Near the foot of this hamlet's red-and-white lighthouse, fishing
crews have unloaded their catches regularly ever since the first
French settlers dropped anchor here three centuries ago.
Processing the catch has been central to life here from the days
when families salted cod on the beaches to when they punched in for
work at the large seafood-processing plant above the harbor.
But this year was different at the local seafood plant, one of
the world's largest lobster-processing facilities. In a town and
province renowned for fishing, the company - Ocean Choice - couldn't
find enough workers, and was forced to fly in 39 guest workers from
Russia to man the lines.
"We try to recruit locally, but without results," says Jon
Osmann, the plant's Icelandic operations director. There are so few
workers in Prince Edward Island these days that he expects to need
twice as many Russians when processing resumes this spring.
From the forests of New Brunswick to the outports of
Newfoundland, rural communities are emptying out as residents head
west to find steadier work and higher pay in the oil fields of
northern Alberta. Tens of thousands have left Atlantic Canada in
recent years, leaving behind an increasingly dire labor shortage
that threatens to further undermine the region's moribund economy.
"The movement to the west is significant, and there is every
indication that it is going to continue for some time," says Greg
Byrne, New Brunswick's minister for business, who estimates the four
Atlantic provinces are losing a thousand people a month. "Oil patch
companies are very aggressively recruiting our region's young
Canada oil reserves top 175 billion barrels
Northern Alberta's "oil patch" is booming. For decades, energy
companies have known the region's forests cover one of the largest
petroleum deposits in the world, with reserves in excess of 175
billion barrels, second only to those in Saudi Arabia. But most of
the oil is bound up in black sand and was considered, until
recently, too expensive to be worth extracting.
Since oil prices passed $35 a barrel in 2003, however, energy
companies have been doing everything they can to increase
production. The main limitation is getting enough people to dig,
move, and process the oily sands in Alberta's frigid, sparsely
settled north. Despite offering some of the highest salaries in
North America, the region needs as many as 100,000 more people to
man the sand mines and the frontier towns that support them.
With their own fishing, timber, and tourism industries in
decline, Atlantic Canadians have been responding to the call in huge
numbers. As a result, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland's
populations are all shrinking, while Alberta's is growing at 3
percent a year, according to Statistics Canada.
Leaving Atlantic Canada behind?
About 11,000 Newfoundlanders now live in the main oil-patch town,
Fort McMurray - the largest concentration outside of St. …