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ChristineViljoen

Cost of living in Fort McMurray

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Bob Fitzsimmons
My question was work related therefore I will respond under the heading "Seeking Work in Fort McMurray.

Employer / Employment Info: see under "Seeking Work in Fort McMurray"

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Bob Fitzsimmons

Who am I? see under "Seeking Work in Fort McMurray"

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Bob Fitzsimmons

280 Unemployed See under "Seeking Work in Fort McMurrray"

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Bob Fitzsimmons
Employer / Employment Info: see under "Seeking Work in Fort McMurray"

Updated Aug 17.

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Alwyn
Credit Cards might also be used. If you have an International Credit Card such as Amex / VISA it is usful to build your credit rating prior to coming to Canada. Borrow 100,000 ZAR on the card, or what ever you maximum is, and deposit in your bank account. 72 hours later pay it back. Do this once a week. After 6 weeks ask for an increase, but at a reduced interest rate. They will check and see you are a good risk, because you pay promptly. As you do not have a statement yet over pay the interest each time. Increase your limit to 250,000, or the largest increase you can get, and repeat. Keep increasing you limit to 4 Million / 6 Million if possible.

Do you mean borrow on your South-African issued International credit card? Would this not mean that you effectively need a SWIFT transaction to deposit the funds into your Candadian bank account and vice-versa?

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Bob Fitzsimmons

Do you mean borrow on your South-African issued International credit card? Would this not mean that you effectively need a SWIFT transaction to deposit the funds into your Candadian bank account and vice-versa?

What you are doing is increasing the value of your credit in SA. You are NOT transfering money to another place. Only establishing that you are a very good credit risk on an International Card. Then when you move to another country it is easier to establish credit based on your risk assesment from when you lived in SA, because you are still using your same International Credit Card. If you move from Cape Town to Durban, you don't give up your card and start again. You only have a change of address. It's the same as if you go on Holiday to New Zealand, and want to use your card for Hotels, purchases, etc. If your limit is low your restricted. Your a poor risk. If your limit is high your NOT restricted, because you have established you are a good risk.

When you move you do the same type of thing. Borrow, Deposit, Pay Back.

It's only a method to establish your value in regards to a credit card.

The trick is NOT to spend the money and get into debt. Stick it in the bank for a few days then pay it back.

This may be in error as I have not done it in SA, but I have in other countries.

If you transfer money from Canada to another country it is in an International Account. This means that in essance it's still in Canada, but available to you in another place. This was a great help if the country had restrictions on the export of money as it did not apply to me as my money was in effect still in Canada. This allowed me to purchase Travelers Cheques for my friends - without limit - and deposit money without restriction, as in effect it was going directly to Canada.

Edited by Bob Fitzsimmons

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Pierre

I am glad to be back safe and sound.

It was 112°F when we landed in Phoenix.

In Arizona you need lots of water, shade and an air conditioner to survive in summer. There is not much shade, not too much water, and air conditioners are set at full blast. We toured the red rock area around Sedona, AR.

Vegas was fun but not quite where I would spend every vacation.

The taxi driver says most of his canadian visitors come from Alberta these days.

His impression is there is a lot of money up there and he knows about the oil sands.

When people see my name they ask if Im from Quebec. I am getting good at giving a one paragraph summary of why I have a french name, am of South African origin and accent, and have a Canadian address and now a Canadian citizen.

Grand Canyon was fantastic! So was a flip through monument valley and four corners. Monument valley is considered the 8th wonder of the world.

Money in Vegas - I didnt lose much. Didnt see anyone win anything worthwhile either. I almost bought a time share unit. Signed up for it and then cancelled three days later. You have five days to change your mind in Nevada.

There is a lot of barren land in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. When we returned today it was a feast for my eyes to see the green forests of FtMcM covering the landscape.

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Bob Fitzsimmons

Glad you had a good time, but I agree - Green is good

Vegas is an easy place to loose your money.

I was outside an area that was curtained off having a chat. A guy about 45, with a cowboy hat, amd a "hot" young thing on his arm went in. About 12 minutes later he came out, and walked past my friend and I.

As he passed he said "Well, it didn't take long to loose 500 Grand". It didn't seem to bother him a bit.

What could you / I do with a spare 500 Grand?

New shoes? New Jeans? A $20:00 boguet for the little lady? A spare tire for the car?

Edited by Bob Fitzsimmons

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Pierre

Local RCMP officers get a pay boost

Thursday October 04, 2007

RCMP employees in Fort McMurray can look forward to a boost to their paycheques starting next month.

Both civilian and non-civilian RCMP workers in the region will be eligible to receive an annual living assistance of $9,400, said Cpl. Wayne Oakes, media relations officer with the RCMP’s K Division in Edmonton.

The boost in pay is part of a five-year pilot program recently approved by the Treasury Board of Canada, Oakes said.

“I must put heavy emphasis on it being a pilot program,” he added, noting that the living assistance payment could cease at any time. “There are a number of criteria that have to be in place (for payments to continue).”

For example, recipients become ineligible if they are receiving other government housing allowances or if they can commute to work from a lower-cost area, Oakes said.

“Given the location of Fort McMurray, that last option isn’t very likely,” he said. “This program is based on the unique economic situation in the city.”

RCMP constables currently make between $40,500 and $72,000 annually depending on experience, while wages for sergeants could reach as high as $93,000 a year.

Those wage levels, however, are hit hard by the skyrocketing living costs in Fort McMurray.

“We, like anyone else, have found challenges of operating here,” said Insp. Rene Wells, officer in charge of operation support for the Fort McMurray detachment. “I think anything will help.”

Wells said the local detachment relies significantly on freshly-trained officers members from their training centre in Regina, and the new living assistance program will help make Fort McMurray more attractive.

“Certainly, this goes a long way in helping them adapt to life in Fort McMurray,” he said.

Oakes said there are ongoing discussions to determine whether the RCMP should make retroactive living assistance payments to staff here, although nothing is concrete at this time.

Earlier this year, the Alberta government announced a plan to supplement the wages of teachers and health workers in the region by $1,040 a month to help with the high cost of housing. Unionized provincial employees in Fort McMurray negotiated a similar pay boost a few years ago.

The RCMP is a federal institution, and wasn’t under the scope of the provincial funding. Wood Buffalo officials said earlier this year that they would be prepared to help make the money for local RCMP officers a reality if called upon.

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Pierre

From the Wall Street Journal the cover story --Enjoy

This Is the Life: Luxurious Digs On Frigid Oil Sands

Firms in Canada Pay Well, And Steak Is on the Menu; 'Smell of Money' Beckons

December 5, 2007

WOOD BUFFALO, Alberta -- Mike Savoie's new room comes with a 20-inch flat-screen TV, double bed, high-speed Internet access and daily maid service. Prime rib is on the Thursday dinner menu. The bar opens at 6 p.m., and if that doesn't relax him, there's a yoga class at 7.

The cost to the 38-year-old heavy-equipment operator of what he calls his "five star" accommodations? None.

Up here, in the white-hot center of the Canadian economy, riches are being pulled out of the yawning black pits of the Alberta oil sands like cash from an ATM. The Canadian dollar, propelled by oil hovering around $90 a barrel, has surged more than 60% to virtual parity with the U.S. dollar in the past five years. Now, the biggest hurdle oil companies have is finding enough skilled workers to operate the shovels.

That's why Mr. Savoie, who moved here from New Brunswick last month, is enjoying his luxurious new digs. As Canada's unemployment rate hovers at a 33-year-low of 6% -- and Alberta's at 3% -- oil companies are in a fierce bidding war for labor. Salaries have gone through the roof. Inexperienced truck drivers can make C$100,000 a year. Experienced welders can make C$200,000 a year. Now companies are trying to lure employees by reversing what has traditionally been the worst part of working in a remote oil field: grim lodgings, bad food and nothing to do after work.

Last month, Shell Canada, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, formally opened Albian Village, Mr. Savoie's home and the centerpiece of a $12 billion project that includes housing for 2,500 employees. Each worker will have a private room with a phone and satellite TV and access to a sprawling recreation center with a bar, movie theaters, an indoor basketball court, running track and ice-hockey rink.

To organize classes, sports leagues and fitness regimens, Shell hired five recreational directors. The kitchen allots three pounds of steak per week per worker. On the menu one recent Friday: lamb chops, a seafood medley, steamed asparagus and apricot turnovers.

"We're hoping that these guys will go home to Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and tell their friends that Shell is where they should come if they want to work in the oil sands," says Shell spokeswoman Janet Annesley, noting the millions of dollars at stake when labor shortages cause delays.

Mr. Savoie, who is single and recently bought a C$40,000 Ford Mustang, said he will earn more than C$100,000 this year, up from C$60,000 last year. He is full of praise for the big oil companies that are treating him like one of the new princes of Alberta. "There's a lot to do," he says. "And the pay is great."

He acknowledges the oil sands -- spread across an area the size of Florida, and with a current temperature of about 1 degree Fahrenheit -- are still considered a hardship post, especially for people with families far away. The landscape up here is marked by gaping holes in the earth, miles-long pools of dead water and a stench of petroleum that the workers grimly call "the smell of money."

With most workers planning to work for a few years, make big money and go home, Fort McMurray -- in the center of the oil sands -- has the look and feel of a boomtown. The population has doubled to 65,000 in 10 years. The price of a single-family house jumped C$150,000 in the past year to C$625,000. In seven years, home prices have tripled. The roads and sewers can barely keep up.

As the cost of living skyrockets, service workers are also in short supply and they have a hard time paying their rent.

Frank Saraka, who runs the Canadian Tire department store here, says he would like to hire an additional 35 employees but can't find them. In the meantime, he has called the police repeatedly to throw out customers angry at the slow service. Signs in many establishments around town -- including the hospital emergency room -- warn customers that "abuse of employees will not be tolerated."

But almost everyone connected to the oil sands is making good money and that has attracted drugs and prostitution. Bookending the mayor's office in the town center are Digger's Strip Club and the Boomtown Casino. The phone book has 11 pages of escort services. Drugs are easy to find.

Alex Pitzel, manager of Herbal Essentials not far from Canadian Tire, estimates he sells about 50 flush kits meant to help workers clear their blood of illegal substances and 25 packages of synthetic urine every week to oil-sands workers worried about flunking random drug tests.

"A lot of them say their bosses tell them to come in and get a detox because they can't afford to fire them," Mr. Pitzel said.

With an estimated $100 billion in new projects currently being planned, new mines are being situated farther away from Fort McMurray. Some are inaccessible by road. As a result, work camps have become increasingly important -- especially when shifts can run 12 hours a day, for six weeks, followed by a couple of weeks off.

Northern work camps have historically been rough, austere places. Men slept six to a room with too much noise bouncing off too-thin walls. The food, while abundant, was cheap and heavy. Bathrooms were little more than port-a-potties. "Prison with a paycheck," is how one veteran described it.

"I remember the meat used to be rainbow colored," says Dave Drummond, president of the Fort McMurray chapter of the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada.

With the Alberta Minister of Employment, Immigration and Industry now making trips to Asia and Europe to recruit workers and with companies pitching jobs on marketing roadshows across Canada, conditions are getting better every year. In 1999, when Suncor Energy Inc. opened its Millennium Lodge, 49 workers shared a washroom. The next year they opened up the Borealis Lodge nearby with two workers to a bathroom. Now the Millennium Lodge is undergoing renovations and the bathrooms are being upgraded along with the lighting, beds and mattresses.

Workers have a choice of 17 types of sandwiches for their bagged lunches to eat during their shifts. In their time off, they can play in a 20-team baseball league. Housekeepers make the beds every morning and change sheets on Mondays.

In 2005, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., as part of its $7 billion Horizons oil-sands project, built the first of three, three-story dormitories at a cost of $30 million each, near the Suncor project north of Fort McMurray. The workers have access to an ice-hockey rink and a training center for students who left college early to work as apprentices.

Instead of subjecting its employees to a six-hour bus ride to Edmonton once every 10 days for a four-day respite, Canadian Natural has a Boeing 737 to shuttle workers off site.

Near Albian Village, Shell built an airstrip that is among the largest private runways in northern Canada. Beyond the free flights and the Tim Hortons coffee shop, workers can request food from the kitchen for specific dietary needs or religious food laws.

For Mr. Savoie, all that food raises some concerns. "I don't want to put on too much weight while I'm up here," he says. "I'm going to use the gym a lot."

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Pierre

It's been more than a year ago that a post was made in this topic.

I hear of people reading it over and over. There has been more than 16000 hits.

Would any of you wonderful people that made it here in the meantime care to reflect on your experiences compared to what you thought before the time.

Is it as bad as you thought - is it worse than you thought - is it perhaps better than you thought.

There are SA people still arriving in the fort on a regular basis and then vanishing off the radar.

Like the squirrels, we know you are out there, we just don't see you that often.

Give us some feedback please.

It would help those still on the way here. I know of at least one still in the pipeline.

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QRM

Hi all

I'm going to throw a spanner into this thread, about working at the Oil Sands.

I will post in more detail at a later stage.

I live in Vancouver but I spend about 6 months of the year contracting at several Oil sands operations.

I am fortunate when I'm up there to fly back to Vancouver every weekend.

Money is the big pull at Ft Mc if its the money your after go ahead but be warned as indicated already the prices are so high in the area

and the housing so far and few between that no matter how much you make your not going to make more gains than anywhere else in Canada urning much less.

While at the same time having to put up with what I could only call the winter equivalent of Hell.

If you have not spent time in FT Mc no stretch of the imagination will prepare you for how bad and how cold the winter is.

It will knock your breath away the moment you walk off the plane.

Your watch and glasses to cold burning your arm and nose.

I have spent a lot of time at the north pole and Siberia.

Ft MC is Canada's Siberia in fact it beats my experiences at the north pole and Siberia.

The last winter I was caught outside waiting for a cab at close to -40 (Airport locked behind me)

in a light wind, in full snow gear, I had to pull out my emergency blanked (A silver blanket we carry in our backpacks)

and huddle, had burns on my fingers under my Gloves - you have no idea ...

The camps or lodges are not hotels, prison camps we like to call them.

You have a room with enough space to hold your arms out.

1 bed

1 mirror

1 chair

1 TV

No wash basin

No toilet

No shower.

A good walk down super long passages will get you to shared amenity's.

Internet not free, with the exception of a few camps.

You constantly have people walking up and down the dorms so getting a good night sleep in is a push.

Your room is either boiling hot or super cold depending where you are placed in the camp holding over 3000 people a side.

The night sounds like Baghdad as the gas powered 'shot guns' scare the birds away from the slimes dams

Yes the air does smell like money - its odd but the US dollar smells like OIL.

The smell of oil is everywhere - get used to it you will be breathing this everyday.

You wont smell it anymore after a few weeks.

When the snow melts everything is oil and mud , and then the bugs - and the 'tar sands beetle' biting chunks out of your neck.

ATM or bank machines charge you 5$ a pop for a transaction.

Everything in the camp shops are gold lined.

Miss your bus or flight out and plenty a cab or taxi will take you back to FtMac at nice rate of $200

Catch someone at a smoke break, and everyone says the same, "how the hell did I end up here..."

Nobody hangs around FT MC for long, 2 to 5 years max and they have had enough, except for a few exceptions.

FT MC is for the tough and the hungry.

I turned down an offer of over 250 000 to relocate - would not move my family to Mordor for any amount of money.

Whats the point of earning all that money but gaining nothing, in ice hell...

I watch grown men cry as oil shares fell to the floor.

hundreds of workers laid off overnight rendering 3 camps empty.

foreign workers being some of the first to go.

Its a very volatile industry 1 min everyone is laughing the next no-one around to laugh.

On the positive side, I have nothing bad to say about the men and woman working there.

I find them a wonderful group of people, quite remarkable to work with, made some remarkable friends.

Safety and working standards are excellent.

FT MC is only for a very few very dedicated and open minded group.

If you looking for a white picket fence dream future, this is not the place, you WILL only be passing through.

To make a quick buck - sure....

This was my experience, others may disagree.

But as a fellow South African I feel it is my duty to warn you its going to be very hard and very difficult.

Its not your typical Canada... its an exception of the worst kind can think of a more depressing place.

But if you go knowing this, you will be ok, expecting anything else and your going to fall apart.

It's no rumor when they talk about the the tough Men and Woman in Ft Mc.

Linton

Edited by Linton

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Pierre

That is quite a big spanner - I think this is what people coming to FMM (either relocating or temporary working) want to hear. They want to know how you experience life here and how you feel about it.

There are some people that travel up from Calgary who commute by plane to FMM regularly as well.

I look forward to hearing more real life experiences.

Keep in mind the topic is "Cost of living in FMM" ... and related economic matters of course, as reflected above.

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QRM
That is quite a big spanner - I think this is what people coming to FMM (either relocating or temporary working) want to hear. They want to know how you experience life here and how you feel about it.

There are some people that travel up from Calgary who commute by plane to FMM regularly as well.

I look forward to hearing more real life experiences.

Keep in mind the topic is "Cost of living in FMM" ... and related economic matters of course, as reflected above.

Sure thing... by the way the 747 commute from Calgary has been cut too, I fly this one often.

flight frequency cut, only for big shots now, and for everyone else the flight allowance cut so now an expensive business

if you want to live in Calgary or Edmonton.

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Ingrid Brunkhorst Hurrell
That is quite a big spanner - I think this is what people coming to FMM (either relocating or temporary working) want to hear. They want to know how you experience life here and how you feel about it.

There are some people that travel up from Calgary who commute by plane to FMM regularly as well.

I look forward to hearing more real life experiences.

Keep in mind the topic is "Cost of living in FMM" ... and related economic matters of course, as reflected above.

I would love to hear how singles/couples/families who actually live there, experience life in Ft.McMurray, please.

Thanks!

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