Letter from oilpatch worker to Trudeau incites backlash

A plea for help isn’t getting much sympathy from readers, according to an oil patch worker who wrote an open letter to Justin Trudeau, calling on the federal government to ease Alberta’s financial pain.

Many readers believe struggling oil workers frittered away oil wages and 'only have themselves to blame'

Ken Cundliffe, with wife Teresa and son Jaxon, born Oct 5, said the federal government needs to help Albertans struggling with the downturn. (Supplied)

A plea to the federal government to ease Alberta's economic pain isn't getting much sympathy from readers, according to the oilpatch worker who wrote an open letter to Justin Trudeau, appealing for assistance in the ailing energy sector.

"I've seen a lot support from the west, in the prairie provinces, but outside the prairie provinces, outside of oil country, it's mixed reviews," said Lloydminster's Ken Cundliffe during a Tuesday morning interview on Edmonton AM.

"I finally brought myself to read a few comments online last night and it looks like it's going to be pretty challenging to try to convince Canadians from outside the oil provinces that we could use some assistance."

Cundliffe's letter paints a grim picture of Alberta: families are struggling to cope, crime is escalating, even suicides rates are on the rise. Since the letter posted was posted to Facebook on Jan. 10, it's been shared nearly 10,000 times.

A Husky Oil operator, Cundliffe said he's disappointed to see backlash from commenters who  aren't convinced that Alberta is deserving of federal assistance.

"They say, 'Alberta has made their bed. They've got oil for their economy. When it crashes, why should we bail you out?'"

Cundliffe said attacks on the character of Alberta oil workers have been even more disconcerting.

Many readers believe that struggling oil workers have frittered away their oil wages and "only have themselves to blame" for any financial problems, he said.

"Not everyone is like that.  Not everyone has bought the big trucks and wasted their money. There's a lot of young families that are hurting. I don't know how to get that stereotype stopped," said Cundliffe.

"I've seen some of those criticisms of myself, and I don't think I should have to explain myself. I don't want to be ashamed of what I have. I've worked hard but if I lose my job tomorrow, things can change very quickly."

Although his letter is short on solutions for Alberta's financial woes, Cundliffe does suggest several policies be adopted.

Among them, he suggested a review of both the equalization payment system and the cap on the length of employment insurance.

Although Trudeau has not directly acknowledged Cundliffe's letter, he has waded into the debate around the energy sector's ongoing financial crisis.

When questioned about his priorities for Alberta during a Monday cabinet retreat in New Brunswick,  Trudeau acknowledged the need for more financial support in the oilsands sector, and promised to travel to the province in the coming months.

"It's good that he's acknowledging that Alberta is struggling," said Cundliffe. "but hopefully, it's not just talk, hopefully it's more than that."