As an example, Fort McMurray has been the hub of Alberta’s oil sands boom. This remote northern frontier town’s population skyrocketed from 2000 in the 1960s to 80,000 as people flocked there looking for jobs. An additional 40,000 oilfield workers were being flown in and housed to work shifts, 3-weeks on, 10 days off, at the height of the recent boom. Most incoming residents have been men, averaging 32 years of age, and the city boasts the highest birth rate in Canada.


Salaries are high, but so are rents and home prices. Like all boomtowns, Fort McMurray’s population outgrew its infrastructure, and services became stretched thin. And like all boomtowns, it experienced a bust when the price of its principal resource fell. For Fort McMurray, the bust came in 2015 as world oil prices fell amid oversupply. Unable to make a profit on oil sands at the low prices, companies began cutting off contracts and orders and laying off workers. Across Alberta in 2015, more than 35,000 people in the energy sector lost their jobs.


Still, after $200 billion of investment, many companies are in the game for the long haul, and are continuing to extract oil sands, hoping that prices will soon rise. As oil prices fluctuate in future years, Fort McMurray may see more booms and more busts.