The provincial government’s been selling the “Alberta Advantage” for years with promises of higher wages and lower taxes. Now, housing starts are trending up and so is the number of people migrating to the province.
But is Alberta ready for population growth?
Through the first three quarters of 2023, more than 45,000 people moved to Alberta from within Canada. Economic experts say there are several reasons for this, including the fact that major centres in the province can grow with the population, unlike other metropolitan areas in the country.
One of the biggest motivators however is lower prices.
“When inflation is time, times are tough, and everybody’s struggling to make ends meet. It’s really easy to realize that Alberta is a good place to make your money stretch a lot further than in the rest of Canada,” said Concordia University economics professor Moshe Lander.
“It’s hard to avoid realizing that Alberta doesn’t have a provincial sales tax. So dollar-for-dollar your money stretches about 10 per cent further the moment you cross into the province. Then when you also add that it has some of the lowest income tax rates of anywhere in Canada, the amount that you have available to spend is even more too.”
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Questions are now being asked about what the newest Albertans might find if the province keeps growing at a rapid rate.
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“Edmonton and Calgary are way behind where they need to be. In fact, this could be a turn-off that could hurt them in the medium to long term,” Lander said.
According to Statistics Canada, Alberta had the most inter-provincial migration. 6,262 residents from Ontario made the move west and 5,269 relocated from B.C.
But Lander says Alberta’s infrastructure hasn’t kept up.
“Most cities are not ready for the massive amount of immigration that Canada’s been seeing. When you add to it that Alberta’s migration is party inter-provincial as well as international, not enough houses are being built, not enough doctors are available, not enough schools are there,” he said.
The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) says the population boom raises concern there will not be enough resources for people to access safe and timely health care.
“There’s no question that it’s causing a burden and a struggle for our already overburdened and struggling health-care systems,” said AMA president Paul Parks.
With the amount of growth Edmonton has seen from both inter-provincial and international migrants, Parks says that the number of health care workers needed is not increasing as the population grows. And if a new hospital wasn’t at the top of the list before, it should be now.
“We needed one in the Edmonton area five, ten years ago at a minimum. Now we keep adding more and more people, and we just do not have the capacity in terms of acute care and long-term care,” said Parks.
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Lander also says if Alberta doesn’t take strides soon to get their infrastructure and resources back on track, people may look elsewhere.
“People are moving now and if they get a bad taste in their mouth about Edmonton, Calgary or Alberta in general, they’re leaving and there’s a good chance they’re not coming back for a generation,” said Lander.
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