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It could be the biggest transfer payment in Canada. It means hundreds of millions of dollars to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy every year, and it's growing.
Thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians travel more than 6,000 kilometres to get to work - to jobs in Fort McMurray and other Alberta communities, for salaries so high, they seem beyond the imagination of what is often available at home.
Many families, of course, have relocated to Alberta permanently, but many other families have made the decision to keep their permanent homes here, and travel long distances - often many times each year - to earn salaries that often start at $110,000 per year.
No one is sure how many people from Newfoundland and Labrador are involved in the Big Commute; some guesses have the number at more than 10,000. With much of the money earned in Fort McMurray and other places flowing back home, many local communities have become dependent on the fortunes of an industry practically at the other end of the country. It is one of the most fascinating demographic changes in Newfoundland and Labrador's history.
CBC Radio is studying the issue in depth during the week of Oct. 29. Check back regularly as we update this feature.
Oct. 29, 2007
Producer Rod Etheridge briefs Jeff Gilhooly, host of the St. John's Morning Show, on the startling numbers involving Newfoundland and Labrador workers who commute to high-paying jobs in Alberta. (Runs: 7:43)
Lloyd Tucker, a St. Anthony heavy equipment operator, describes the difficulties of commuting to work in Fort McMurray, Alta., over the last eight years. (Runs: 3:20)
Moving staff: Rod Etheridge interviews Lynn Zeidler, a vice-president with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., about the vast effort the company makes in flying staff to its Alberta construction site. (Runs: 4:55)
Oct. 30, 2007
Big impact on the Burin: Producer Rod Etheridge interviews Marc Coady, president of the regional chamber of commerce, how Alberta money is keeping the local economy hopping. (Runs: 6:35)
Community benefits: Producer Rod Etheridge tells St. John's Morning Show host Jeff Gilhooly how the big commute is keeping some otherwise troubled communities humming. (Runs: 5:59)
From Ming's Bight to Fort Mac: Todd and Carrie Clarke talk about the drive and flight that take them to work every three weeks. (Runs: 3:20)
Oct. 31, 2007
Family adaptation: Producer Terry LeDrew profiles the Sturge family of Gillams, who are getting used to the ups and downs of a long commute for big money. (Runs: 5:46)
Reporter Pam Parsons travels to the Conception Bay community of Marysvale, where residents say the Alberta migration echoes labour patterns of the past. (Runs: 6:46)
Paul Breen, a young father of four from Grand Falls-Windsor, describes what prompted him to seek work north of Fort McMurray. (Runs: 2:45)
Beyond the statistics: Rod Etheridge interviews Memorial University geography professor Keith Storey, who has been studying migrating Newfoundland and Labrador workers for two decades, and is concerned about long-term social and family impacts.
Nov. 1, 2007
The cost on the homefront: Jeff Gilhooly, host of the St. John's Morning Show, speaks with producer Rod Etheridge about the downside of a workforce that lives only part-time at home.
A boom in Deer Lake: David Burke reports from the airport town of Deer Lake, where local companies have picked up plenty of business from migrating workers.
Burgeo, in transition: Rod Etheridge interviews June Hiscock, a town councillor in Burgeo, where about 20 per cent of the population commutes to Alberta for work. (Runs: 5:07)
Nov. 2, 2007
St. John's Morning Show host Jeff Gilhooly interviews provincial Human Resources Minister Shawn Skinner about a pending government study of the Alberta commuting phenomenon. (Runs: 7:39)
'Mini Fort Mac': Mike Power reports from Labrador West, where a huge demand for iron ore in China has sparked a mining expansion not seen in years. (Runs: 5:29)
From the Archives
From Nov. 2006, Nancy Russell of CBC-TV in Charlottetown profiles some of the Atlantic Canadians that have made their way to Fort McMurray. (Runs: 5:33)
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