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Dr. Eaton is actively investigating the impacts associated with oil extraction in Saskatchewan. If you would like to share your story about living with oil please contact her via this form.

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Field Notes

Field Notes from Dr. Emily Eaton.

Investigating the Saskatchewan Oil Economy

Emily Eaton

We all know that Saskatchewan’s oil economy has provided employment to energy workers and boosted provincial revenues through land sales and royalties.

But Saskatchewan people have had little access to information about the social and environmental impacts of oil.

Saskoil.org is an independent information hub about the impacts of oil in our province. 

This site presents the other side of Saskatchewan’s oil story by providing information about the oil industry and its extraction techniques, and by profiling real people living with and sustaining the oil economy.

Riding the Boom-Bust cycle

When oil prices plunged in the fall of 2014, the province was painfully reminded that its newfound status as a “have” province was tied to the ups and downs of global commodity prices for natural resources.

Suddenly, there was speculation about the end of Saskaboom: government started to talk about sacrifices, cuts to public services, and privatization efforts; housing prices stopped climbing; vacancy rates began to rise; and resource workers got very nervous.

A missing piece

When I moved back to Saskatchewan after completing my Ph.D. in 2009, the province was in the midst of an extractive industry boom.

Although Saskatchewan was (and is) the second largest oil producer in the country, I was surprised to find very little attention given in the media or among academics to the significance and impacts of the province’s oil economy. If there was ever a story about oil in Canada, Alberta’s tar sands were at the centre. As a province, we weren’t having much of a conversation about our newfound wealth and what it all meant.

Research as intervention

In 2011, I decided to turn my attention to investigating Saskatchewan’s oil economy, with the help of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

In my preliminary research I found that government and industry explained Saskatchewan’s oil boom as the product of two factors:

1) the high world price of oil (at the time), and
2) technological innovations that allowed harder-to-reach oil to be accessed – like pairing horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing.

But this doesn’t explain the whole picture, does it? There is a lack of information about the roles played by oil workers, contractors, farmers and ranchers, temporary foreign workers, and social service providers in realizing Saskaboom.

I set out to investigate both the positive and negative impacts of the booming oil economy for everyone involved. It was time to hit the road!

In the summer of 2014, I set out with photographer Valerie Zink in a camper and half-ton truck to visit the major oil-producing communities in Saskatchewan, including the Lloydminster, Kindersley, Shaunavon and Estevan regions.

Dr. Emily Eaton and photographer Valerie Zink getting ready to fly over Lloydminster area to observe oil well density.

Terry Crush showing Emily a map of the oil infrastructure on his farm near Lloydminster

I spoke with municipal politicians, social service providers, faith leaders, oil workers, and farmers and ranchers. This website will feature portraits of some of these people.

Where do we go from here?

SaskOil.org is meant to round out the conversation about oil in this province.

If you are interested in knowing more, like SaskOil.org on Facebook and explore the under-appreciated and under-investigated impacts of oil in the province. 

Have you been impacted personally by oil?

If you are someone living in the oilpatch or affected by oil’s impacts, I’d very much like to hear your story. Please be in touch at saskoil.org/tips

Your story and identity will be treated confidentially.