Alberta is calling.
And while thousands of people have picked up the phone, packed their bags and headed west, not all parts of the province are created equal.
The UCP government curiously held its announcement for the second campaign launch Monday (March 13) at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Though the Bow Valley is almost always in a state of needing employees, what it lacks now is the housing to actually give them the needed shelter in between shifts at work.
Reaching out to address labour shortages is important for any government and industry to do. Even though other regions may see it as an attempt to pillage human resources, the choice to move for potentially greener pastures is ultimately up to any individual to do so.
And by early indications, the first Alberta Is Calling campaign was relatively successful with more than 30,000 people jumping on the caravan to head west, leaving their apartments in Mississauga and the comfy confines of the Cactus Club for the suburbs of Calgary and Edmonton or rural areas throughout the province.
The initial campaign focused on people living in Toronto and Vancouver, with the next phase looking to Ontario and the Maritimes and eventually spreading internationally.
But before rolling out the red carpet for new workers to the valley, the issue of adding all forms of housing in the region should be the top priority.
Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development Brian Jean said all corners of the province had an “affordable exceptional lifestyle”. That may be true in most areas of Alberta, but the Bow Valley and the word affordability are rarely used in the same sentence in a positive manner.
As Jean said, someone in Toronto or Vancouver could sell their house and buy four houses in Alberta to “live in one and rent three”, it’s a sign of how out of touch some in the government may be when it comes to understanding the Bow Valley.
Though the Bow Valley has a need for workers, where exactly those workers will live wasn’t identified by Jean. Vanmore may be a promising spot in the summer months, but the lot isn’t exactly the answer to the question.
Housing may be cheaper in some areas of Alberta compared to other parts of the country, but housing in the Bow Valley remains a commodity for many where significant rent increases and simply being unable to find housing is common.
The announcement will be one of many in the Banff-Kananaskis riding with the provincial election 10 weeks away. The area is a swing riding in determining the future leadership for the province.
A March 11 poll from 338 Canada – an independent website for polling and electoral projections – has the NDP securing 49 per cent of the popular vote compared to the UCP’s 45 per cent, albeit with a margin of error of eight per cent.
The website puts the NDP’s odds of winning at 69 per cent, but with more than two months to go that could easily flip-flop for either side.
Having more attention to the area will be a tactic by all parties to show what they can do in the valley. Premier Danielle Smith rolled into Canmore Feb. 14, while NDP MLA David Shepherd was in Banff March 3 and more will come in the upcoming weeks.
A Feb. 2 provincial funding announcement showed support for low-income families for subsidizing transit passes. Of course, Canmore offers free bus transit and Banff does the same for its residents, leaving a few thousand dollars likely to help valley residents out of the $15 million in provincial-wide funding.
The announcements will continue, but unless it’s of relevance to the valley, it’s best to have them elsewhere.
Alberta may be calling, but the Bow Valley is likely letting the machine get it.