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• During interviews with long-term residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta, not one participant indicated they planned on retiring in the community. Every participant listed the BC coast, Newfoundland, southern Ontario, or the southern United States as expected retirement destinations. The reason: “there’s nothing keeping me here.” In Edmonton, Alberta the guild of developers overseeing the booms of the 50s and 70s is now dispersed across the world: BC, New York, Scotland, the Caribbean, and other places. This does not mean they feel no ties or are not proud of their work. It does not mean they all had a hit-and-run strategy. It does, however, show that there’s usually another place on the horizon for boomtown workers and developers, often seen as their reward. Similarly, a small town located just to the north-east of Edmonton found that their community actually consisted of two populations. The first was a set of long-term, long-standing resident families, some of whom had been there for three or four generations. The second was a set of “newcomers,” typically seeking both lower housing costs and proximity to transportation routes to the energy projects of northern Alberta. These families were commonly seen as “transient” as their presence in the community was often temporary (two to five years), and marginal, with limited engagement in community activities, development, or social capital. • If we are still talking about democratic societies (we believe we are), it is too easy to stigmatize “transient” or “limited investment” people and brand them as simply freeriders. All actors, regardless of their level of investment, are participating in a story they want to be true in the hope that all can reap the benefits. In practice, some will win, some will lose, and the dream of eternal boom makes it harder for all to assess the risk and know when to get in and to get out. On the other hand, it is also clear that the town itself can become easily trapped in a vicious circle, where transience becomes the only permanence. One of the feedback loops of a boomtown is that although many make money, few really invest in the place itself or seek to make it more diverse and vibrant, more stable. This triggers not the bust itself — which is usually dependent on commodity prices — but rather a magnifying of its effects. It can turn a bust into a Bust. If the boom years did not generate real investment in high quality infrastructure, education, housing, economic diversification (maybe starting from services useful for the industry, or for the new population), then few boom participants will have a reason to stay afterwards. Similarly, if the memory of ups and downs makes the cycle of boom and bust seem normal for the long-term inhabitants, they will not see

Part II: Boom/Bust: A real introduction

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Profile for University of Alberta Extension

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

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