The Darlings, an Ordinary Family in Extraordinary Times

Craig Darling was born in Peterborough to a family whose roots go back many generations. He wants you to know that he’s not one of those Warsaw Darlings, and not one of the insurance Darlings either, but a true Peterborough Darling.

He attended Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School, played on the hockey team, had many friends, and was just an all round ordinary young man. When he graduated he got a good job at GE, continued to play house league hockey, drink beer with his buddies, and to live a pretty carefree life. When he felt settled and thought he had good prospects for a future, he married Sue, a who he had been dating for a couple of years. When Sue was expecting their first child they bought a house together on Rubidge street, and settled down to an ordinary happy life.

Shortly after their second child was born, Craig was laid off in one of the many GE downsizings. He tried to find work in Peterborough, but all he could find was temporary, precarious, poorly paying jobs. After a year of EI, working double shifts, and burning through their savings they were almost at the point of missing mortgage payments. Craig spoke to a friend who had moved to Alberta who told him that he could find work with his company in the oil sands in Fort McMurray, so Craig splurged on a plane ticket to check it out. Things were booming and his friend directed him to a place where he found full time, well paid work. His new company trained him and he quickly certified as a mechanic. He was making bags of money and sending as much as he could home to support his family.

After a few months Craig settled into a routine of coming home every 6 to 8 weeks for a week to spend time with his family. This went well at first, but after a couple of years, they were both lonely and missed each other desperately while he was away. When he was home he was tired and irritable and he felt like he was losing touch with Sue and their kids. Brian, the older boy, was resentful that his dad never came to see him play hockey and his sister, Sarah, was sad that he didn’t pay attention to her even while he was home.

Craig’s trips home became less frequent and when he was home he and Sue often quarrelled. With the children both in school she had restarted a part time bookkeeping job. The children were unhappy, both parents were unhappy, and Sue told Craig that she thought it was time for a divorce. They tried marriage counselling but could not see a way out. Even though he did not like working in the oil industry, Craig’s pay in Alberta was too good, there were still no good jobs in Peterborough, and Sue did not want to disrupt the children’s roots by moving with them to Alberta. They went to see the family mediator at the court. She had seen this story too many times, and started to help them work out some solutions that would allow them to separate in a way that would be best for the children. However, now that Sue and Craig were confronting the issue collaboratively and openly without fighting about everything they decided to give their marriage one more chance.

One of Craig’s friends told him about a program at Fleming College that would allow him to become certified as a solar panel installer, or housing retrofit tradesman, or energy auditor. He talked to a job counsellor who said that yes this program was real, and pointed to new government programs that would provide what they called a “Just Transition” to support him if he wanted to move home. The counsellor also pointed out a new federal program that would make it easier for home owners to retrofit their homes to be more energy efficient. This program would mean that there would be a market for his new skills.

With these prospects in mind and also considering the ongoing layoffs in Fort McMurray that could strike him at any time, Craig took advantage of the Just Transition program, quit his oil patch job, moved home, and started back to school to learn the trade of Solar Panel Installation. At Flanigan and Sun, a local solar panel installer, business was expanding so rapidly that they were able to hire Craig right away after graduating. He loved his new job. And he loved being home for dinner and reading bedtime stories to his children.

Flanigan’s customers were impressed with how easy it was to apply for the government program with help from advisors from GreenUp who guided them through the whole process. The program covers a free energy audit, energy efficiency upgrades through improved insulation, and changes like furnace upgrades, heat pumps, and solar panels. Their customers were able to arrange a low interest loan through CMHC for up to $40,000 of retrofits with the expectation that the savings in energy costs would ease the repayment of the loan. And best of all they did not have to worry about what would happen if they moved because, under the provisions of a program called the Local Improvement Charge, the loan was associated with their home and repayment was included as a separate line item on their property tax bill. Craig and Sue took advantage of the program to retrofit their own house.

After a couple of years with Flanigan, Craig had learned a lot and he decided to branch out on his own and start a new company supplying the full service of housing retrofits. His company now employs 8 people who have also taken the certification training at Fleming.

Best of all, Craig and Sue were able to patch up their marriage and provide the support that children need to thrive in these difficult times. Thay now have time to volunteer more in the community and will celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary next June.

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