Beyond the Headlines

Going down the road

Posted: Sep 4, 2013 1:22 PM ET Last Updated: Sep 4, 2013 1:22 PM ET

If you live in Nova Scotia odds are you know someone who's left the province to work in Alberta. Just about every family, especially families living in rural Nova Scotia, have at least one member - a sibling, a parent, a cousin or uncle - who has gone down the road to make a living.

It's hardly a new phenomenon but a new study just released by Statistics Canada turns all that anecdotal evidence into hard numbers.

The study looked at the number of people working in Alberta between 2004 and 2009 who came from another province.

At its peak, about 133,000 Alberta workers called another province home. Not surprisingly, 26 per cent were from Atlantic Canada. That's almost 35,000 people. Most were men. And it's not just young men. According to the study, between 2004 to 2009, the number of men 35 years of age and older who went to Alberta for work rose from 35 per cent to 47 per cent.

We've all heard about the big bucks these guys make when they pull up stakes and the study suggests those stories aren't wildly inflated.

It says men from Atlantic Canada who went to work in Alberta saw an astounding 79 per cent increase in their earnings. With wages like that, no wonder so many leave their families behind to work thousands of miles away.

But perhaps the most troubling finding, for Nova Scotians, is the number of men who decided to stay and live permanently in Alberta.

The study says of those who went to work out west in 2005, one in four became a resident of Alberta sometime over the next five years. The majority were younger, single and from Atlantic Canada.

These are the young people, Nova Scotia needs to build its economy. They are the young people who will one day have families, the young people who would normally be the backbone of our communities - the future leaders, the volunteer fire fighters, the hockey coaches, the volunteers.

Lured by the prospect of an almost 80 per cent increase in wages, how could anyone blame them for leaving.

The challenge for the political parties who will soon be asking for our votes, is how to build an economy, especially in rural Nova Scotia, that will give those who want to stay here an opportunity to find meaningful employment, and to create the kind of jobs to allow those who have already left a chance to come home to raise their families.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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