Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Too Many Workers, No Housing, New Campgrounds Banned: Welcome to Fort McMurray

No new campgrounds in McMurray, council rules

Today staff
Thursday April 12, 2007
Any future campgrounds in Wood Buffalo must be located outside the urban area, and they must “allow for year-round operation.”
Regional council made the decision Tuesday following a heated debate over whether the move will attract even more transient workers to the boomtown.
“What we have here is a continuation of no plan, or a piecemeal plan, to accommodate oilsands workers at the detriment of the community,” said Coun. John Vyboh, who voted against the bylaw change.
Vyboh also voted against allowing work camps inside city limits more than one year ago, a move more that allowed the municipality to erect temporary accommodation for workers on MacDonald Island while they built a new and expanded recreation centre.
Coun. Carolyn Slade, who supported the in-town camps, joined Vyboh in opposing year-round campgrounds.
“This accommodates transient workers instead of renting or purchasing,” she said, adding the change relieves the province of its responsibility to release more land in the urban area for permanent housing.
Slade is vice-president of Compass Canada, which is operated as a First North Catering company, according to her biography on the municipality’s website. The company manages work camp facilities for Suncor Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

While Coun. Phil Meagher also opposed in-town work camps last year, he voted in favour of the year-round campgrounds this week.
“It’s easy for me to sit back in a comfortable house and say I don’t want to support this, but people coming to town aren’t just oilsands workers; we’ve had teachers who’ve had to use our campgrounds, too,” he said, pointing to the high cost of buying a house in McMurray.
“Good old Riedel Street (the trailer court at the end of that road) came to my rescue for $120 a month (when I first moved here). ... People need a foothold while they look around.”
Furthermore, “a few like living that way,” Meagher said, “and some are in beautiful RVs.”
The bylaw does not include standards for washrooms and showers, council heard.
Coun. Sharon Clarkson, meanwhile, said although the campgrounds are “a necessary evil for the time being, I’d hate to see them go on forever.”
Clarkson suggested that the decision be reviewed in three years, which was accepted by council.
Mayor Melissa Blake agreed.
“If in three years we’ve got (enough permanent) housing and service capacity, maybe we can convert (the bylaw) to seasonal only,” she said.
“Are we prepared to take a hard-line stance, which we tried to do with much, much public debate (about the in-town work camps issue)?” Blake added, citing the “homeless people overflowing our shelters.”
By excluding campgrounds from within the so-called Urban Service Area, “the municipality has protected land for future residential and commercial development whilst ensuring efficient and compatible land use within the Urban Service Area,” reads a report to council.

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