Alberta's siren call rings nationwide
A robust economy draws Canadians
eager for 'fantastic' work opportunities
By LILY NGUYEN
Wednesday, July 17, 2002 Print Edition, Page A8
CALGARY -- Go west, young man. Five years ago, Nova Scotian Wade Noiles heeded the old adage of the opportunistic.
Looking back, the 28-year-old who now calls Calgary home has little cause to regret it.
"The opportunities in Alberta are fantastic compared to where I come from," said Mr. Noiles, a native of Springhill, N.S., population 4,200.
In Nova Scotia, "you have people working at McDonald's with science degrees," said Mr. Noiles, who works as a senior technologist at Calgary architecture firm CPV Group after a three-year stint in Edmonton.
He will get married in two weeks to his 25-year-old fiancée, also from Nova Scotia.
An influx of young workers and families into the booming Prairie province has been its fountain of youth, slowing the aging process that has taken hold elsewhere in Canada.
Data from Statistics Canada's 2001 census show that Alberta has the youngest median age among Canada's provinces, at 35.0 years, with the youngest median working-age population -- between 20 and 64 -- of 40.3. The territory of Nunavut had a younger working-age population, with a median age of 35.4.
Of the nation's four major urban centres, the Calgary-Edmonton corridor had a median age of 35.2, up only 1.5 years from 1996. By contrast, the median age of Southwestern Ontario's Golden Horseshoe region, near Toronto, rose 1.7 years to 36.4; the Montreal region rose 2.0 years to 38.1; and British Columbia's Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island area rose 2.1 years to 38.1.
Sherry Wallace, a spokeswoman for Statscan's Prairie region, said from her Saskatchewan office that the vast economic opportunities in the Edmonton-Calgary area are drawing young people from other provinces, including her own.
"Our older people are staying here getting older, and many of our younger people are moving to the Edmonton-Calgary corridor to work," she said from Regina.
Saskatchewan has lost so many of its young people to the more economically robust province that Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco showed up at last week's Calgary Stampede to hand out "I Love Regina" T-shirts to former residents as part of an attempt to lure them back.
Kenn Bur, a spokesman for Economic Development Edmonton, said the region offers many things that young people want.
"There's a buzz across the land that Alberta is for young people," he said. "It continues to be a land of opportunity, a place where you can get a job, where there's affordable housing, where taxes are lower and where the quality of life is unparalleled."
Mr. Noiles agreed, saying even though he has moved to a thriving urban centre, he hasn't noticed a significant increase in his cost of living.
"If you lived in downtown Halifax, I imagine it would be comparable to living in Calgary. The rents are probably about the same, but the cost is probably a little more in Halifax because you have the two taxes," he said, contrasting Alberta's GST-only sales tax of 7 per cent with Nova Scotia's 15-per-cent harmonized sales tax, which includes federal and provincial sales tax.
"That's why young people are coming out," said Mr. Noiles, who estimated that about a quarter of the people in his generation who grew up in Springhill eventually headed to Alberta.
Mr. Bur predicted the trend of migration to the Prairie province would continue because Alberta's economic engines are expected to keep on humming. For example, he pointed to a May report from his organization that found that in the area north of Red Deer alone, a total of $64.6-billion in capital projects are currently in the works or are scheduled to start in the next two years.