12 January

Call for Papers: Long Distance Commuting in Canada’s Mining, Oil and Gas Sectors

A special session of papers is being organized at the upcoming Canadian Association of Geographers Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia titled: “Long Distance Commuting in Canada’s Mining, Oil and Gas Sectors – Implications for Rural Regions”. The session is being organized by Kelly Vodden (Grenfell Campus, Memorial University), Heather Hall (University of Saskatchewan), Sean Markey (Simon Fraser University), and Greg Halseth and Laura Ryser (University of Northern BC).

Mobility, and particularly mobility for employment, is an important aspect of rural life for many in Canada and elsewhere. Yet recent geographical scholarship on mobilities has paid little attention to these dynamics in rural spaces and places (Milbourne and Kitchen, 2014). With a shift from investments in resource towns to increased reliance on
non-resident, fly-in, fly-out or drive-in, drive-out workforces (Carrington and  Pereira, 2011; Storey 2010), mobility in rural regions is particularly important for Canada’s extractive sector (oil and gas and mining). Rural mobility is in turn important for Canada’s economy as a whole given that this sector accounts for over 39% of Canada’s domestic exports and 13 percent of GDP (Canada 2014).

For many rural Canadians, long distance commuting provides an alternative to relocating permanently from their home communities, particularly in regions where traditional industries have declined and job opportunities may be limited or of limited duration. Yet studies suggest that a commuting workforce can undermine social supports and processes of community-making in source or home communities, among other impacts. Communities that host mobile workers also experience both benefits and costs, including pressures associated with planning, infrastructure use and housing affordability to name a few (Hall, 2014). This session will explore these relationships between commuting in the mining and oil and gas sectors and the communities and regions that commuting workers call home and places of work.

Possible topics to be addressed within this session include:

  • Impacts of long distance commuting on place-based identities, sense of belonging and place attachment as well as processes and mechanisms of place-making and maintaining connections to place
  • Investments by mobile workers in source and host communities
  • Impacts of a commuting workforce on local property markets, housing types and affordability
  • Impacts on rural-urban interactions and interdependencies, voluntarism, services and infrastructure, and social relationships in communities
  • Differences between patterns of mobility and community impacts in construction vs. production phases of resource projects
  • Comparisons between experiences in Canada and other jurisdictions
  • Responses and/or proactive measures taken by municipalities, NGOs, companies and/or senior levels of government to address challenges and opportunities associated with a mobile workforce
  • Impacts of mobile labour trends on the restructuring of industry, work camp, senior government, and community stakeholder policies and working relationships

If you are interested in participating in this session please send a draft of your abstract to kvodden@grenfell.mun.ca on or before February 16th, 2015. Registration for the conference and final submission of the abstract must be completed separately by March 13th, 2015. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the session organizers.