Neighboring British Columbia’s east side, Alberta is starting to experience an outflow of residents to their western neighbor province. Alberta is Canada’s fourth most populous province, just behind BC. Up until late last year, there was an influx of BC residents moving to Alberta each year. The labor trends have traditionally seen BC residents moving east to Alberta since at least the 1990s. Nevertheless, in the fourth quarter of 2014, BC had a net gain of more than 600 Albertans. Why are people moving from Alberta to BC?
With close proximity to an international port, Vancouver had attracted many businesses and their employees. Natural gas exports have opened offices in the downtown area and projects are expected to launch in northwest BC – oil fields, pipelines, and mines – driving up job opportunities and the number of workers relocating from Alberta. Shaw Communications recently announced that 1,000 jobs in Calgary would be affected as the company relocates their customer care operations to other cities, one of which is Vancouver.
The oil industry has traditionally been a stable trade in Alberta; however, that notion of stability is now being tested with low oil prices hurting much of Alberta. Many Albertans are seeing this as an opportunity to work in different industries and to move to different areas.
The technology industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of Vancouver’s business economy and is a draw for some Albertans. Engineers, business sector workers, information technology employees, and finance specialists could be driving the move from one province – and one profession – to another. Even the tourism industry has seen a shift, with the draw for travelers being Vancouver more so than Alberta, resulting in more jobs in BC. As Alberta continues to be hit by the falling oil prices, the BC labour pool increases.
Not only are more businesses and employees moving to Vancouver, but also more people are investing in business opportunities in BC, further evidence that Alberta is cooling off in terms of desirability. The interprovincial migration numbers are in addition to the high numbers of international immigration the Vancouver area is already experiencing. Immigration numbers to BC exceeded expectations in 2014, with no sign of slowing down for 2015.
Even with the sticker shock that comes with house hunting in Vancouver’s real estate market, many Albertans are choosing to move in the city and Fraser Valley. The desire to be in Vancouver often outweighs the limitations of affordability. Alberta’s loss of residents may just be Vancouver’s gain in the housing market. In January of 2015, the home price index showed that home prices were up more than five percent over the past year.