Drayton Valley has been riding Alberta’s boom-and-bust economy for decades, but many residents say it seems the next boom may never come.
The town, southwest of Edmonton, is home to just over 7,000. Many residents rely on the oil and gas industry for work but more and more, those jobs are drying up. Unemployment has nearly doubled between 2011 and 2016.
“I’ve been cut,” said Mike Bustin, operations manager for an oilfield hauling company. “Twice now. I’m down to three days a week.”
Bustin and so many others are watching the federal election closely.
“It’ll mean either I work until I’m in the ground, or I can retire some time — if we have the right election.”
The sluggish economy doesn’t just affect individuals. Charities are seeing a huge decline in donations. Sports teams are no longer getting sponsorships. Hotels are going empty and businesses are closing up.
Riley Swendseid, general manager of Stetson Motors, said his fleet customers have had to re-budget.
Drayton Valley is in the Yellowhead riding. Since it was created in 1979, the seat has gone to the right.
It’s likely the riding will go Conservative again on Oct. 21. The real concern there is what the rest of Canada will do.
Residents and businesses worry a Liberal minority government would send a message to oil and gas investors that Canada is not open for business and prevent projects from moving forward.
“Ultimately, the federal election is going to determine, I guess, whether I stay or we go,” resident Tim Cameron said.
Cameron already works several days a year in the United States and is prepared to move permanently.
“I have friends and family that work across the globe. And everywhere they go, people are really open to taking Canadians because of our level of training,” he said.
Corporations are moving too, according to those in the industry.
“There’s a CEO of a large Canadian company, he’s purchasing distressed Canadian rigs, service rigs and deploying them in the US,” said Suits and Boots founder Rick Peterson.
It’s why workers like Bustin are urging voters to think of Alberta when they head to the polls.
“We have to work together — as a country, not just provincial. We can’t just have Alberta against everybody else.”