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I was interviewed by Wayne Taiji yesterday, doing some brand development work for the NADC - Northern Alberta Development Council. He asked a lot of questions about qualilty of life in this region and the quality of living a "northern" life.
It put me in mind of one of my first days in Fort McMurray, standing in the middle of the Father Mercredi High School field on the way from my condo in the 400 block to an Oil Barons game at Thickwood Arena. I stopped, spun around and looked up into the cold northern sky. And I remember, clearly and distinctly, thinking that this was as far north and as isolated as I had ever been.
Fort McMurray was a different community back in 1996-just over 30,000 people, small, intimate. I was driving up the highway for the first time, going for a job interview at the radio station. Listening to CJOK, Andrew Ramer piped up..."and a big hello to Russell Thomas, driving up for a visit today." I felt like I was all alone on that desolate road and that the most exciting moment of the day was my arrival to town. The place felt small, and I felt large.
Back in those days, condos in the 600 block were selling for between $40K and $50K, with all new appliances! Houses were still in the $100K range and the future of the oil sands was still in doubt. Everything turned on the proverbial dime when Jean Cretien came to town to formalize a dramatic change to the royalties framework. The condo that I bought for $60K sold for $80K ten months later and now sells for almost $500K.
We're busier, bigger and arguably better. While we felt like the outskirts of nowhere 15 years ago, we now live in the economic epicentre of the province and possibly, the country. The centre of the universe has shifted north and we've gone from nowhere to everywhere.
June 25, 2010 - 193.2 pounds, 28.2% body fat