The lure of the West

Andrew Wagstaff
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Alberta boom continues to draw Maritimers away from home

The lure of the West

CALGARY, Alta. It was not long ago that Kurt Fawthrop was buried in bills, living with his family paycheque to paycheque. Now hes making triple the money, getting ahead and loving it.

The Amherstonian is one of many Maritimers who have made the move out West to make more money and provide more for his family. He had to leave his wife and kids behind to do this, and he is not alone.

I was overridden with student loan debt and other bills, and just could not get ahead in the job I was at, he explained. I was working at a call centre in Sackville, which had decent money and benefits for the area, but when you threw in all the house expenses and child-care expenses, we just could never seem to make ends meet.

After receiving advice from friends who had already made the move, Fawthrop went to Alberta to seek a better-paying job, and it did not take long. He quickly got hired as a mechanics helper on a heli-portable seismic drilling crew, making 2.5 times the salary he had been paid at the call centre back home.

He has since moved on to a new job as a medic at an oilrig, which he has been doing since January.

When I came out, I had a two-year plan to make enough money to pay off the student loans, get the down payment for the house and move back, he said. The trouble is I like the work, I like the industry and I really like the money it provides for the family.

It only costs him two days salary to fly home once per month, which he does rather than keep an apartment in Alberta. He has looked at jobs back home, but knows he cant come back and make $8 to 10 per hour again.

On the other side of the coin, Heidi Bergeron is a transplanted Westerner living in Parrsboro who moved to Nova Scotia from Saskatchewan 20 years ago. During that time she has struggled to find work that pays well, and now drives outside her community to work because of the lack of jobs in rural areas.

Her family is now looking at moving back to rural Saskatchewan, where she said they could buy a nice home for less than $60,000 in a community with two schools, a college, curling club, a pool and arena, close to large centres, and with a smaller population than Parrsboro.

There are more jobs there, with more hours and better pay; plus taxes and the cost of living in general are better, she said. I find Nova Scotia lags behind in development and progress compared to the West. I have always seen Nova Scotia as a retirement province and never felt at home here. I look forward to the day when I will be heading back west.

Geographic location: Alberta, Nova Scotia, Sackville Parrsboro Saskatchewan

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