Fort McMurray in 2007


in Canada, Economics, History

The city existed in a perpetual state of growth and agitation. Numbers were murky at the peak of the boom — no one could get a clear count of the “shadow population” living in work camps and other short-term arrangements — but safe to say there were many hundreds like Raheel Joseph arriving each month. Hundreds and hundreds of young people, young men especially, who’d come from somewhere far away because here was a place where the full scale of opportunity a person could grasp all at once was still an open question. And so there were too many people and there was too much money and there was not enough of anything else in Fort McMurray in 2007. A little snow or a single stalled truck, and traffic on Highway 63 was pure gridlocked chaos. You went to Walmart, and no one was stocking shelves — they couldn’t afford the wages to pay someone to do it, and there was no time. They just put the groceries or housewares or work clothes or whatever new stuff made it to the boomtown that week out on pallets, and the pallets would be empty within hours. This was really how things went, day in and day out. Any warm body could find a job, but try to get a table at a restaurant, try to get a coffee at Tim Hortons in less than half an hour, try to find a bed to sleep in.

Turner, Chris. The Patch: The People, Pipelines and Politics of the Oil Sands. Simon & Schuster, 2017. p. 5

Related: Boomtowns and bitumen

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