Fort McMurray, The Myth And The Reality

By August 20, 2013Dennis Tkach

By Dennis Tkach. Part 1 of a 2 part essay on the most misunderstood community in Canada.

“When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools” – Shakespeare

Do you ever think on how silly people in general can be? People who from time to time exhibit the thinking power of an earthworm. Because a lot of these folks to whom I am referring are friends and associates… people who swirl in the imminent spheres of my life, I have chosen not to offend them by using words like ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’ or ‘dumbass’. No, I will simply use the term ‘silly’ to which I trust none will take umbrage and thus stop inviting me to their barbecue parties.

The great Chinese philosopher Lau-tzu, a highly venerated contemporary of the Buddha once said: “We shape clay into a pot but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” I stand all amazed at what often fills the ‘pots’ between so many ears in this world.

I am not going to rant and rave about the a way Chilliwackyians allowed the purest water in Canada to be poisoned by chlorine and a so called health board that should have been tried and sentenced for crimes against humanity at the world court in The Hague. Nor am I referring to the cretin minded BC voters who grumbled and griped about their unhappiness over the corruption and ineffectiveness of the provincial liberals, only to make liars out of the pollsters by overwhelmingly returning the arrogant and ineffective grits to office AND majority (see definition of ‘dictatorship’) rule at the last provincial election. I will address these disgusting facts of life at another time.

My focus today is on how gullible and susceptible people are in accepting what they see and hear through the media and how quick they are to judge books by the covers and not by their content. This rush to judgment occurs at the speed of light because the sillies are not deflected by thought.
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When I decided to take a Fraser Valley sabbatical and spend it with family who have been residing and working in Fort McMurray, Alberta for the past three years… a lot of people looked at me as if I’d suddenly sprouted two heads. By their comments it was plain to see that a long running smear campaign headed up by the tree hugger movement was having a powerful effect on the public at large. Undeniably, these self appointed eco-mongers have released a social storm which has reverberated throughout North America with alarming political and economic ramifications.

I began to ponder. (Ponder – a priceless endeavor rarely exercised by the dwellers in the land of Silly) I would remind all, echoing the words of Hercule Poirot, that from time to time ‘the little gray cells’ truly do require occasional stirring.

My pondering raised the following questions: Was this ‘Green Peacenik’ trumpeting one of biblical proportions that could one day cause the walls of Wild Rose Jericho to come tumbling down? Or was this discordant blast naught but a very large expulsion of fartular essence emitted by ‘green bowel nation’? I decided it was time for Chilliwack’s ‘Sherlock’ of investigative journalism to examine and report to the readership first hand, what is happening in Alberta North and how it directly and indirectly affects us all.

As my wife and I declared our intentions and made plans to leave the corn-ucopia rich land of veggie heaven (not to mention the Fraser Valley’s close proximity to sane costing Yankee fuel and dairy products) comments from the near-to-my-ear nattering nabobs of negativism began falling like Chernobyl rain. With furrows deeply ensconced across my handsome brow a flood of thoughts came upon me as I listened to neighbors, friends, and acquaintances offer sympathy, criticism or simply, sadly, shake their heads. It seemed to most that the Tkachs of Ashwell Road were headed for Purgatory.

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Never having visited the oil sands how can so many ( at least to outward appearance) ‘intelligent’ folks see Fort Mac and the oil sands through such a glass darkly? Had the granola mafia turned Hubble earthward in order to expose skullduggery under our very nostrils? After all, who doesn’t hate duggery, especially if it applies to our skulls? Or was this ‘tell us’ scope purposely focused to distort images and block out the light of truth? Remember the assault by the spotted owl gang in the nineties that successfully brought the forestry industry (and a sizeable part of the northwest economy) to its knees? Are we witnessing another propaganda blitz… one that would cause Joe Goebbels (permanent resident of the ninth circle of The Hotspot Hotel) to convulse in paroxysms of Teutonic laughter?”

For years I too heard many a tale of the desecration of the Great White North, and while these stories of doom and gloom troubled me, I resolved to keep an open mind. Would my pending sojourn turn me into a convert to the eco-zombie belief that Canada’s pristine arboreal wilderness is systematically being torn up, raped and looted by the big oil companies, all in the name of filthy lucre?

I have always shared the belief of two of my mentors, James Lee Burke and George Carlin, that mankind grossly underestimates the ability of our planet to heal itself. Indeed, as Mr. Burke states in his latest book, Light Of The World, “the earth abideth forever and all industrial abuse we have done to it will somehow disappear with time.”

Here then are the unvarnished facts, the good and the bad, about Wood Buffalo, the fastest growing and most singularly amazing regional municipality in Canada.
Part Two of my essay to follow will focus on Fort McMurray and why, born of the land, this community is in many ways a remarkable and rare jewel the Canadian crown of resource achievement.

In focusing their vitriolic spew on the entire oil sands project, the ‘save the earth movement’ or as I like to call them, the ‘Ungrateful Dead’, have served up nothing more than a very large bucket of porcine excrement.

These mental midgets from Lilliput, thimble sized brain children who fancy themselves as Davids of slingshot fame have decided to take on the Fortune 500’s #1 ranked Goliath of our world economy, Shell Oil, and it’s (grossly mislabeled) robber baron cronies, Exxon, Mobile, Time to put all silliness to rest. I very quickly learned the following lessons.
oil patch
Lesson 1: Canada’s wealth lies in its natural resources and RESOURCES ARE MEANT TO BE USED. Our treasures are so abundant and rich they hold the envy of a goodly portion of the world’s nations, including the U.S. of A. This abundance of fresh water, oil and gas, unlimited forests and agriculturally rich soil is a birth lottery where we hold all the tickets. The land of Peter Puck, poutine, maple syrup and wheat field soul is in possession of an inviolate insurance policy guaranteeing a bright and secure future.
Lesson 2: Oil and energy indisputably hold the biggest demands on a burgeoning 21st century technocracy. Our mechanized civilization has evolved into a HUGE ravenous, insatiable and growing beast such as has never before been witnessed in history. When the populous major shed the skins of the agrarian and became urbanized we also became slaves to a creature whose hunger must be fed.

Lesson 3: What the tree huggers and ‘boohoo nature nannies’ do NOT tell you is this: When it comes to alternate energy exploration and implementation, such as harnessing sun, wind, thermal, or hydro-cell technology, it is the oil companies who are spearheading this staggeringly costly research. With fossil fuel on a finite time scale tick down, does this not make sense for petro world to look to protecting its future existence by opening up other avenues of development?

Lesson 4: The revenue that comes from the spin off of the oil and energy resources is a veritable life blood feeding our national government and hence, setting our table in the process. Did you know that thousands of workers and their families from across our great nation are constantly flocking to Fort Mac? Why? Because the per capita income for the municipality of Wood Buffalo is the highest in North America.

Lesson 5: And as for the serious charge of polluting the regions pristine rivers and the adjacent flora and fauna? The eco-pissants loudest cry is over the tailing ponds that hold the runoff bi-products of the surface mining process used in the oil recovery. True, this deadly bi-product, if not contained or eliminated, could indeed poison the land.


The naysayers will NOT tell you that the oil company consortium has committed 1.9 BILLION DOLLARS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF THE TAILING PONDS through steps being implemented even as you are read these words. Theses ‘spare no cost’ solutions will transform the acids and toxic elements that currently fill the ponds into easily disposed of cakes and clean water which in turn will then be recycled.

Lesson 6: Were you aware that only 20% of all the mining done in the region IS in fact open strip mining? 80% of the oil extraction is carried on deep underground with total environmental safety through a process known as SAGD. High-pressure steam is forced deep into the earth, liquefying and releasing the oil from the tar sands where the oil is then safely piped to the surface and hauled away in tankers.

Lesson 7: Amid the cries of ‘forest destruction’ please be advised that SCORES OF MORE TREES HAVE BEEN PLANTED TO REPLACE THOSE AREAS WHICH HAVE BEEN STRIPPED. Reforestation is YET another way this tiny patch of the arboreal belt is being cared for. And please note my use of the adjective ‘TINY’. Do not look at aerial surveys showing the forest areas that have been cleared. Take the camera higher and sweep across the gigantic arboreal belt that stretches across not only northern Alberta, but Canada as a whole. The entire oil sands project amounts to little more than a freckle on the face of The Great White North.

Lesson 8: We should also be reminded that, except for a few indigenous First Nations tribes, NO ONE LIVES UP HERE. Now, thanks to the blessings of putting our resources to use for the common good of mankind and indirectly, the coffers of Canada, we have a region of unrivaled opportunity where both blue collar workers and entrepreneurs can attain something well nigh impossible for the rest of us. Turning the Canadian dream of wealth and prosperity into reality.

Next week I will take you on an eye popping drive down the streets and avenues of Fort McMoney through neighborhoods no different than those outside your front door. With one markedly huge exception. The highways, infrastructure, and bi-ways are probably more attractive, more enjoyable, and more recreationally livable for families than anything you have ever experienced.

Incredibly livable Fort McMurray, nestled jewel-like amid rolling forested hills, A FULL HOURS DRIVE from the working sites of the oil sands, should be the envy of cash strapped city and provincial budgets everywhere, and all of the thanks is due to those ‘evil profit mongering’ oil companies.

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