Canada's largest evacuation, was the wakeup call Fort McMurray resident Tony Bussey needed in order to lose 330 pounds!
Why I came to Fort McMurray? It’s pretty simple… opportunity. I got tired of what I was doing in Ontario and felt that I had gone as far as I could in my career. I was itching to do something new, something I could get excited about, something to reset my career.
I had consistently heard praises about Fort McMurray from my father-in-law and it sounded like the change that I may be looking for. So in 2008, I finally bit the bullet and took a position with Northern Lights Health Centre as a security supervisor for the hospital here in Fort McMurray.
At first, I didn’t know if I was ready for what I signed up for! Downtown Fort McMurray use to be “just crazy” on Friday and Saturday nights. There was a place called “The Oil Can on Franklin Ave” that was the hot spot for action. Specifically, after every UFC fight that was broadcast, there was always someone coming into the hospital because they were “Bottled” or “beaten up”!
About a week into my first shift I remember calling my wife and saying “What did we do”!
At that time, the infrastructure on the highway was non-existent, so if you were coming from either Timberlea or Thickwood, you had to be on either one of those hills by 6:00 am. or you’d be stuck in traffic. Traffic didn’t flow nearly well as it does now, there was always tons of people on the roads and the traffic was absolutely ridiculous! Back then I use to smoke; I could smoke three and a half cigarettes before I got home, that's how I use to gauge how long I sat in traffic!
But now I feel like it was “destiny” that we moved here and that we were meant to be McMurrian’s, everything in our lives has just blossomed since living here.
I believe in this city and our leadership, they’re proactive and responding to the demands of the populist because of how it was in the past. I think they’re on the right track, their trajectory is heading towards something really good. Especially now that the leaders are talking about a waterfront development! Their emphasis is now on families; family settings and things for families to do and less and less on the transient population. We have a great community that's engaged and we have leadership that's even more engaged than previous leadership and I think good things are to come in the future.
As McMurrian’s, we need to show the uniqueness of Fort McMurray, it's a diverse place and we have many different cultures that help this city prosper and grow.
I would like to see a greater emphasis on keeping everything local and supporting the local businesses. I don’t know what’s down the road or around the corner for me, but I can confidently say that going back to Ontario hasn’t entered my mind! Fort McMurray is where I want to be, this is where I want to stay, my daughter was born here and this is now home to me.
"I found myself out of work in Montreal, the start-up company I was working for went belly up, so I reached out to my friend Pete Potipcoe. I told him that I was looking for any possibilities in radio and if he was looking for a news guy. Turns out that they had someone leave 2 days prior, so the timing worked out perfectly.
I flew from Montreal to Edmonton then I got off the plane in Edmonton to find my connecting flight. I had done a lot of research on Fort McMurray and I'd heard the stereotypical, glorified, it’s all men there's no women, it's a big camp city. I was sitting at the gate waiting for the flight to board and I noticed it was 98% men waiting alongside me. I think there was maybe 2 women on the flight. It was a packed flight. At that time oil was well over $120.00 a barrel.
As we were boarding, the ticket agent was saying to people, ‘oh first time to Fort McMoney.’ I was coming here for radio, so it was not Fort McMoney to me. I landed on December 2nd, 2014 at 11:30 PM in Fort McMurray and it was -35 degrees outside, it was a great way to get acclimatized.
I had an apartment with Pete Potipcoe above Mitchells when I first moved here, it was good and bad. When you wake up every morning and it smells like pulled pork it's fantastic. However, when you wake up every morning and it smells like pulled pork it's terrible. The best part was long weekends, whatever soup they didn't sell they’d bring it up to us, oh and easy access to sunshine bread."
"I was born in Fort McMurray, I never actually left. I was in the Catholic school system from kindergarten right up to grade twelve and then I got started with the Bachelor of Education through Keyano College it's a collaborative program through the U of A. It was really nice for me to get to live at home and not have a lot of student loans. I was also able to work as a lifeguard part time which really helped.
I love the opportunity Fort McMurray offers. I know that if I wasn't living in Fort McMurray I probably wouldn't have gotten this job right away. Fort McMurray definitely offers opportunity to lots of us.
This is home for me, it's definitely what you make of it. The people are what I like most about Fort McMurray. I’ve grown up here so I know a lot of people in the community.
I graduated in May, I wasn't even really looking for jobs yet then all of a sudden I got the call I got a job with the Fort McMurray Catholic School District."
"This is actually my second time here, I first came up in 2006 right after I graduated from high school. I grew up in Newfoundland, smack dab in the middle of Grand Falls. It's not small compared to the rest of Newfoundland but it’s a dead end.
The first time I moved up to Edmonton to go to bible college because when you grow up in the church in Newfoundland you either become a missionary or a pastor. So, I came up here and went to bible college for a year with my wife.
My wife worked at a call center and I was trying to follow my dream at bible college, but she got pregnant. We decided I can't in good conscious go to college and make her work and try to raise a baby.
I started working on site you know doing that thing. I had the most exciting job in the world as a pump operator. I did that for a year when I first got up here making $32 an hour to sit in a truck and watch a pump. I was like sign me up it was awesome for a couple months but after a while, it was soul-crushing there was no fulfillment in it whatsoever. But I pushed through because I had a kid and was married. I had a family and that's what you’re supposed to do as a man. But I couldn't do it anymore it was just crushing. Most of the time my pump wasn’t even pumping I had one of those emergency pumps. I gained forty pounds, cause what do you do? You just sit there and eat. It was before iPhones I tried to watch movies on a little iPod it was brutal. So, I ended up leaving I had a disagreement with the manager there I was not enjoying it anyway so I decided to take it as my opportunity to leave.
My mother found a brochure for a radio station that was looking for a DJ, I thought well I can't do that I don't have any education or experience. She told me to try it anyway and I talked to a guy Rick Kirschner. He is the nicest guy in the world he always sees the heart behind the person. He said ‘you know what your funny and you have a great personality, so I really think we should give you this job. Don't worry about the skills or the experience we can teach all that.’ That changed everything that turned me into Radio Dave.
I got married really young 18 or 19 we weren't even really finished growing up so we kind of fell apart and got divorced. I did not handle it very well. Rather than do what I was raised and taught to do, turn into my faith and to God when I hit those rocks. I totally spiraled the other way I started drinking, doing drugs all that fun stuff, I got stuck in that pit for seven years.
I came back after we got divorced and I met another girl a few years late while I was in that pit and she was kind of going through the same thing I was. We kind of used each other as a crutch and powered through it together. We moved to Edmonton four years ago because I knew I couldn't get clean here. I was running club envy, everybody gave me everything for free. I knew I had to move out of town or I would never get clean. So, we moved, it worked for a little while but when you're doing things on your own strength sometimes it doesn't work. Eventually, that fell apart and she kicked me out, she just couldn't do it anymore.
After she kicked me out, I moved back up to Fort McMurray with my parents after the evacuation. I pretty much just said, God, I’m going to give this all to you I’m going to put you first for the first time in my life. It worked, I got my life back together, started going to the gym, I came back to the radio station it was a real story of redemption.
My girl and I got back together we got married last August, we had our first wedding anniversary on the twelfth. Everything has been amazing since then. This is my second time back and this time is way better than the first time. Now that I am back, I am not going anywhere I love this town, I love the people here. Fort McMurray is such a boiling pot of the nicest people from every other place."