B.C.-Alberta trade relationship worth $30b: study

Port of Vancouver | Photo: Rob Kruyt

What happened: New report concludes feuding B.C. and Alberta have the ‘closest economic ties’ among any two provinces

Why it matters: Strains between the neighbouring provinces are growing amidst a dispute over expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline

Political tensions may be running high between B.C. and Alberta but a new report reveals the neighbouring provinces may not be able to afford to take a break from each other.

The Business Council of B.C. (BCBC) has pegged total trade in goods and services between the two provinces at $30 billion, according to a May 16 analysis.

In addition to the dollar figures, the report finds that interprovincial migration between the provinces “suggest B.C. and Alberta share the closest economic ties of any two provinces in the country.”

More than 225,000 British Columbians have moved to Alberta over the past 10 years, while about 253,000 Albertans have moved to B.C. during that same period.

The report concluded that the B.C.-Alberta migration numbers add up to the highest mobility rates between provinces compared with any other pairings across the country.

As for the $30-billion question of trade, B.C. exported $15.8 billion in goods and services to Alberta in 2015, accounting for 40.7% of its interprovincial exports.

Alberta, meanwhile, exported $14.2 billion in goods and services to B.C. that same year, accounting for 21.6% of its interprovincial exports.

“Geography clearly is a factor here, but it is noteworthy that even though Ontario’s economy is two and a half times as large as Alberta’s (and its population is more than three times bigger), the value of B.C.’s exports to Alberta is 1.3 times greater than the value of its exports to Ontario,” BCBC chief economist and report author Ken Peacock wrote in the analysis.

“British Columbia ranks as Alberta’s second largest provincial export market, after Ontario. However, Alberta’s exports to Ontario, in dollar terms, are just 1.7 times its exports to B.C., even though the Ontario economy is roughly three times bigger than the B.C. economy.”

While B.C. and Alberta remain at odds over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, energy products notably accounted for the most exports for both provinces than any other category.

B.C. exported $2.2 billion in mineral fuels (natural gas) in 2015 to Alberta, accounting for 94.7% of interprovincial exports.

Alberta exported $2.6 billion in refined petroleum products in 2015 to B.C., accounting for 45.4% of interprovincial exports.