Living in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which is affectionately known as “The Mac,” is unlike living anywhere else in Canada. Not only is it of a high latitude and unique forest setting, but it is also the site of one of the largest oil excavations in the world. Fort McMurray’s oil operation is the most lucrative industry in Canada, and a vast number of the city’s residents make a living by working for one of the oil corporations. People come to Fort McMurray from around the world to earn a substantial living, and the city has the reputation of every oil boom town that proceeded it, but on a twenty-first century scale.
Life in the Mac is unique. Upon arrival, the city does not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but when one spends some time in Fort McMurray, they begin to notice things. The stores are under staffed. The traffic is badly congested. The cost of living is astronomical. All of these things are related to the overwhelming trend of piling into Fort McMurray for oil work. The city’s population continuously expands in staggering numbers, yet the work force is largely made up of oil workers, leaving other jobs and professions short handed and hardly able to keep up with the workflow. The city’s infrastructure was also designed for a much smaller population. One of the biggest complaints about Fort McMurray is that the roads and highways are not expanding with the population. And another well known fact about Fort McMurray is that housing prices are astronomically high. This is because the wages are the highest of anywhere in Canada, for oil jobs and regular jobs.
Oil is seldom discovered in scenic places that are desirable to live in. Fort McMurray is consistent with this trend. It is not considered to be a particularly scenic area of Canada. And the winters are miserable, reaching temperatures as low as minus 60. There is not a great deal of recreation available to the Fort McMurray population. Yet, for many, it is considered home and a source of financial security.