HANNA, ALTA., AND VANCOUVER – Tanis Graham is having trouble sleeping.
At night, the shop owner in the small town of Hanna worries about the downturn in the oil and gas industry and how she’s going to afford the Alberta government’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
And in the past few weeks, Ms. Graham, 43, has been kept awake by news that the nearby coal-fired generating station will be closed a decade earlier than scheduled due to the province’s new climate-change strategy.
About 110 people from the area are employed at the coal mine that supplies the generating station, including Ms. Graham’s partner. If the coal industry leaves the town of 2,500 in Alberta’s east-central badlands, she too might have to leave the community where she was born and raised.
“Where’s my boyfriend going to work? I’d probably have to sell my business and move,” the genial former town councillor said over morning coffee in her bistro and gift shop on the main street.
“One hundred people are going to lose their jobs and they’re going to have to move away. But out of those 100 men moving away, there’s another 100 people in town who are going to move away – nurses, accountants – everybody that it takes to run our town,” she said.
Coal – the combustible sedimentary rock that has powered everything from the Industrial Revolution to China’s growth as an economic mega-power – is still a quietly powerful economic force in Western Canada.
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