Nova Scotia

Nova Scotian oil rig workers coming home to no job prospects

A Nova Scotia man who has spent 20 years working in the oil industry says the latest economy bust is the worst he's ever experienced.

Alberta's unemployment currently at 7%; Nova Scotia's at 8.6%

Kevin Law, who's been a drilling supervisor on oil rigs around the world, has been out of work since mid-August. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

A Nova Scotia man who has spent 20 years working in the oil industry says the latest economy bust is the worst he's ever experienced.

Kevin Law has been a drilling supervisor on oil rigs all over the world. He came home to the Annapolis Valley in August after he was laid off.

"This one is definitely the worst I've seen. A lot of my friends are not working at this current time," Law said.

"I saw a lot of men crying, you know, and literally they were busted up over the fact of what they're going to do and how their lives are going to change because their rig was going to harbour and it was getting cold stacked."

It's a similar situation in Fort McMurray, Alta. where workers have flocked over the last decade for high-paying jobs in the oil sands. 

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta's unemployment rate has gone from 4.7 per cent to seven per cent in the last year.

Nova Scotia unemployment sits at 8.6 per cent right now.

No end in sight

Law says he figured things would pick back up after three months, but that hasn't been the case. 

"I think it's overwhelming in some ways, especially when you have to support families," he said.

"There's a sticker that I remember getting when I first started in the oil field and it says, 'Please Lord let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away this time.' That probably sends a message to everybody in the oil field. I mean everybody's probably seen it or heard it or said it." 

Law admits he didn't save as much money as he hoped, which has taught him a lesson.

"I think it's hard to plan for having mortgages or truck payments. Life is busy having kids," he said. "I hope that my financial planning changes for the next downturn in the oil field."

Staying in Nova Scotia

Over the years, Law helped recruit people for various jobs on oil rigs. He says the favour is being returned, and he hopes to secure work in the next few weeks.

"Obviously having contacts all over Canada and really around the world, every now and again you get somebody coming to you and asking if you're interested in doing something like that, so I've put my name forward and I'm anticipating something coming back. Hopefully it works out that way," he said.

Many of Law's friends have decided to bow out of the boom and bust cycle. He says for many, it's easier to find secure work close to home in Nova Scotia.

"I know several that now have local jobs, doing local things and I know another fella who's gone to work for Canada Post. Different people are really stepped out of where they were in the industry," Law said.


Angela MacIvor is a reporter with the CBC Atlantic investigative unit. She has been with CBC since 2006 as a reporter and producer in all three Maritime provinces. All news tips welcome. Send an email to


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