Calgary

Unemployed oil and gas workers say pressure is on Kenney to create jobs — ASAP

Premier Jason Kenney has been on the job only a few days and already some unemployed and underemployed Albertans are wondering when his promises of reigniting the economy, building new pipelines and creating jobs will get them back working in the careers they loved.

Many still searching for well paying work while struggling to make ends meet

From left to right, Chad Miller, Brian Mavin and Robyn Stimson are three unemployed Albertans. (Chad Miller/Brian Mavin/Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Premier Jason Kenney has been on the job only a few days and already some unemployed and underemployed Albertans are wondering when his promises of reigniting the economy, building new pipelines and creating jobs will get them back working in the careers they loved.

It's a matter of urgency for some who have maxed out their credit lines, blown through their severance, employment insurance and savings, and are still searching for permanent, well paying jobs while struggling to make ends meet.

"Right now, the province is not a happy province," said Brian Mavin, noting many are not working and some are on the brink of bankruptcy.

"So I think that the new premier needs to have in mind that we need to get jobs happening right now for the people of Alberta," said Mavin, whose background is in occupational health and safety.

CBC News reached out to several people searching for work on social media sites dedicated to supporting unemployed Albertans. Three people agreed to go public, even though they feel embarrassed, because they don't want the premier to forget why he was elected.

Chad Miller says he's managed to keep his roof over his family's heads but struggles to pay bills and buy food. He hopes to see the economy turn around in six months. (Submitted by Chad Miller)

Mavin was working as a safety manager for Tarsco in Fort McMurray until early 2015, when the project he was working on ended and he got laid off. Since then he's been in Calgary picking up odd jobs in security, lawn care, industrial firefighting, and one occupational health and safety job in construction. He's currently unemployed.

"It hasn't been easy. Lots of times I have had to juggle bills. Pay one bill one month — next month I'll concentrate on the other bill," said Mavin, who is divorced.

He has three children. His oldest child, who is 20, lives with him.

A lot of people [are] just, you know, on the brink of bankruptcy. So I think that the new premier needs to have in mind that we need to get jobs happening right now for the people of Alberta.- Brian Mavin,  searching for work

Mavin says he's ruined his credit juggling bills for the past four years. And he says sometimes he battles with anxiety and depression, mostly at night, when all the thoughts rush to his head.

"I worry that I'm not going to find another job and I worry about, you know, am I going to be able to pay my bills, am I going to have enough to pay my rent this month, am I going to have enough to pay for my car.... Because if you don't have a car, well, you're kind of dead in the water, nobody really wants to hire you," said Mavin.

Mavin's power steering line recently broke on his vehicle. He posted on social media how that extra headache, on top of having worked only a couple days in April, sent him spiralling into a sense of hopelessness and tears.

Here's part of what he wrote on Facebook:

"I apply for safety job after safety job. I have been working out in the oilpatch firefighting but that work is up and down, and I know I can't be greedy because my coworkers need work too. Sorry guys, just venting. I'm just feeling so defeated and broken."

Mavin says he's happy the UCP got elected. Now he hopes they will succeed in turning the economy around within the next few months.

"I would say as soon as possible because I know there's a lot of people … I've got friends that are suffering," said Mavin.

Robyn Stimson says she's come close a few times, but the single mother of two young girls still hasn't landed a job back in oil and gas administration after getting laid off in 2016 from an oil land survey company.

Robyn Stimson, who is looking for work in oil and gas adminstration, says it's important Premier Jason Kenney keeps his promises of kickstarting the economy or risk losing support. (Colleen Underwood)

Since losing that position, she's managed to pick up a variety of jobs including graveyard shifts at Denny's, retail over the Christmas holidays, and most recently a three-week temp job for a property management outfit. But Stimson says she's really managed to survive thanks to some provincial financial assistance and a federal child tax benefit.

Plus she says she's frugal.

"I mean, I'm not ashamed to be going up and down the alleyways on my way home from school to make sure I got firewood for my fireplace so I don't have to spend the money on gas," said Stimson, who recently left an abusive relationship.

I'm not ashamed to be going up and down the alleyways on my way home from school to make sure I got firewood for my fireplace so I don't have to spend the money on gas.- Robyn Stimson , unemployed administrator

But why doesn't she move on, either out of province or into a new industry?

"Primarily, I was good at it. Second of all, I like the fact that I could come home and.…" Simson stops as she turns her head and starts to cry. She leaves to compose herself and returns a few minutes later.

"I enjoyed my work. I always felt accomplished when I came home. And I could always look my daughters in the eye and, you know, have that sense of worth as well as just being a mom," said Stimson.

Yet despite the repeated rejection, she is determined to return to this work.

And she's counting on Kenney to keep his promises to get people like herself back to work.

"For this government, it needs to be essential. It needs to be. The province is going to go even further into disarray because of the fact that they can't get, you know, the middle to lower class working again.

"And if they can't get them back working, they're not going to have the support of Alberta."

If they can't get them back working, they're not going to have the support of Alberta.- Robyn Stimson, laid off in 2016

The Facebook support and networking group Oilfield Dads was started by Chad Miller because, he says, he was wondering how many people were feeling like he did in August 2015.

The married father of three was at home in Sylvan Lake waiting for a call back from his employer, but no call came.

"A lot of people joined and were feeling the same pressure — no jobs, no future — and it was really worrisome," said Miller.

He says he watched people lose their homes, their possessions, their families and their lives.

Chad Miller says he started the Facebook support and networking group Oilfield Dads because he wondered how many other people were feeling like he did in August 2015. (Submitted by Chad Miller)

Miller says the key to his survival has been his ability to be versatile and wear a number of hats. He's a pipeline facility inspector and journeyman pipefitter who can run heavy equipment and holds a certificate in construction safety.

But he says the work is sporadic and not enough to keep him out of huge debt.

"For example, here I [just] pulled everything out of the bank because I don't want a payment to go out and leave me short to put [food] on the table. So you'd rather have things bounce than leave yourself short."

Robyn Stimson is hopeful she'll be able to find work again in oil and gas administration because the premier is promising to reignite the economy. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Miller unsuccessfully ran as a Freedom Conservative Party candidate in the riding of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake in the recent provincial election, hoping to represent blue-collar oil and gas workers in the legislature.

He says he believes Kenney and the UCP have good intentions and ideas for attracting investment and to get projects going. Now they just need to implement them. Fast.

"I hope Jason Kenney's bark is just as big as his bite and we can get a lot of us Albertans back to work as soon as possible," said Miller.

I hope Jason Kenney's bark is just as big as his bite and we can get a lot of us Albertans back to work as soon as possible.- Chad Miller, started Oilfield Dads Facebook support group

But he's not sure how quickly Kenney can turn things around, given his summer of repeals and a federal election looming.

In the meantime, each of these three people say they will continue to search for work in the oil and gas sector, although Mavin says he'd prefer to get out of the industry.

About the Author

Colleen Underwood has been a reporter/editor with CBC news for more than 10 years filing stories from across southern Alberta for radio, television and online. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleen.

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