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10 worst places to live in Canada: Part 6, Brooks, Alberta

1 January 2012

Brooks is a city in Alberta that has a total population of 13,676 people. Brooks was a small little village town until 1996, when its population soared over the 10,000 mark, giving it actual city status. The economy in Brooks is quite good, and they experience extremely mild weather when compared with the rest of Alberta. So, what’s bad about Brooks?

Brooks, Alberta

If you’re looking for a lack of jobs and a high poverty rate, you’re looking at the wrong place. Brooks has an unemployment rate of 2.86 percent, which is well below the national rate that sits around 7 per cent. The energy sector here is strong, revolving mostly around oil and gas; and metal manufacturing is also very prominent. Construction and food processing are also very big; and all areas of employment are regularly hiring – making it easy for just about anyone in Brooks to find a job. But Brooks has recently seen trouble with one of their biggest employers in the city – XL Foods.

Who can forget the scandal that hit XL Foods in 2012, when it was found that they were testing incorrectly for E. coli. This bacteria, which can be found in cows, was found extensively through the plant, and it caused people across the nation to get very ill.

XL Foods, at that time, processed between 2,000 and 5,000 slaughtered cows a day, which it would then distribute throughout the country. Cases of people becoming ill after consuming XL meat stretched from B.C. to Newfoundland, and the plant was temporarily closed. This of course, caused the local economy to take a hit, as hundreds of people found themselves without work. In October the plant was taken over by JBS USA for two months. This company still holds the exclusive option to buy the plant.

So again, aside from the XL Foods scandal, what is bad about Brooks?

Brooks, Alberta: Crime rates

Speaking to residents that live there, you will hear that the crime rate in Brooks is very high, although there are little to no statistics to find on what the actual crime rate is. Drugs are a particular problem here, and are so bad that it’s compared to that of what you would find in one of the bigger surrounding cities, such as Calgary or Edmonton. And even though Brooks has the negative aspects usually only found in a big city, it doesn’t have the amenities to make up for it.

Brooks is mostly an agricultural and environmental city. As such, while you’ll find all the hunting, hiking, and fishing that you could ever want, you may also find a lack of stores (especially those open after 6 pm,) and there’s not a whole lot to do if you’re just passing through. With a few shops and motels and hotels, Brooks is typically a place for people to pass through, rather than to stop and enjoy the scenery for days at a time.

Another reason why people don’t often view Brooks as a place to stay and absorb local culture is because of the terrible stench that fills the air – and everything else in Brooks. It’s because of the city’s large manufacturing sector, particularly at the feedlot and packing plant, that emit this unpleasant aroma into the air, and it finds its way into just about everything. Many tourists and visitors to the area even say that this stink fills the hotels, and the linens and furniture within them.

Health care accessibility

But it’s not the crime, or even the stink, that put Brooks, Alberta on our top 10 list. It’s the fact that this is an area that’s really hurting for health care.

In fact, Brooks has the fewest doctors per capita in the entire country, with less than one doctor for every 1,000 people. For a matter of perspective, bigger cities typically have four doctors for every 1,000 people. This lack of physicians means long wait times, and many residents looking for doctors that are currently accepting new patients. It also means that if you require a specialist, you’ll probably have to travel to one of the surrounding areas. But, this is an area that Brooks is working on.

Partnering with nearby Newell County, these two areas are currently running a recruitment and retention program to attract new doctors to the area – and it’s working! More doctors have already moved into the area, and residents that didn’t have a doctor before now have several doctors that are willing to serve them.

A glimmer of hope for Brooks, Alberta

Of course, no place is perfect; and if you’re looking for a bad place to live anywhere in Canada, you may have a hard time finding it. But with every list there must be a best and a worst, and the health care situation alone is enough to put Brooks at the top of our “worst” list. Still, out of the ten places that are on the complete list of bad places to live in Canada, Brooks is definitely one of the best with their decent economy, and low employment rate.

Another glimmer of hope for residents of Brooks is the city’s efforts to provide preventative health and wellness services. In fact, the city of Brooks has a certified personal trainer available to provide residents with comprehensive fitness, strength and flexibility training. If you prefer group activities, there is also a fitness class schedule that changes on a seasonal basis.

Brooks is also home to the EID Aquatic Centre, which has a long list of amenities. There’s a diving board, a waterslide, a wave pool, a large hot tub, a toddler splash area and even a lazy river. The EID Aquatic Centre has so many great features that it is a popular attraction for visitors throughout Alberta. Swim instructors at the centre offer swim lessons and even water aerobics classes, providing fitness and swimming lesson options for the whole family.

The city has also made an effort to keep kids safe and prepare pre-teens and teenagers to spend time at home on their own and to begin babysitting children of different ages. The city offers this babysitting course four times a year and gives children over 11 an overview of babysitting and how to deal with emergency situations. The home alone safety course is for children between nine and 13, and is also offered four times a year. It covers everything from basic First Aid to responding and strangers at the door, to preparing snacks and meals.

These fitness and safety initiatives are just a few examples of how the city of Brooks is working to transform its reputation as a place with limited resources to one that works to educate and engage with the community in meaningful ways.

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