Fort McMurray, Alberta represents the classic oil boom town story. Since the mid twentieth century, the Athabasca oil sands have been the site of incredible industry and prosperity. In the late 1800’s, it was estimated that the Athabasca oil sands were some of the most extensive in the entire world and preparations for an industrial mega-complex were underway. But it was not until the 1970’s that the Athabasca oil sands became known through out Canada as the country’s most lucrative source of employment. Since that time, with the exception of the occasional recession due to world market oil crashes, the Athabasca oil sands has been flooded with would be employees, seeking profitable oil work, and Fort McMurray has become the epitome of an oil boom town. Everything one would associate with a boom town is present in Fort McMurray; the good, the bad and the ugly.
The positive things that have come out of Fort McMurray are abundant. Canada’s economy benefits enormously from the operations of the oil sands, generating tens of billions of dollars into the national economy. The province of Alberta in particular thrives significantly because of the oil industry. Living in Fort McMurray and working in the oil industry has been a positive thing for many Canadian families. The oil industry has provided a good life and a good retirement for a great many Canadians.
The dark side of the boom town story is certainly present in Fort McMurray as well. Like every classic boom town in history, the money has rolled in faster than anyone has known what to do with it. This tends to become problematic to communities. An underdeveloped city in possession of too much money leads to trouble. There is not enough recreation to keep people occupied, and people become restless and turn to substance abuse and debauchery for entertainment. Fort McMurray is a major Hell’s Angels trade center with a serious drug and alcohol problem and a very high crime rate.