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Nova Scotians are heading out west

But it's not for everybody

by Kendall Worth

For Nova Scotians with disabilities finding work in Alberta is not always an option.  Photo by Ecstaticist.
For Nova Scotians with disabilities finding work in Alberta is not always an option. Photo by Ecstaticist.

Over the past 10 to 20 years we have been hearing a lot about our youth heading out west to live and work. In most cases they end up working in the province of Alberta, because Alberta is where the majority of good paying jobs in western Canada are located.

Those Nova Scotians who had made this move would be at risk living in poverty if they were to continue to live in the Province of Nova Scotia. In some cases, if not most, this would mean to depend on Income Assistance.

It is downright difficult to give statistics on how many young people are actually leaving Nova Scotia. However it is clear that the numbers of Nova Scotians moving out west are in the high range.

I hear that the most of them are only out there for four days, or even less before they are actually working at full time jobs.

Putting myself up front, I sometimes wonder, “Is this option of going west the right route for me personally to escape poverty?” Even though I know lots of young Nova Scotians that have successfully escaped poverty this way, after doing a lot of long and hard thinking the answer is no.

This is not the right route for me personally to come out of poverty because I am a person with a learning disability, I have been diagnosed with impulse control disorder, and I also cannot handle a lot of stress. That I cannot handle a lot of stress is something I have experienced at past jobs before I started my current job of selling Street Feat newspaper.

Here in Nova Scotia there are supports and services available for people like me who have disabilities. These supports may not be available to me out West. Also, I would not be able to see my niece and nephew grow up.

Also, as a part of coming to my answer, I did research on this option and talked to a lot of my friends who actually live and work out West. I asked several of my friends who live in Red Deer, Grand Prairie, and Edmonton if they think that the places where they live are good situations for persons with disabilities.

My friends from Red Deer and Grand Prairie said that “in their personal day to day lives they see everybody around them as being able bodied and able minded.” This is however not to say that there are no persons with disabilities living in these places, they just don't notice.

On the other hand my friends who live in Edmonton had told me that they do see persons with disabilities around the area where they live. However, even my friends who live in Edmonton, tell me that their jobs are not for people with disabilities.

I contacted several of my friends in Alberta and asked them “if they think moving to Alberta would be the right move for me personally to escape poverty considering the fact that I have a learning disability?”

They answered that a lot of the good paying jobs which are available out West require you to have a skilled trade. They raised concerns that my learning disability would make me not understand the course content and if I fail the courses I will not be qualified to do the type of work I am training for.

Furthermore; they also said that because they know and understand the support services I have available to me here in Nova Scotia, Alberta may not have those same support services.

I recently conducted an interview with my friends Chris and Darleen who are close friends of mine who are formerly from Nova Scotia and now live in Alberta. They were back in Nova Scotia for a visit.

“Their reasons as to why they had left Nova Scotia and moved to Alberta is because they knew that if they continued to live in Nova Scotia they would fall into the trap of living in poverty and possibly would end up having to live on Income Assistance as their main source of income.

My friend Chris is a skilled welder. Out in Alberta they both have good jobs and make good money. Chris is working in his field and making $40.00 per hour. They said that out West they had met many others from Nova Scotia who had made the same move for the same reasons.

My friends informed me that companies in Alberta are looking for all types of workers. Jobs in Alberta range from construction to working in mines and the oil sands. They also said that the money people are making in Alberta is a lot better then what they would make in Nova Scotia doing similar types of work. For example:

  • Welders – In Nova Scotia they make $22.00 an hour. In Alberta people with this same trade make wages starting at $40.00 an hour.

  • Working at Tim Hortons, in Nova Scotia the worker makes minimum wage, $10.30 an hour. In Alberta the wages start at $15.00 per hour.

But, my friends informed me during the interview, the cost of living in Alberta is higher then here in Nova Scotia. However because they are making such good money in Alberta they do not really feel the effects of higher living cost. In fact, it is downright difficult to notice the difference between the cost of living in Nova Scotia and the cost of living in Alberta.

Chris and Darlene said that they met up with lots of other people formerly from Nova Scotia during their 15 years of living in Alberta. Chris commented that at his place of employment every second or third co-worker is originally from Nova Scotia and now living in Alberta.

Darleen mentioned that she has met up and got reconnected with her best friend from high school after they moved. They also said that everyone who they talk to who is formerly from Nova Scotia is doing very well for themselves and strongly feels that they made the right move in life.

I just want to end this article by saying it is sad to see the young people of Nova Scotia have to move to find employment and make a better a life for themselves.

As well, a lot of my good friends and some of my best friends who I used to do social activities with are now living out West, and a few of them are living in Ontario. This adds to my feeling of isolation.

At the same time I personally do not blame them for not continuing to live in Nova Scotia. If these friends of mine were still living in Nova Scotia, there is a very good chance they would be living on income assistance as their main source of income. These people would not be living nowhere near as well as they are living now.


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