It’s not the same powerful theme that Alberta rolled out last summer over housing costs for residents in Toronto and Vancouver
Move to Alberta and get “two homes for the price of one.”
This was part of the sales pitch the provincial government made to residents of Toronto and Vancouver last August as part of the Alberta is Calling campaign that began. It aimed to attract more workers to move here.
How well does that message resonate when there’s no decisive advantage in housing prices to tout?
Will the song of Alberta call out to people in places such as Windsor or Sudbury, Moncton or Halifax?
We’re about to find out.
On Monday, Jobs and Economy Minister Brian Jean launched the second phase of the initiative to pull other Canadians into Alberta’s orbit, this time focusing on workers in 14 different cities (in Ontario and Atlantic Canada) than last year’s initial program.
In Ontario, it’s setting its sights on poaching workers from London, Hamilton, Chatham, North Bay, Cornwall and Timmins.
In Atlantic Canada, the communities of Charlottetown, Saint John, Halifax and St. John’s will be targeted.
Jean said the province will take what it learned from the first round of marketing and highlight Alberta’s advantages, such as the availability of work, higher pay and excellent quality of living.
“We’re targeting places where people need jobs and they’re looking for a different quality of life,” he told reporters Monday.
“We targeted these because of the high unemployment, but also because of the type of skilled trades they have.”
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The government plans on spending $1.8 million in 2023 on billboards, radio ads and other marketing steps — on top of the $3.2 million spent in last summer’s initiative.
The new campaign will include messages such as: “What did the Albertan say to the Western University grad? You’re hired.”
It will also play up the fact Alberta has the lowest taxes in Canada, cheaper gasoline prices and higher salaries.
However, it’s not the same powerful theme that Alberta rolled out last summer over housing costs for residents in Toronto and Vancouver.
Last year, the average benchmark house price in Edmonton was $389,700 and $516,600 in Calgary, compared with $1.2 million in Toronto or Vancouver.
It’s too soon to definitively declare last year’s initiative was a success, but the province saw its highest quarterly growth rate since 1980 during the July-to-September period. Alberta saw 19,000 people from other parts of Canada move here, including 8,000 from Ontario.
For people who couldn’t save up such a sizable down payment or afford the higher housing costs in the country’s largest city, it likely had an impact.
But in Halifax-Dartmouth, the average residential sales price was almost $538,000 in February. In Windsor-Essex, the benchmark house price was $565,400.
You won’t be buying two houses for the price of one if you’re coming to Calgary from those centres.
You might not even get one. The benchmark housing price averaged $268,400 in Saint John in January.
“I think Alberta, or Calgary, is going to have a hard time encouraging people to come from our area to your area because of housing prices,” said Reggie Caverson, executive director with Workforce Planning for Sudbury and Manitoulin, a non-profit organization that conducts labour market research.
In Sudbury, the benchmark price in February was $401,000, while the unemployment rate in the area stood at 3.9 per cent last month.
“I don’t think the success will be high.”
And it might not be as simple as saying there’s work available in this province.
There were more than 950,000 job vacancies across the country during the third quarter of last year.
In Halifax, the unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent in February. In Windsor, the jobless figure in the area fell last month to 5.6 per cent.
The rate was higher in Alberta at 5.8 per cent, including 6.6 per cent in Calgary.
“I feel like a year ago, you would have had a better chance of snapping up some people,” said Justin Falconer, CEO of Workforce WindsorEssex.
“It’s really such a hot labour market here.”
The area’s employment ranks have grown by 25,000 in recent months as several large projects go forward, including a new $5-billion Stellantis N.V. and LG Energy Solutions electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant that is expected to eventually employ 2,500.
In many provinces, there is a need for more workers in areas such as accommodations and food services, along with skilled trades in the construction sector.
Alberta Central chief economist Charles St-Arnaud pointed out that labour shortages are still affecting much of the country. Alberta has a higher unemployment rate than the national average, but the province has done a good job absorbing the massive population influx over the past year.
And the province does have the highest income levels in the country. However, wage growth in Canada has risen by 5.4 per cent over the past 12 months, while only increasing by four per cent in Alberta.
“What I would call the Alberta wage advantage is melting,” he said.
NDP MLA Christina Gray said she doesn’t have a problem with the marketing campaign but noted other factors will also be considered by workers, such as the overcrowded classrooms in Alberta and concerns around health-care staffing shortages.
“While a snappy marketing campaign is great, this province needs to fix the fundamentals,” she said.
Janet Lane, director of the Human Capital Centre at the Canada West Foundation, which has studied the issue of talent attraction and retention of young workers in the province, noted Alberta’s economy has been diversifying over the past few years.
Yet, many of the available jobs currently in the province are lower-paying positions and it’s unclear if people will pack up the moving van to come to Alberta to fill those jobs.
“It’s worth a try,” she said.
“There will be some people who do come. Whether we get enough people coming from those other cities — or internationally — remains to be seen,” she said.
Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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