September 25, 2022

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This week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney launched a campaign to attract skilled workers from Vancouver and Toronto to Alberta, promising lower taxes, affordable housing, shorter commutes and the Rocky Mountains. 

“I’m standing in front of something that a lot of folks in Toronto, Vancouver, don’t get to see very often: the yard of a single-family home,” the premier said.

Alberta economist Mike Holden said the province is struggling with a labour shortage, adding: “Albertans see themselves as a welcome place, they want to bring more people here.”

To be fair, housing costs in B.C. are the highest in the country. The average price of a home in Vancouver is more than $1.2 million, about twice as much as in Calgary, while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is $2,936 a month

 

For British Columbians living outside Greater Victoria and the Lower Mainland, however, commutes aren’t likely a concern. And we know not all commutes in Alberta are splendid: if you’ve ever taken Deerfoot Trail in Calgary during rush hour, you know.

As for the draw of the Rocky Mountains … B.C. is full of mountains, and has its own world-class ski resorts and hiking trails.

So what do some British Columbians think of the campaign?

 

‘A front yard is not the end all, be all’

“There’s more than just money and the cost of housing that determine where we want to live,” Vancouver-based job recruiter Henry Goldbeck told BC Today guest host Shelley Joyce. 

“Lifestyle and family and the environment and all of those things have a factor.”

 

“It’s so entertaining,” he added. “It’s getting people’s opinions and emotions out there.”

 

Goldbeck noted that B.C. doesn’t have to advertise to Alberta the benefits of living here: according to the province, more than 100,000 people immigrated to B.C. in 2021, one-third of whom are from other Canadian provinces.

 

Cynthia Pfeiffer left Alberta for B.C. in 2019. 

“As our hobbies are very outdoorsy, we spent a lot more money in Alberta going on vacations to B.C. for lake days and ski trips,” she wrote in an email to CBC. 

“Also, things like housing utilities and property tax were significantly more expensive in Alberta. We love B.C.!”

 

Jan Bunney says she, too, escaped the Prairies.

“We moved from Alberta to Vancouver and there is not anything that could make us want to move back! Especially because of the [rise] of the alt-right. It’s always been conservative but now it’s radicalized.”

 

“It’s super irritating to keep hearing folks talk about home ownership as if it’s everyone’s goal,” writes Tara Burkhardt.

“I’ve lived in an East Vancouver co-op for over 20 years and the sense of community and support that me and my kids have experienced here is something that I would never get in an uber conservative Alberta neighbourhood. A front yard is not the end all, be all.”

 

‘Lower Mainlanders should open their minds’

Ginny Aho of Surrey, B.C., has a different approach: she’s encouraging people not to brush off the idea of prairie life.

“Every city and town has its ups and downs, but the cost of housing here especially for young people is just ridiculous,” she said.

“There are great things to see and do elsewhere, and so much more freedom to live a good life, afford to travel, and escape the nasty traffic issues here. Lower Mainlanders should open their minds to new horizons.”

Recruiter Cristina Schultz says she knows many people from B.C. who have left for Alberta in search of affordable housing. 

For real estate agent Wendy Runge, family and finances were two reasons she and her husband moved from Kamloops, B.C., to Calgary a couple years ago.

She adds her husband was able to retire early because the move saved so much money.

“Calgary is an absolutely beautiful city,” she said.



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