I happened to be in a local coffee spot and overheard a conversation that really rubbed me the wrong way. It was regarding "those guys in the oilfield" and the gist of the conversation was that "they" were overpaid, overspending, show-offs who deserved to lose their jobs. And I've heard the same opinion on the John Gormley show several times, expressed with a lot of anger.
I don't get it. The numbers for Alberta were 86,000 jobs lost at this point. Jobs. That means employees, who, as far as I know, pay taxes without option – it's coming right off their cheque. So I checked around.
According to the Financial Post, the average oilfield wage was $154,000 per year. Lotta money. Also a lot of taxes. And these guys, as wage earners, pay full rate – they do not get any write-offs. Do the math!
Alberta taxes were slightly less than Saskatchewan's, but if I ran the tax calculator right, at that wage, the federal and provincial taxes would amount to $44,241 per year. About $60,000 if that same wage was in Saskatchewan!
Now if there's been 86,000 people laid off in Alberta, if you add the ones lost in Saskatchewan, you can bet it's now close to 100,000. So 100,000 wages gone that used to be paying $44,241 in taxes is $4,424,000,000 in lost tax revenue. I had to turn my iPhone sideways to get that number to show up! That's four billion, with a "b"! Now while some of these guys were maybe overspending, they were also contributing a lot towards funding each and every government service. Not to mention the fact that if they did buy a big boat and a big camper and a big truck, they bought it from a local business, plated it at a local business, bought gas for it at a local business, took it to a local park, paid the fees, enjoyed the scenery, etc., and paid more taxes on every one of those things to boot. Who, exactly, do you think will be making up that shortfall?
Was the price of oil too high before? In my opinion, yes, it was. Did any of the people working on the patch set that price? No, they did not. It's a world market, kind of like the canola or beef market. In years past, when grain prices were low, or when BSE hit the cattle market, I do not ever recall hearing one person in the oil patch say, "serves them right!" I do remember talking to a lot of young local guys who are now farming, but back then were very glad to be able to get a well-paying job in the patch. If you talk to two or maybe three of your neighbours, you'll be talking to someone who either is involved in the oilfield, or has been in the past, or has kids who are. That's a large piece of the population and they deserve a bit more respect. They are out there whether it's hot or cold, wet or dry, doing what it takes to get the job done so that there is fuel to heat your home, put in your truck or car or tractor, or maybe your own big boat. If they're some of the unfortunate ones who have lost their job, all they're trying to do is get by until they can get back to work. They want to get back to work!
Next time you're in the warm coffee shop, give a bit of thought to why it's warm and how you get the gas in your vehicle to get there, and what you maybe should (or shouldn't) say.