Not Your Usual Suspect…
When Robbie Picard arrived in Fort McMurray in 2005 it was out of necessity. After spending most of his life in Saskatoon followed by a brief stint in Montreal, Picard was in need of some financial security and after seeing on the news that people in Wood Buffalo were experiencing financial success he decided it was time to head west. “I called my cousin Karen, got her to buy me a one-way plane ticket and I was here the next day,” says Picard of his sudden decision to relocate to a community he had never before seen. When he first arrived, however, the success he sought was not immediate. “I remember getting off the plane and getting downtown and thinking wow, I’ve never seen so many trucks! However reality soon set in that this was not going to be easy. With very limited funds I was forced to live in a tent for the first couple weeks I was here,” he says of his early days in the community, but things rapidly improved.
“My life here has gotten a lot better. If you work hard and stay focused Fort McMurray can change the direction of your life. There are a lot of opportunities, like the obvious opportunities from working at site, but there are a lot of hidden opportunities, too. If you leave yourself open you might be surprised where it can take you,” says Picard of the direction his own life has taken in the northern community he now calls home.
After political involvement that included working on the re-election campaign for RMWB Mayor Melissa Blake and organizing some events for the Liberal Party of Canada during the recent federal by-election, Picard found himself embracing a new opportunity – the I Heart Oil Sands movement, which has taken the region, and even the nation, by storm.
“The I Heart Oil Sands campaign is absolutely a necessity for our community and our industry. It’s Fort McMurray’s chapter of Canada Action, which was started by Cody Battershill of Calgary. Cody started the organization to address some of the misinformation regarding oil sands development and to share the facts to counter that misinformation,” says Picard of a movement that has captured the attention of media and members of the public across the country. “We take a complex message and make it simple: positive messages about our community and the oil sands industry.”
The movement has seen Picard become increasingly involved in the community with appearances on radio and in other media, as well as continuing to promote the I Heart Oil Sands message through every possible avenue including social media and attendance at a variety of community events.
While Picard’s initial introduction to life in Fort McMurray may have been a bit bumpy he has become one of the primary promoters of life in the community, encouraging others to consider making the region home. “I would suggest anyone considering a move to Fort McMurray should do it – it’s an amazing community and it’s only going to get better.” He reflects for a moment on his experience in Fort McMurray. “If I could describe my own life in Fort McMurray in three words? Life is perfection,” says Picard, perhaps not your usual suspect in Fort McMurray but someone who has come a very long way from living in a tent to become a primary player in changing the image of the community and industry.