As the price of oil continues to collapse, the shockwaves are sending Atlantic Canadians who moved west for work back home to look for jobs.
Welder Mario Chiasson is among them, making the transition from oil pipes in Alberta to new navy ships in his native Nova Scotia.
“Right now, there’s no work out there,” he said of the oil patch. “But [I’m] just happy to be home, and it’s been awhile that I’ve been wanting to work home.”
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Chiasson is confident he has job security, as the Irving Shipyard in Halifax promises to employ thousands of tradespeople over the next 30 years to build the next generation of Canadian combat ships.
“It’s nice knowing that every day you’re not [thinking], ‘Am I gonna get laid off? Is this my last shift?’”said Chiasson, who is originally from Cheticamp. a small town in Cape Breton.
It’s not just the workers moving back east —; the managers are, too.
Chris Berringer is the new production controller with the Irving shipyard after spending three years in Calgary working on oil and gas projects.
“When things started to slow down a little bit out west, I made the decision to come to Nova Scotia and hop onto this fantastic project opportunity that we have here,” he said.
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Chiasson and Berringer are not alone in leaving the energy business to return home.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates 100,000 direct and indirect jobs have gone by the wayside since the price of oil crashed.
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Not all workers are landing on their feet.
“With the slowdown in the oil sands, the drop in the price of oil, there’s a lot of pain,” said Bob Cadigan, president of the Newfoundland Offshore Industry Association.
“That pain is not just Alberta. In terms of employment, it’s really shared throughout Canada.”
Newfoundland and Labrador in particular is also feeling the effects. In recent years, an estimated 10,000 tradespeople from the province have travelled to Alberta for work in the oil patch, including 57-year-old Bruce Warren.
Warren, a carpenter and scaffolder, is among hundreds in the Marystown, N.L. area looking for work.
He knows there are far fewer western jobs than there used to be.
“You’re talking about a quarter of those people get jobs out there,” he said. “That’s about what you’re looking at.”
Warren hopes to retire in a few years, but until then he needs to work.
“I gotta pack a bag. I gotta go somewhere. Life still goes on. Bills still go on.”
Finding offshore jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador is one option, but the low price of oil and a crushing provincial deficit mean opportunities at home are also disappearing.
It’s something that makes Chiasson extremely grateful to have found work, especially close to home.
“The money is not the exact same, but when you come to look at it, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.