The proposed moratorium on work camps within 75 km of Fort McMurray is moving forward towards a final vote.
Wood Buffalo council held a special meeting on Tuesday where they discussed possible incentive and accommodations to entice fly-in-fly-ot workers to stay in the region.
Councillor Verna Murphy ended up bring forward a motion to rescind the moratorium, however, it was defeated in a 4-4 vote. Mayor Don Scott and Councillors Jane Stroud, Phil Meagher, and Bruce Inglis voted against the motion.
Speaking to reporters, Murphy says there are better ways to lower work camps numbers and increase our population.
“Everytime we have a camp renewal why not specifically look at the camp renewal and see if it’s a doable thing to close it and bring the operations people into town at that point.”
She noted the provincial government is also introducing new plans which could help increase investment in the region. This includes getting rid of the carbon tax and allowing municipalities to offer tax breaks.
A very passionate Scott disagreed – arguing the community needs more people here to help improve the local economy.
He added no other place in Canada would willingly allow people to just temporarily stay without contributing to their community.
“There are over 30,000 people living in camp beds in this region and I have a serious difficulty with that. I want people living in our region not coming in and out of the region and not invested in living in our region.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Oil Sands Community Alliance Karim Zariffa believes the municipality is putting too much blame on FIFO workers.
He says the RMWB needs to do more to encourage workers to move here.
“We know that a certain proportion of the population in camps would move here but certain things need to change and get enhanced.”
The region’s goal is to lower the work camp population to 10 per cent by 2030. Right now, it’s sitting just over 29 per cent.
Zariffa says this can be done without a moratorium.
“The 2018 census suggested that there were about 32,000 men and women in project accomodations but I think we have to be mindful that out of that there are about 14,000 to 15,000 that were here for turnaround.”
First reading to amend the land use bylaw to include the 75 km moratorium will go before council on June 11. Second and third reading, if passed, will take place on July 9.
Councillor Jeff Peddle and Mike Allen weren’t in attendance while Keith McGrath recused himself from the discussion.
Incentives and Accommodations
Wood Buffalo council also approved working on multiple projects to encourgae FIFO workers to move to the region.
The municipality and an unnamed oil company are partnering on a ‘park and ride’ pilot project.
These would be desinated areas where workers would drive to before being picked up and driven to site. The pilot project’s temporary location will be at Abraham’s Landing.
The RMWB is also encouraging companies to use the Fort McMurray International Airport to fly in their workers. Since January, the airport has seen an increase in usage from industry.
Projects to enhance safety on the highways, grants, and tax incentives is also being looked.