By Ramona McDonald
When I reflect on what LNG means to our company and my employees, it’s easy to see the benefits. What’s not so easy to see is what life would be like without LNG. I’ve lived it and it’s not pretty.
Unless you’ve lived in poverty, you won’t understand what that means to those of us who had nothing. For me and my family, it was a normal way of life.
As children, we didn’t have fancy designer clothes or shiny new bikes like the rest of the kids in our community. I remember getting a Christmas hamper and being so excited for the used gifts we received, even if all the pieces weren’t there. We were also excited to see what food was in the box, especially if it was something my mother couldn’t buy for us.
I never thought about being poor, but I knew we were different. We were taught not to ask for things and we were grateful for the things we did get. When we got something special, we would think we were rich — just to have that feeling we were like everyone else.
As a child, I never thought how it affected my mother until I became a mother, raising a family with nothing. We were young. No education, no job and no money. But we had four children. Living became our priority so we took jobs that paid minimum wage. We couldn’t buy a home and sometimes didn’t have enough money to rent an apartment. We once lived in our old panel truck parked on a vacant lot with our first baby. It was very cold in the winter.
When we decided to get our education in the 1990s, we had four children to feed on less than $800 a month. We had to do without. Every day we had to find ways to pay our bills. Many times, we had to try to make payment arrangements to cover our Hydro, gas or rent. Many times we weren’t able to make those payments and went without.
We lived from paycheque to paycheque. Sometimes we were able to get some work in the oilpatch but some weeks there was nothing. I remember when they came to take my car away because we didn’t have enough to make the payments. I hid in my bedroom and pretended I wasn’t home because I was so hurt and embarrassed.
Now, I own my own business and employ First Nations, Metis and other workers. I see how LNG development can lift our fellow citizens out of poverty. My children and grandchildren shouldn’t have to experience the poverty I endured. And I have to ask, why do the people in our urban areas oppose a healthy and sustainable future for them?
We shouldn’t have poverty in our province or our country, but it’s a reality for many. As an Indigenous person, I see the poverty in our communities. I see many who have given up the fight and turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with life.
When we have opportunities to build our businesses, get a trade or good-paying jobs, we create our Indigenous role models to provide hope for our future generation.
When my workers can get excited about a paycheque so they can buy their children something special or take them on a holiday because their bills are paid and there’s food in the cupboards, that’s when we know what LNG can do for our communities.
Ramona McDonald is president of Fort St. John’s Complete Safety Services and a proud Metis woman. She shares her company with her children who are Treaty 8 First Nation members of the Prophet River First Nation.