A wait in a rainy, hour plus-long lineup with hundreds just as hungry wasn’t enough to keep Maegan Byerley from feeding her family a free, hot meal yesterday.
“Truly, this event counts for two full meals for some people,” said Edmonton and District Labour Council president Tom Olenuk, staring at a winding human line that spanned Giovanni Caboto Park yesterday afternoon.
More unemployed and underemployed Edmontonians ventured out for the free Labour Day barbecue than have attended the event in its 20-year run, Olenuk said.
By mid-afternoon, organizers who hauled 3,500 hamburgers and 3,000 hot dogs to the park were running out of food.
“It’s a graphic picture that policies at various levels of government simply aren’t working to get or keep people employed or retrain them,” Olenuk said. “They’re telling us about how well-off we are in Alberta. It may look good in the Maritimes, but we’re not the Maritimes.”
For families like Byerley’s, the rising unemployment problem in Alberta is their daily reality.
The 23-year-old mom says that both she and her common-law husband have been unemployed for over a year, and jobs for uneducated, young parents are hard to come by.
She said while she was pregnant with now-15-month-old Dante, the couple was living on the streets. The family has since found a home, but are living well below the poverty line.
“Between taking care of the house and my kid, it’s hard,” she said. “We make sure we have Dante’s needs taken care of before our own. We only had $100 this month to spend on groceries — we really needed this barbecue.”
According to a recent Statistics Canada report, Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to 7.4 per cent in August, up 0.2 per cent from July.