Tag Archives: Air Canada

The complicated politics of resource extraction

25 Jul

I flew home the other night from Saskatoon. I had just spent 7 days in Sasktaoon, 6 days at Otter Lake (about an hour north of La Ronge, 6 hours north of Saskatoon), and 2 days at Ness Creek, near Big River, at a music festival. All three areas feature the diverse landscapes of the province, with rivers cutting through grasslands, Boreal forest along the Canadian Shield and other sights that I could explain here, or you could just go and see for yourself.

While I was at Otter Lake, I spent a lot of time gazing at everything around me: from the roots, rocks, mosses and lichens to trees, lakes, sky, bugs etc., the entire place was alive. I didn’t spend much time thinking of what was below my feet but it’s likely that, if extracted, mixed with seriously toxic shit, boiled, cooled, boiled again, put into a magic hat and spit upon, it could make some asshole really rich.

On my flight, I met a guy who was flying home to New Brunswick. He was a worker at a uranium mine very close to where I was staying at Otter Lake. He works 20 days straight, 12 hours a day for ~$120K. Then, he’s flown home for 10 days with his family.

As we were talking, the guy in the seat ahead stuck his head around. He was from NB too. Jealous of a 10 day break as he was returning in 8.

It occurred to me that most of the men on my flight were on the same schedule, doing the same trip.

In this context, the Air Canada labour negotiations this past year made total sense: flying in thousands of workers to Saskatchewan and Alberta from economically depressed regions of Canada must be a huge chunk of their business. If government is in the pockets of the resource extraction industry, they have an interest to prevent Air Canada workers from striking.

So, wildcat strikes will become even more important. They’ll be a means to kick not only management, but also profiteering land pirates in the junk.

But I’m jumping around. What about an industry that steals from the land, destroys forest, land, water, eco-systems and traditional ways of life, fueled by willing workers who will leave their homes for a six-figure pay cheque? What does the reliance on out-of-province workers mean for the sustainability of these industries?

As unemployment climbs and as the middle class falls into the lower class, Canadians are going to be more willing to take on these jobs and generate profits for major multinationals. Government  should be protecting Canadians from such exploitation, but instead, our current lot of clowns would likely rather see Canadians continue to slide economically. More workers, lured by the promise of less wages to work five or six provinces over from where their families reside.

It’s really sick. And, in absence of a social solidarity that would make taking a job like this an impossibility, it’s only going to get worse.

I have no solution to this issue. Hell, I’ve barely articulated it in a way that makes as much sense as I set out to do. So I’ve written a song about this that I’ll put out there once recorded. Which, because of my current unemployment, I’ll post later.

Or, hell. Maybe I should get a job out in Northern Saskatchewan…I love it there. Free trip? OK Work? Six figures? Damn.