I found an interesting link over at Fort McMurray Musings that raised my ire and I thought I'd take some time to respond to it. It would appear that a recent article in the British version of GQ magazine has caught people's attention around town. It's certainly caught mine. Anyhow, it's really the same old hack journalism about Fort McMurray. Outsiders show up for a day or two with preconceived notions, write an article they think sums up the place and then leave. Really, I saw similar stuff when I lived in Nunavut. Usually I do my best to ignore this kind of tripe but after awhile it gets to be a bit much. Theresa has raised a good point on her blog, namely that its time for people here to tell our story rather than rely on the, often inaccurate, ill-informed efforts of others. So here is my effort for what it is worth.
I should add that I have been unable to locate the actual article in question. However, the two geniuses that wrote it did mention their trip on their blog here. It is to this blog posting that I respond below. Should I happen to come across the GQ article I will most definitely post it (with commentary) in a future post. Really, this post is so full of inaccurate and just plain bizarre statements I think I need a heavy hauler to plow through the rhetoric.
Alex and I spent about a week in early November in sub zero temperatures covering this story on the oil boom town of Fort McMurray for British GQ. The entire experience is still puzzling and we are still trying to understand this place.
Yes, start out by complaining about the weather. Come on now. Only true Canadians have a right to complain about cold weather. I actually don't recall November as being all that cold and I spend the majority of my working day (and sometimes my off days) outside. But really, if you find this place puzzling, why not try asking the people that live here rather than try to stuff this city into a box? It's called research. Writers from reputable magazines actually make an effort to do this.
The once sleepy and very isolated town of Fort McMurray, Canada sits on top of the world largest supply of oil. The problem is that it rests in a bed of mud known as tar sands and extracting it isn’t as simple as poking a hole in the ground and watching it gush out as easily as it does in other parts of the world.
Fort McMurray actually doesn't sit ON TOP of the world's largest supply of oil. It's actually located a few kilometers to the north. Saudi Arabia's supply is bigger. Seeing as Europe gets most of its oil from there and not Canada, one would think you would be aware of this.
Young men are flocking from all over in the hopes of landing a job where making as much as 250k a year working on site is common. But at what price… they work incredibly long hours, the ratio of men to single women, depending on who you talk to is 1:8 – 1:20 and most end up spending their hard earned money partying or on a super inflated real estate market.
WHAT? Making 250k/year is COMMON! Wow! I'm in the wrong job. Frankly I don't know anyone who does this. I can see people who work in the upper management of Suncor or Syncrude pulling in that kind of income perhaps but your average worker with one of the many contractors here? I don't think so. Sorry to burst your stereotype but I don't blow my money on partying...or drugs and alcohol for that matter. My hobbies include birding, classical music, wine appreciation, hiking and travel. And its not just men here but families as well. I think you have your ratios backwards there too. But even then they are incorrect. The most recent stats I found from March 2011 was a 2:1 ratio....a bit high yes, but not as skewed as you put it. As for a "super inflated real estate market" ever heard of Vancouver, Whitehorse, certain parts of southern California? Ever heard of London, England??
Also, to make things more interesting, Somali gangs from Ontario have moved in and are fighting for control of the criminal markets with the longer established Hell’s Angels.
Oh grief! Earth to GQ.....there are gangs everywhere...I'm sure they even have them in your beloved England. You make it sound like there is a shoot out on every corner. Give me a break. I actually work with a lot of Somalis. I can assure you that not one of them has ever tried to kill me. Actually, if you grew a brain and actually got to know some you might find they are not all that scary. Now, I know Europeans aren't the most tolerant of people and that whole "let's take over Africa because we are white and entitled to it" thing is big where you come from, and I'm not going to pretend we don't have our problems here, but really.....good on you to tar an entire group of people with the same brush. Every urban centre has gang issues to some extent. Even jolly England.
And one more last thing, The "Highway of Death" is actually called Highway 63. It only has the reputation it does because there are a few idiots out there like you that drive on it.