With some reflections, the tutor opens a discussion about the price of oil.
For years, I tutored high school math to young men headed to Alberta or Saskatchewan. Months later, in the oil fields, they made several times what I did. I recall hearing that one of my students, two years after his tutoring with me, was making a quarter million a year.
I never resented what the oil workers made; I celebrated it. Vancouver Island seems not to have a lot of industrial opportunity; optimistically, there was opportunity you could point to, east.
After the closure of the pulp and paper mill here – I believe in 2009 – many of Campbell River’s fathers left for the oil fields as well. Often they made much more there. Oil receipts kept families living here.
Eventually, a high price of oil came to mean prosperity for Campbell River. With so many of our people working in Fort McMurray or other oil towns, the job situation here often wasn’t considered. Rather, the job situation there was foremost. Campbell River remained an industrial town; the industry was just being carried on in the oil fields.
Inevitably, the drop in oil prices has brought job loss. In my own mind, a question has emerged that I haven’t considered since university, over 20 years ago: Is industrial money too fickle to plan a future around?
As my wife points out, when the people involved in primary (production) industries are working, they seem to make more than anyone. Their earnings infuse their surroundings with opportunity. In my experience, there is no better place to live than a blue-collar town where the mill, mine, or plant is hiring.
Yet, primary industry – the oil industry being a perfect example – seems the most vulnerable to economic cycles. Jobs like teaching or medical professions, as well as trades like auto mechanics or plumbing, seem much more secure. Considering the future, a person can’t ignore these considerations – especially in a place like Vancouver Island, where primary industry seems to be on a long-term decline.
I’ll be talking more about the price of oil in coming posts:)
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.