Opportunities in N.S. may reduce impact of Alberta job recruitment, says expert
An economic expert says Nova Scotians may not be as open to going west in search of new opportunities as Alberta launches its second campaign to draw skilled workers from Atlantic Canada and Ontario.
The Alberta government said this week it was launching a second campaign piggybacking off the Alberta is Calling program launched last summer. It initially targeted Canadians living in Toronto and Vancouver.
Lars Osberg, an economics professor at Dalhousie University, says the outlook for the province is much different now than it was prior to 2014 when Alberta's economy was bolstered by the oil boom.
"Developing a campaign like this in the lead up to provincial elections, it's got to have a political angle, right? It's trying to recreate the optimism and the sense of 'good times coming' that was a real thing during the oil boom period from 2000 to 2014," he said.
"But those days are gone."
Osberg also said that the attractiveness of a move west depends heavily on the individual's occupation, with several industries in Alberta including tech and health care experiencing healthy growth recently.
But Nova Scotia has also seen an increase in several industries within the province.
"If you look around at the Halifax skyline, you see building cranes everywhere," he said. "The balance between Alberta job opportunities and Nova Scotia job opportunities was completely different 20 and 15 years ago than it is today."
Alberta can be 'good place to get ahead,' says welder
Some key selling points of Alberta include increased affordability of homes, lower taxes and higher wages, according to the Alberta is Calling website.
Those were some of the reasons Andrew Calder, who is originally from the Annapolis Valley, said he decided to move out west in 2017.
"It's probably the same story as everyone else, just the money," Calder said. "You hear about it from your buddies who went, and you're like, 'You know what? Can't hurt.'"
Calder, who was completing a welding apprenticeship at the time, said low wages in Nova Scotia inspired his move. While out west, he said he worked in both Alberta and British Columbia and the time he spent there "was worth it."
He moved back to Nova Scotia this month after he realized he struggled with work-life balance.
"Money's great and all, but I had really not much of a life," Calder said. "If you're in the trades, [Nova Scotia] is a lot better than it used to be."
But he said he wouldn't discourage anyone from making the journey out there, calling it "a great place to get ahead."
Worries about draw of Alberta's higher wages
Some advocates in Nova Scotia, however, have expressed concern about the campaign.
Kevin MacMullin, CEO of the International Union of Operating Engineers, says the draw of higher wages in Alberta does pose a challenge for Nova Scotia, which has been struggling to keep paramedics.
"I received a phone call from a paramedic in Alberta who wanted to know what the wages were … here, and I told him our top wage is $36.04 [an hour], and his reply was, 'Well, I'm making $48 [an hour] in Alberta', so it's quite a difference," he said.
"When you lose 133 paramedics last year, 125 the year before and 73 the year before that, that's very concerning. We can't afford to drain people away like that."
Sandra Mullen, the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, has had similar worries.
During an interview on Information Morning Nova Scotia, Mullen said the province has to step up to improve employee retention.
"We cannot afford to lose another worker in health care and other sectors," she said. "To Nova Scotia's benefit, Alberta isn't the enticing option it once was.
"I believe that as much as there are job opportunities in Alberta … I don't believe it's the same pull at all because I believe there are lots of opportunities for Nova Scotians here."
Osberg echoed that sentiment, saying that today's young adults might be more discerning before making the move west.
"The 20-to-35 age cohort today is going to be a bit more savvy than the similar aged people would have been 15 years ago," Osberg said.
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