It’s far from proven fact, but I’ve heard it said often enough that I’m convinced there must be some truth to it: there are more Atlantic Canadians living away than there are at home. How can that be? Because the people of this region are, by nature, hard-working and conscientious and they have always gone where work was to be found. But here’s the thing: the work is finally to be found here at home — they just don’t know it yet.
Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I don’t think they’re unaware of their homeland’s acute shortage of skilled labour. I believe it’s more that they don’t know whether they can trust that the good fortune is here to stay. Or, if there’s sufficient work here to warrant giving up a guaranteed high-paying job with all the hours they can work and unbelievably generous bonuses too.
There’s an old adage that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Like a lot of old adages, it’s true — but this is one of those occasions when you really need to understand and appreciate the big picture because individual snapshots do not give our region’s industrial scene its due. When the situation is fully assessed in its proper context, the appropriate response to all of the above-mentioned doubts is an unqualified, resounding: “Move home? Heck, yes!”
That said, I can understand (sort of) how anyone looking at each project individually might conclude that several years of work constructing Vale’s Long Harbour nickel processing facilities might not be enticement enough to quit the rich Alberta oil fields. Nor might that person be moved by similar employment opportunities associated with just the $450-million topside and GBS contracts for Hebron. Likewise Irving Shipbuilding’s $25-billion defence contract. Or the required effort to harvest 220-million bbls (and counting) from the Hibernia South extension. Or Shell’s $970-million exploration commitment offshore Nova Scotia. Or the highly anticipated Muskrat Falls hydroelectric develop-ment in Labrador.
It’s true. One of these projects, in and of themselves, might not be sufficient motivation to uproot kids and kin. But together, they provide a continuity of financially prosperous and personally rewarding work that virtually guarantees steady employment for this generation and the next.
Equally exciting are the spin-off jobs in associated industries such as the post-secondary sector with its emerging specialty programs in deepwater, engineering, ice avoidance, and northern environments. The hotel and convention trade, too, is growing, as are information technology, service and supply companies, the legal sector, real estate markets, and on and on and on it goes.
Which reminds me of another old adage: there’s a saying that money attracts money, and that’s definitely true here in Atlantic Canada. The level of investment that’s been pouring into our energy-rich region over the past five years is already attracting the attention of other international players. The more they learn about our stable government and regulatory regime, our fabulous standard of living and high levels of education, not to mention our business-friendly environment (Play Fairway, anyone?) and our wealth of as-yet untapped resources, the more these companies want to get in on the action.
These really are exciting times in the Maritimes and it’s my personal opinion that we’ll never see hard times here again. And who better to share it with than family and friends? Let’s get our people home. Not only will it immediately cure the skilled labour shortage, but it’ll make for one monster of a party. We have a lot to celebrate after all.