has worked in Oil and Gas for many years. This wasn't her first experience with a layoff and being in a management position she wasn't very surprised when it happened. However, to add insult to injury, three days before her layoff notice she lost her beloved dog, Beauty. Although reeling with loss, Lori is choosing to make the best of this tough situation by making a career change and is now teaching English to newcomers. Although her new work means a completely different lifestyle and the salary is drastically less, Lori has found that the pace of teaching agrees with her and her overall stress level is much more tolerable.
You might be surprised to see Steve's story here. As one of the pastors of a Calgary Christian church you might think he would be immune to the economic challenges that Alberta is facing. The fact is that churches rely entirely on the generosity of the people who regularly attend and as the incomes of the parishioners decline so does the amount given, reducing the operating budget. After a very difficult year the church had to make a tough choice to lay off one of their staff and it ultimately fell upon Steve to be let go. Having a great deal of experience and a diverse background in non-profit organizations Steve has some very good options for future employment, but it doesn't diminish the loss of the relationships, community and ministries that he had worked so hard to develop. Steve's example really illustrates just how deep these tough economic times in Alberta have become and how anyone's life can be disrupted.
Kelly is a hard working welder, husband and father from High River. Over the course of just one month the company he had worked for for many years went from sixty-four employees to just six. As he had seniority he was one of the few to stay on for one last project before he too found himself laid off... and with only two weeks before Christmas. Not one to stay down or remain idle, Kelly applied for any job he could, including several out-of-town jobs and it looked like it might mean having to move his family away from their beloved home. Thankfully, he was able to find some work locally and has managed to continue to put food on his family's table... but it's been tough, not only financially but emotionally. You don't need to talk to Kelly for very long to hear the frustration in his voice about the current state of politics in Alberta! There are thousands of talented, loyal, reliable men like Kelly who just want the chance to work hard and make a decent living without living in fear of having it all taken away.
For Paul the Alberta recession first hit him when he was laid off from an accounting position at an oil and gas company right at the same time he was buying his first home with his long time partner. What was supposed to be a happy time of their life began to unravel when his partner became very ill and sadly passed away before they could even celebrate one year in their new home together. Paul was now faced not only with having to grieve a terrible loss but after four months with no income he had no choice but to give up his beloved home. Paul eventually was able to find work at a warehouse but then was injured on the job and now faces difficulty in finding jobs that he is physically able to perform. After spending some time living in a dreadful, run-down apartment with people cooking meth next door, Paul was provided with a decent place to live with help from his family. He would much rather be working again so that he can be self-sufficient but has found that every job he applies for has hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants. Despite all of these challenges, Paul has a tremendously positive attitude and his zest for life is very much alive and well. Paul's story highlights the diversity of the people affected by the downturn, it also proves, once again, that Albertans are resilient and remain hopeful as they continue to find ways to stay positive in these difficult economic times.
Bianca is the creator of a counselling project that just so happens to be called "Laid Off Calgary" I first heard about Bianca as she was speaking on a radio programme and I reached out to her as I thought maybe my art project would be a complimentary fit. Bianca's group meets weekly to help laid off Calgarians by providing tools such as improving resumes, job interview skills and tips on how to find new opportunities. Just as importantly, her group also helps people deal with the stress and anxiety of being unemployed. Having been laid off herself, Bianca wanted to find a way to use her gifts as a councillor to help others navigate the difficult path of re-entering the workforce, a task that is none too easy in this challenging economic reality.
Cary worked at a large engineering firm and started to see wave after wave of layoffs at his company. He attended many of his friend's farewell parties wondering if he might be next on the chopping block. Eventually his turn came and he, like hundreds of his co-workers, was another statistic, a laid off Albertan. At the time his wife was beginning to grow her own business so he's kept his focus on helping her out and trying his hand at his own passion, photography. Not a great time, perhaps, to be growing a businesses but having something positive to focus on has helped to manage the stress of a greatly reduced income. Despite the big change in income level, Cary is finding many benefits when it comes to his personal stress level as well as benefiting from more time spent with his wife. Cary has found it important to remain optimistic and to look for things to be grateful for as he adjusts to this new economic reality.
Randy worked for a city utility company for sixteen years when it was finally his turn to be laid off. He was grateful to receive a severance package which was intended to help him quickly transition into his next job opportunity. At first he welcomed the change in his career and the potential to try something new, however, as time has passed the funds are drying up and there have been no prospects. Now he is finding that he is being passed over for jobs because he is "overqualified" Indeed, many companies are worried that people with his level of experience will just leave as soon as the economy improves and are choosing to hire younger, less experienced staff. Many Albertans, like Randy, are stuck in the middle of waiting for the economy to improve while watching their hard-earned resources disappear.
Kathy is a writer who specializes in marketing and PR. She recently graduated with honours from the University of Calgary and had hoped she could quickly find work in her new field. She has discovered that there have been very few opportunities especially as companies are choosing to keep as many of these projects in-house if possible. The timing of starting her new career at such a difficult economic time has added to the already stressful situation of Randy being un-employed. As a couple, they have found this time to be very trying and are doing their best to stay positive. Their journey has also been a difficult one for them spiritually as they can't help but feel a sense of abandonment as they wait for the next opportunity to finally come their way.
As a self-employed electrician Darrell, along with many other hard working entrepreneurs in Alberta, has felt the full force of the economic downturn. Prior to launching his own business he had worked on various contracts as an employee but the jobs were always either temporary or there were too many workers with not enough work to go around. He, like so many others, eventually found himself laid off. Feeling frustrated and wanting to take matters into his own hands Darrell put everything he had into starting his own company. Although it has been satisfying in many ways to strike out on his own the new business is taking a while to really get going and has eaten up his hard-earned savings. Despite these challenges Darrell keeps a positive attitude and continues to work hard, hoping for brighter days ahead in this tumultuous financial climate.