Ideas

On the Move: Commuting, work, life

Seven years ago, a large group of interdisciplinary scholars from all parts of Canada (and beyond) started to examine issues connected with 'work-related mobility'. Some people find it necessary to work from home. Others are expected to spend more time travelling to and from the workplace than they actually spend doing their job. How do changes in the way we work affect every other aspect of 21st century life?

Research project on 'work-related mobility' examines how our jobs affect 21st century life

Commuting to work in Canada takes many forms. This charter plane is taking people to work in Saskatchewan. (Heather Hall/On the Move Partnership)
Listen to the full episode53:59

** Originally published on February 27, 2019.

Some people now find it desirable – or even necessary – to work from home. Others are expected to spend more time travelling to and from the workplace than they actually spend doing their job. How do changes in the way we work affect every other aspect of 21st century life?

Seven years ago, a large group of interdisciplinary scholars from all parts of Canada (and beyond) began researching 'work-related mobility' with a project called the On the Move Partnership. Paul Kennedy was there from the beginning creating documentaries based on the research.

As the project nears completion, Paul speaks to the participants about their conclusions in this final episode of On The Move.

Sean Markey is associate dean of the Faculty of Environment at Simon Fraser University. 2:32

Paul Kennedy reflects on the series

Fort McMurray

It seemed almost logical to start this series of documentaries in Fort McMurray seven years ago, when Alberta's 'oil sands' were in peak production. Back then, there was a clichéd assumption — and an overrated one at that — that the place was overrun with Newfoundlanders, and other Eastern Canadians. That was probably the first "mobility myth" that On the Move discredited for me. There were many more to come.

​​​​Prince Edward Island

Doing the show about truckers from Prince Edward Island opened my eyes to the kinds of surprising insights that excite researchers almost immediately after they go beneath the surface. There's often a connection between employment changes in one industry, and the workforce requirements of the next. As family potato farms become consolidated and mechanized, thereby requiring fewer farmers, there's an interconnected need for drivers to truck those potatoes off the island.​

Bell Island, Newfoundland

People often complain about being stuck in traffic on the way to work, or about being fogged in at the airport and missing a big meeting. But it's impossible to feel more frustrated than being stranded on an island when a ferry goes out of service because of the weather, or ice, or mechanical failure. No mode of transport is more despised by working commuters. And none is more loved than the Bell Island Ferry in Newfoundland.

Toronto

I thought the Commute from Hell episode, about public transit in the Greater Toronto Area, would be the easiest of all to make. I actually live in Toronto, so there would be no need to travel anywhere. But a few brutally boring trips with transit riders who spend more time on buses and subways than they do at work or with family convinced me that I should never forget how lucky I am because I can walk to and from work, every day.

Montreal's Little Burgandy

The symbolic connection between employment and mobility is perfectly illustrated by the ever-vibrant but also changing Montreal neighbourhood of Little Burgundy. Originally formed around families of black railway porters who wanted to live close to both the CN and CP Passenger Train Stations, the community was later bisected by a major expressway, erected as part of the infrastructure for Expo '67.

Guests in this episode:

  • Angele Smith is associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Northern British Columbia.
  • Tracey Friedel is associate professor of Indigenous Education at the University of British Columbia.
  • Sara Dorrow is associate professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta.
  • Emma Jackson is is an Edmonton-based community organizer, researcher and activist. She recently completed her MA in Sociology at the University of Alberta where she studied migrant caregivers' experiences of the Fort McMurray wildfire. 
  • Dalia Gesualdi-Facteau is a professor in Faculty of Law and Political Science at the Universite de Quebec a Montreal (UQAM).
  • Shiva Nourpanah is an adjunct professor at the School of Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University.
  • Nicole Power is associate professor of Sociology at Memorial University.

 



**This episode was produced by Paul Kennedy.