Our Story: Toni Snydmiller

I am an Albertan woman and I work in the oilfield. I work with men, good men, polite men, family men. Not once have I been concerned about their behaviour toward me. I only get treated with respect. Many of my family work in the oilfield as well. We’ve been an oilfield family for a couple generations. We’ve grown up watching our daddies, brothers, and uncles drive away as they leave for another hitch out in the bush. They come home weeks later…dirty, exhausted and worn out. They rest a few days, spend a short time with us and then leave us again. Life goes on in hitches. All to ensure their families…their children, have a good life.

I’ve seen first-hand what these oilfield people do on a daily basis. I see the sweat and the pain and the hard physical labor they do every day. I’m not talking 9-to-5 here, I’m talking 12+ hours a day outside, in both +30° and –30° weather. I’ve been on drilling rigs, service rigs, fracs, coil jobs, pipeline construction, facility construction and lease construction. Every single one of these jobs includes gruelling physical labour. It takes a different breed of person to do it. I challenge anyone who thinks they have it tough elsewhere to try this out. I’d bet money they wouldn’t last a day.

As for me? I’m not exactly on the front lines, I’m a paramedic, it’s my job to sit and watch the others work hard. Right now I’m sketching and learning Spanish. Honestly, it’s like I get paid to be bored, because when I’m busy it means something has gone wrong and someone’s hurt, and usually out here, if someone’s hurt it’s probably bad. So, I like to stay bored. It means the men and women I work with, whom I have come to love and respect, are all ok. I’m so thankful that with the high safety standards in today’s oilfield, serious incidents are very rare.

Like those workers, I live in a camp away from my family and friends and my 14-year-old son. Yes, I live with 185 men and a handful of women without issues! I grind out the days, day after day and lean on my little family-like crew when the loneliness gets too much. It’s very easy to let the isolation get to you. Especially when the locations we are on have no cell service. Sometimes I don’t talk to my son for days because of it. Even camp often doesn’t have sufficient cell or wifi service. On a good day, when I get back to camp I can call home. I can also browse through my Facebook. I see all sorts of crap being spread around, and the sad thing is, people believe it. The people protesting pipelines don’t have a clue…they don’t research the truth…they blindly follow and will believe anything the news vomits out. Mostly, it’s disinformation spread for a political agenda under the guise of environmental concern. There are pipelines that have been flowing throughout Canada since the ’50s without incident and somehow our higher quality, more advanced methods today will fail?

Those in coastal BC and Québec don’t have a clue that they’ve been manipulated by US and Liberal interests. They protest something that actually helps and maintains the rest of the country. They don’t want to hear the truth. It makes sense though, for like the famous Mark Twain quote going around Facebook says…. “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.”

Alberta and its oilfield has largely been the breadwinner of the Canadian provinces. We’re paying billions in equalization payments to other provinces who simply don’t have the resources. I think this is detrimental as a whole. This doesn’t give other provinces any incentive to become independent or to find ways to grow their own economies. Why would they when Alberta continually foots the bill? Their economies falter and Alberta’s people have always saved the day. I wonder how much of Québec’s 1.7 billion dollar surplus is Alberta’s contribution. I think their surplus should be added to the equalization don’t you? They’re flying above the hole, while Alberta sinks into it.

Here are a couple questions…Will Alberta still be responsible for the equalization payments when our economy falters further? Will we get the help we’ve always given, back? Seriously, how? The other provinces depend on us so heavily. They fight the pipelines and oilfield development with misguided fervour, putting us and our livelihoods in great peril. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Alberta and its oilfield not only supports the rest of Canada with equalization payments, we support it with much more than that. We employ thousands of people from other provinces who come here to make a living because as I said above, their provinces don’t have the work. Our oilfield provides steady income for the communities we work near. Once again, there’s no concern for the women there as our simple Prime Minister implied. We stay in their hotels and buy products and services in these communities. Some communities exist simply because oilfield workers needed it. When I was working outside of the oilfield, I owned a business where my clientele was largely from the oilfield and not once was I worried for my safety with those workers being around. I was however concerned when the oilfield hit lows. It affected my business drastically; so much so that I eventually closed the doors.

A number of Alberta’s oilfield workers invest in real estate in other provinces like BC. Many vacation in other provinces providing steady tourism income that many of their communities have come to depend on. Many workers from the East spend their income in their home provinces. The East has benefitted greatly from Alberta in many ways and still they turn a blind eye to our plight. They continue to bite the hand that is now stretched out for a helping hand up.

I see a focus in the East on a couple thousand people losing their jobs with the closure of a GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Even the Prime Minister expresses his disappointment about this. However, he hasn’t said anything about the 100,000+ jobs lost in Alberta’s floundering oilfield. How do we make you all see that without those oilfield jobs everyone in Canada suffers. I can’t believe how obtuse the rest of Canada has become.

I see nothing but strife ahead and I see suicide rates going up as more and more Albertans lose their employment, their homes, their families and lose their dignity. I see desperation and fear in the eyes of those lucky enough to still be working in such an uncertain place.

We need to work together as a country…united to keep us even on the world stage. For if we don’t, the failure of Alberta most certainly means the eventual failure of Canada.