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LETTER: A letter to oil field families

Newfoundland Flag - Stock
THe flag of Newfoundland flag. — 123RF Stock Photo

We live in a province we love dearly. Our families are here and the beauty is incomparable. You’re right, it is getting harder to stay. You feel you may have to leave for better opportunities, but some of us have no choice but to stay because these opportunities simply do not exist. They never have.

Our government fed us the same lies. In high school I was told — promised even — that a degree would get me a good job in any field I chose. Yes, I’d have a student loan, but it would be worth it. I’d be one of the few in my large family to get a bachelor’s degree. I’d make my family proud.

Like you, I was told that the oil industry would keep Newfoundland and Labrador economically stable and would continue to do so for a very long time. I was too focused on the day-to-day stresses of obtaining my degree — my golden ticket — to think about the oil industry much at all. Danny Williams seemed to be doing a good job of fighting for us and, like my parents before me, and theirs before them, I trusted that the wealthy, powerful man would save us. And then, like you, I was told that Muskrat Falls and our supposedly cleaner energy would ensure our continued prosperity.

None of this is true though. I should have known.

I am not blaming you for taking a well-paying job to care for your families and stay close to home. Please understand, though, that many people in Newfoundland did not have that opportunity.

In 2007, after eight months of fruitlessly searching for jobs in my field, I discovered my golden ticket wasn’t valid here. I went to Alberta. In 2009, I moved back home. I sacrificed my career and credit score for my mental health and a sense of community. I found myself with insurmountable debt. I worked part time for $15 an hour and had another full-time job at $10 an hour.

It’s not our fault, we’re not taught about how our government functions, the importance of voting and our role in who makes decisions on our behalf. Our education system tells us our worth is directly related to our productivity. Go to school, work hard, get a good job.

I am not blaming you for taking a well-paying job to care for your families and stay close to home. Please understand, though, that many people in Newfoundland did not have that opportunity. The job loss and financial insecurity you’re facing was always there for us. The social programs your taxes were supposed to pay for do not exist. Instead, our tax money was spent on Muskrat Falls, ignoring and harming Indigenous people in the process.

The government continues to put money into oil, an extremely harmful and dying industry — something politicians have known for many, many years.

I fantasize about what the province would be like if Muskrat Falls did not exist, and our oil field workers were transitioned into a green economy. We would not be where we are today — arguing with each other on social media.

I, too, am a parent. I worry about my child’s future — not his job prospects or ability to get by financially, but the literal impacts on his health if the climate crisis isn’t taken seriously.

I hope that the oil industry does not exist in his adulthood. I also hope that he doesn’t have to wake up each day worried about life-threatening realities like food and housing insecurity, debilitating air pollution and increased risk of disease due to rising temperatures.

Much like the empathy and understanding you wish to see online, I ask the same of you, for people who are living in poverty, poor health and crippling debt. I’m asking you to join other Newfoundland and Labradorians in demanding that the government switch to a green economy with a focus on job retention and training. We need this for the future and health of our children, and their children. And to keep this province as the beautiful gem that it is.

Also, you should stop reading comments on social media. They’re rarely kind to anyone.

Alley Doyle

St. John’s


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