Edmonton

Frustration among out-of-work attendees at annual Labour Day BBQ

Kathy Hamelin’s 75-year-old mother ran out of groceries two weeks ago. All that Hamelin could do for her mother was put an order in at the food bank.

'You can't fix 40 years of one path in 15 months,' Notley says of Alberta economy

Kathy Hamelin attends the Edmonton and District Labour Council's annual Labour Day BBQ at Giovanni Caboto Park. Hamelin has been looking for a job since April, when she was laid off from her job at a Fort McMurray oil camp. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Kathy Hamelin's 75-year-old mother ran out of groceries two weeks ago.

All Hamelin could do for her mother was put in an order at the food bank.

"It's painful that I can't do anything to help my mom," Hamelin said. "She gave me this beautiful amazing thing called life and I can't do anything to help her because I have no money myself."

Hamelin, 59, was laid off in April from her job in a Fort McMurray oil camp and has been on an unsuccessful search for work ever since.

On Monday, she was among the hundreds of people at Giovanni Caboto park for the Edmonton and District Labour Council's annual Labour Day BBQ — a free event.

The irony that so many were out of work on Labour Day — a holiday celebrating the achievements of workers — was not lost on Premier Rachel Notley, who was also in attendance.

"It's a wonderful demonstration by the labour movement to sort of reach out and support people who are otherwise struggling," Notley told reporters.

"We understand people are hurting right now and we have to do whatever we can to support them."

Premier Rachel Notley speaks to reporters about job creation at the Edmonton and District Labour Council's annual Labour Day BBQ at Giovanni Caboto Park. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Unemployment rate reaches 22-year high

The unemployment rate in Alberta has been on the rise since the price of oil dropped last year. It's been going up steadily as of March, when it was 7.1 per cent.

Data released by the government last week established a new 22-year high — 8.6 per cent as of July.

The NDP's promise of job creation in the spring budget feels empty for people like Hamelin.

"I have been sending out resumes like crazy. I'm even willing to work as a babysitter. I'd do private housekeeping," she said. "From making $25 an hour, I'd being willing to make $12, $15 an hour."

But Hamelin said she hasn't gotten any responses, never mind any interviews.

You want this province to stay strong and be something [we're] proud of. You know what, give us a reason.- Kathy Hamelin, looking for employment

"If there's only one promise if she could keep, that should be the number one, the number one promise," Hamelin said. "You want this province to stay strong and be something [we're] proud of. You know what, give us a reason."

Notley cited the laundry list of initiatives the government is working on, including the $34-billion infusion in infrastructure over the next five years that she estimates will create about 10,000 jobs annually.

She said that businesses receiving additional investment will be recruiting workers too, but it will take time.

"I get it. It would be great that we had 100,000 jobs right there right now. We're working as hard as we can on it," Notley said.

"Obviously, there's more to be done. Obviously, we'd like to see the price of oil come back up. Obviously, we'd like to diversify the economy, but you can't fix 40 years of one path in 15 months."

roberta.bell@cbc.ca

@roberta__bell

With files from Andrea Huncar

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