February 24, 2016
I chanced to meet a young man as I was entering the Town Hall the other day. We’ve known each other for years. Our families are decades-long residents of Chetwynd. The last time we spoke, a couple of years ago, he was one of the high-paid mine workers operating a range of those monster mining behemoths. Matter of fact, he was one of the last to lose a job at the mine. He was looking for employment; any job will do right now.
It’s one thing to look for a better job while still gainfully prosecuting your present employment. It’s quite another to be on the skids looking. I experienced the feeling myself, more than once, 45-50 years ago. There’s nothing quite like the crush of adrenalin one feels with every rejection. And right about now, with break-up imminent and the hiatus that comes to logging during this season every year, finding that job is not a hopeful prospect.
In mulling over one-person’s pain, I realized that he is not alone in his quest for meaning in life – the base-line for meaning in life being translated as the ability to provide for the needs, and even for some of the wants, of spouse and children.
It’s hard to know just how many of our neighbours are feeling the same kind of pain but I know there are others out there. When the pulp mill closed two or three years ago many of the workers were absorbed by the still-operating mines. When the mill reopened last year it drew back some of the mine workers whose jobs were being eliminated. Now the mill is closed again and, really, where can the workers go?
It used to be that Fort Mac was the final answer. Well, Fort Mac is sort of on collective skids just now so that safety valve is closed, at least for the immediate future. Maybe if Quebec will get out of the way of Energy East and allow Alberta crude to flow to the refineries in the east we can tighten the valve on some of the flow from the Saudis and pump a little activity back into our ailing economy. Mr. Trudeau?
It used to be that young people aspiring to enter a rewarding career thought of the booming gas fields surrounding us. Operators, welders, drivers, contractors, technicians of many types were in high demand and commanded high wages for their time and skill.
With US shale now producing more gas than those gas-hungry folks can burn it leaves us with a surplus and prices so low exploration and drilling are at a minimum.
The most obvious indicators of life are the sawmills, pellet plant, and cogeneration plant still in good health.
Where does this leave the young man looking? We’ve been here before. I trust that this cycle will again swing upward and bring renewed hope to those whose lives have been visibly changed, and plans interrupted, by the downturn in world markets.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor