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Thank You, Oil Sands

Thank You, Oil Sands

There has been a lot of press lately about the economic benefits of the oil sands, how hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of benefits flow to all over Canada, but that is not what this thank you is for. This is for the men and women who have moved to and live in Fort McMurray and commute to work, year in and year out. Their work is invaluable not only in the economic benefit but to the rest of Canada, but really in how they lead the country in wages and how this results in real increases in peoples’ income across the county. As trades wage rates rise to over $60 per hour and engineering wages rise to over $65 an hour, these leading wages push the rest of the country and everyone benefits.
From the unions to individuals to companies that negotiate annual raises in the Fort McMurray region, thank you for leading real wage growth that the country must catch up to. At Suncor, a leading employer in Fort McMurray, plumber, gasfitter, machinist, millwright, carpenter, welder, crane operator, steamfitter-pipefitter, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, painter wages range from $62.07 to $68.38. Leading employers in the area are matching or coming very close to these wages for their trades’ employees.
Professional employee wages in Fort McMurray are also correspondingly quite high. As my old economics professor used to say “neighbours talk and the engineer does not want to make less than the power engineer”. Engineering salary data is not as readily available for Fort McMurray, but the Government of Alberta puts the median wage for mechanical engineers at $67.31 an hour, and APEGA puts the 2017 wage for a 5-10 year engineer in Alberta at over $138,000 per year.
These wages are quite high and used to correspond to the cost of housing in Fort McMurray but in recent years the cost of housing has risen dramatically in places like Vancouver and Toronto. An average 1 bedroom apartment is $1,350 in Fort McMurray and $1,762 in Toronto and $1,897 in Vancouver. As transportation companies try to continue to attract the trades and engineering staff they need in big cities they are facing huge challenges in being able to match the wages that Fort McMurray offers even with a low price of oil.
The current salaries being offered in high-cost cities like Vancouver and Toronto are unsustainable as the demand for trades, engineering and professionals rise in all regions across the country. Thankfully Fort McMurray is leading the way in wage increases and the rest of the country will come crawling along behind it.


Kael Campbell is President and Lead Recruiter of Red Seal Recruiting Solutions, a company providing recruitment services in mining, equipment and plant maintenance, utilities, manufacturing, construction, and transportation. When he is not recruiting, Kael spends as much time as possible with family in the great outdoors and on the water. He volunteers his time as a Board Member of the Entrepreneurs Organization of Victoria and a Member of Victoria Marine Search and Rescue. You are invited to subscribe to our employer newsletter or submit your resume.

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