Region cuts jobs due to effects of wildfire, slumping oilsands
FORT MCMURRAY, ALTA. — The regional municipality that includes Fort McMurray says it is cutting 168 jobs due to the economic effects of last spring’s wildfire and Alberta’s slumping oilsands industry.
Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake said the changes won’t be easy after all her staff have been through.
“Because it affects individuals who have been a big part of building this great community we have, it hurts,” she said Tuesday in an interview.
“The decisions were not about people, they were about positions. Independent of whether people were still suffering from the effects of the wildfire or not, it really came down to what was the right structure for the organization.”
The cuts to management and staff, including 46 vacant positions, are expected to save about $24 million a year. The reductions will touch every department, except fire and emergency services.
She said the municipality must transition from a structure that was set up a few years ago to deal with the frantic years of growth during the oilsands boom to the current reality of low oil prices.
The wildfire last May that forced more than 80,000 people from the region and destroyed 2,400 homes and other buildings has made the situation worse.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada has called the wildfire the costliest insured natural disaster in Canadian history and estimates insured property damage at almost $3.6 billion.
Blake said operating and capital spending needs to be reduced to better align the municipality with the state of economy.
Wood Buffalo must set the stage for a future that takes into account the oil downturn and the wildfire without compromising the community’s recovery efforts, she said.
“The extra capacity that we needed for dealing with high growth just doesn’t exist.”