Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I didn't really need Stats Canada to tell me about this but it was still interesting to see actual numbers.  Yes, on average, Albertans work more hours per week than anywhere else in Canada.  What did surprise me was the figure of 32.1 hours per week as I thought it would be higher.    No doubt this is because living where I do, long hours by Canadian standards are just par for the course.   It would be interesting to see what the Alberta average is with Fort McMurray taken out of the equation.

I recall one of my foremen telling me just a few weeks back about a fellow he knew who worked a 24 days on/4 days off schedule for an entire year.  Apparently, the guy was investigated by Canada Revenue since some bean counter couldn't believe it was possible to work THAT many hours.  On top of this, he was also putting in overtime.  I couldn't imagine working that many hours myself though I've met a few people that have work 24 and 4 for short periods at a time.  At my peak a couple years ago, I was putting in 84 hours a week.  This number doesn't include the time it took me to get from my bus stop to work.  That was back before a couple of much-needed overpasses were constructed.  Traffic was hellish at times to put it nicely and travel alone would typically add another 2 hours to my already long day.  At the time, I joked that my cat actually owned the house and just let me sleep there during those few hours it seemed that I wasn't either on a bus, waiting for a bus or at work.  Thankfully, I only worked those insane hours for a month before reverting to my average of 55 hours a week.  Currently, I'm averaging 42 hours per week...much easier on the body but again, still above the provincial average.

I bring this all up not to brag about being some sort of super-human but rather to highlight the importance of striking a balance between work and leisure time.  This is, of course, important regardless of where you work but I think it is especially important here.  I'll admit this wasn't always easy for me but I have gotten much better at it.  I count myself lucky as, unlike many, I have a house in town and don't live in camp.  I have a bit of military background so I know I can deal with living in a more institutional-type environment with large groups of people and cafeteria-style food.  I could deal with it but I figure, why put myself through it if I don't have to?  I'm also fortunate in that my hobbies (other than my interest in wine) don't cost a lot of money and can be done pretty much anywhere.

It bears remembering that, although there are many notions out there about this city being a place where  people come and make their riches, that there are often long hours involved as well.  I've heard the line many times too about how if you're not happy with the long hours than just move.  These people then become strangely silent on how exactly then you build a healthier, sustainable community if everyone just up and leaves but I digress.

I know I won't be in Fort McMurray forever.  I'm open and honest about that.   I try to see the good and the bad, which can be a struggle.  There are many things I choose not to write about because I am wary about feeding online trolls and stereotypes.  Long work hours here, though, are just part of the package.  It is what it is.  How you deal with it and strike a balance is the important part.  I don't always have control over my work hours (ok, I very rarely do) but how I choose to deal with it and find that balance is completely up to me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Motion 503 and Pandering to Bigots

While I never really intended this blog to become what one might term an "advocacy blog" there are certain times when I feel compelled to speak out on certain issues. Motion 503, which would have required school boards to develop policies to support students wishing to establish gay-straight alliance groups and activities in their schools, was defeated on the floor of the Alberta Legislature this past Monday.  While this motion would not have forced school boards to have such groups, it would have compelled them to accept their existence should students feel the need to have one.

It was disappointing, to say the least, to hear that Jeff Johnson, the Minister of Education, voted against the motion.  I was heartened to see that my own MLA voted in favour of the bill.  His constituency office is only a block away so I certainly know where to go if I need to track him down.  Unfortunately, as mentioned. the motion was defeated by a count of 31 to 19.

I do hope our PC government recovers from its seemingly chronic state of cranial-rectal inversion and joins us in the 21st century.  It's only just begun, really.  I'm sure there's lots of room.  Issues of suicide amongst youth due to bullying and homophobia have been unfortunately quite prominent in the media so I won't rehash everything here.  I will only add that any school group that works actively to prevent these tragedies from happening is a good thing and I find it frustrating that our so-called "leaders" would rather pander to bigotry for votes rather than actually move beyond talking and actually DO something about this issue.  Did Johnson actually go out and ask the opinion of his constituents or just pander to a few bigots in his church?  I'd love to get an answer to that one.

I did write an email on this topic to both the Minister Johnson on this issue.  Hopefully he  will grow a brain, recall that government works for US and not the other way around and get back to me on why he chose to vote the way he did.

I eagerly await his response.

Friday, April 4, 2014

How Trudeau Was Upstaged

So Justin Trudeau arrived in our region yesterday to beat the political war drum.  I had planned to write a bit on it and was actually in the process of doing up a post when his majesty was upstaged as a result of a Facebook conversation I had, not with le bebe but with a former student of mine from Nunavut.  I won't mention names here but can say that her kind words were heart-warming and inspiring and provided a welcome end to a long work day.

As a bit of background, I taught in a couple different Nunavut communities from 2003 to 2009, spending 2 years in Qikiqtarjuaq (formerly Broughton Island) and 4 years in Arctic Bay.  I actually didn't have this student in my class very long as she had moved to where I was working for part of a school year before returning to her home community.  As things turned out, I had flown through her community a couple of times and got to know some of the students there through some sports tournaments in Iqaluit I attended as a coach.  Frankly, I think it was only one (perhaps two) courses that I had her for so I didn't think I had really made that much of an impression.

Anyhow, as a way of showing how you can really have an impact on a person without knowing and also as a way of showing that teenagers really do listen (oftentimes more than we give them credit for) I've included a truncated version of our conversation below...minus some bad spelling and parts I'd rather just keep private.  I'll call her Marie.

Marie - How the heck are you?

Me - Not too bad.  You?

Marie - I'm great.  If it wasn't for me taking social studies in Arctic Bay I would never have went into NTEP [here she refers to the Nunavut Teacher Education Program run through Nunavut Arctic College].  I suck at social studies, but you can teach!

Me - Thanks :)

Marie - Take it as a compliment.  You're welcome.

Me - I saw you had done NTEP and were now back in [her home community]. That's awesome.  I really do appreciate that, Marie.

I then went on to mention about how I felt it was important for Nunavut to have local teachers in leadership positions and that she would do well to which she responded that having a mix of teachers from Nunavut and other parts of the country was a positive thing as well.

So there you have it.  I suppose we can all get hung up in image and people who just do a lot of talk.  I like to focus on the young people that actually get out and DO.  In my humble opinion, they do the greatest amount of good...and make the biggest difference.