Anthony Furey: Canadians Are Moving to Alberta, Proving That Policies Have Consequences

Anthony Furey: Canadians Are Moving to Alberta, Proving That Policies Have Consequences
People are seen in downtown Calgary in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)
Anthony Furey

During the 2023 Toronto mayoral byelection, I made a tongue-in-cheek campaign promise to ban pro-Alberta advertising in the city.

It was during the annual gala dinner for the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada, and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith had flown into Toronto to be honoured.

During my remarks, I made note of the “Alberta Is Calling” campaign that saw advertisements trying to lure Toronto residents away from their city to head westward. The ads had totally taken over entire subway stations, targeting specific professions such as nurses and pointing to how salaries are higher and homes are less expensive. I told the Premier that, as mayor, I’d ban the ads.

I was joking. But then again, I only felt compelled to make the joke because it was obvious that there was something to those ads. If the campaign was a waste of time and no one took Alberta seriously, then there’d be no value to the joke because it would be a tasteless example of punching down.

We all knew though that quality of life in Alberta was, of course, looking pretty good by comparison and therefore the joke about banning the ads was really a joke about us scrambling to stop people from escaping Ontario.

A year ago, at the time of that event, we didn’t really know whether or not the Alberta Is Calling ad campaign was drawing people in. Now we know. And the campaign is a success. Canadians are moving to Alberta from other provinces in increasingly higher numbers.

According to recent reportingfrom the National Post, interprovincial migration numbers into Alberta doubled last year. In 2022, 22,278 people moved from other provinces to Alberta, but in 2023, that number was 45,194.

Third quarter numbers show that the highest number of new arrivals to Alberta by province originated from Ontario (6,262), followed by British Columbia (5,269).

The question of what’s fuelling this rapid increase seems to be exactly what the ad campaign claims—that life is indeed better by a number of key economic indicators.

Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax. It also doesn’t have a land transfer tax on the purchase of homes. Here in Toronto, we have two—a provincial land transfer tax and a municipal one.

These things all add up. And when the base price of a home is cheaper and the salaries are equivalent or better, the combined benefits are even greater. Your dollar goes a lot further.

These economic factors can all be quantified. What’s harder to get a firm grasp on though are the cultural reasons why Canadians may be thinking of ditching their home province in favour of Alberta.

Canadian cities are currently plagued with an element of urban decline. Toronto isn’t just unaffordable for most regular folks, it’s tragically plagued by crippling gridlock, worsening crime, a widening injection drug culture, and a general failure to build and repair infrastructure to make the city more liveable.

While I can’t speak with authority about how it feels to live in Alberta cities, there is the general sense in Ontario that Alberta towns don’t have it as bad as we do and also that they have a culture where it’s more acceptable to criticize these problems and demand change.

This whole exodus proves that policies have consequences. If city bureaucrats and politicians make poor choices, the city will suffer from them sooner or later. There are a number of once great American cities that are currently facing much worse decline. The result is an urban flight that is a mix of money leaving and the population escaping.

While it’s good news for Alberta that their ad campaign is working, it’s tragic for the rest of us. I don’t celebrate it. It’s really just a feedback mechanism to let the rest of us know that our own provinces aren’t doing so well.

We should aspire to turn the phenomenon around. You want your jurisdiction to be a place that people line up to enter, a place where they can envision a future, not somewhere they’re eager to depart.

Instead of banning any advertisements to encourage people to head west, let’s instead make it so that people don’t feel the need to leave in the first place.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.