Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Northern Workers and Blame, Part Two

Well, people, it seems my post from yesterday started a little bit of a fire both here in Fort Mac and in Edmonton. Now, that's not a bad thing in my mind - we need to open a dialogue on these topics, although preferably without the pitchforks and burning-at-the-stake aspects. So, here is what has happened since I posted yesterday morning.

Kim Krushell, the Edmonton city councillor I wrote about, has now clarified the comments she made to the CBC and says her remarks were taken out of context. I can accept that, people, and I know it happens. I'm not sure if she thinks I took them out of context or if CBC did, but this is the original article showing what she stated. Her implication seemed fairly clear (and I didn't even comment on the statement about a "better holding facility would give the partiers a safe place to sleep", which to me loosely interpreted means "let's lock up all those drunk northern workers until they sober up and get out"). So, maybe she was misquoted and misinterpreted - and I wish it could end there, but it hasn't.

Last night someone showed me this via Twitter. This is City of Edmonton official spokesperson Jeff Angel, who has stated that "Edmonton's bearing the brunt of a petroleum-driven workforce that blows off steam leading to violence". He also stated that going to Edmonton is like going to Disneyland for "camp workers", and while I love Edmonton I don't think anyone is going to mistake it for Disney, do you? (and I think Disney has a much lower crime rate, incidentally)

So, benefit of the doubt time. Maybe Ms. Krushell didn't mean her remarks to imply what I, and many others, thought they did. So what about Jeff Angel, then? Was he taken out of context, too? Or is this "northern worker problem" some kind of undercurrent going on in Edmonton city hall that has begun to leak out into the media? Is this what they talk about behind closed doors, how to deal with us "northern workers" who are creating their problems? I sincerely hope not - but there seems an awful lot of this kind of comment appearing in the media right now, and that makes me deeply suspicious.

Look, people, I happen to love Edmonton. And Calgary, and Banff, and Red Deer, and the rest of Alberta. I consider ALL of this province my home, and I think we are in this together for better or for worse. When people target the oil sands for reproach the bulls-eye isn't just on Fort Mac, it's on all of us in this province. When an oil well experiences a blowout I worry for those around it. When grizzlies are killed by trains in Banff I am saddened by their loss. When someone is murdered in Edmonton I am horrified and I feel for their community. This isn't about pointing fingers and blame and recriminations and who is at fault - it's about our province, and how we are going to handle our boom-bust economy. We could descend into scapegoating and blaming and pointing fingers, but who does that serve? How does that solve the issues? Who does that help? Or, in the end, does that just harm all of us and instead of strengthening our bonds as a province and a community severs them?

I doubt this story is over yet, although I'd like to believe that maybe we have started a discourse that can help us to better understand how we can help each other and work together instead of blaming each other. The time for blame and an "us versus them" philosophy is over. The time to find solutions for all our communities has arrived. Let's get at it, shall we?

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