B.C. residents, Albertans don’t rule out cross-Rockies move: poll

For the past couple of years, it has been practically impossible to tune out the debate over the relationship between B.C. and Alberta. While opinions about the eventual conclusion of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion changed in B.C. after the Canadian federal government chose to buy it, the political situation between the two provincial governments has not been ideal.

Politicians in both provinces have been preoccupied with equalization, “war rooms,” court challenges and coastline protection. Lost in this battle are the feelings of residents about their neighbours, which have not been explored at length.

Last month, Research Co. asked residents of British Columbia and Alberta a simple question: “Suppose you had to move out of your province and live in any other region of Canada. Where would you move?”

No foreign countries were offered as an option, as respondents may have quickly gravitated towards French Polynesia or the Cayman Islands.

We also chose not to let respondents select the United States. We are aware of the affection of British Columbians for the concept of Cascadia, so there was no appetite to collate copious answers featuring the word “Seattle” or “Portland.” Our surveys also found that Albertans were evenly split on whether they have more in common with Americans than with the inhabitants of other Canadian provinces.

When British Columbians were asked to ponder a possible move, the most popular answer was “Not sure” with 33%.

This was definitely eye-catching. One-third of residents find it very difficult to pick a province to relocate to, even if it comes with the promise of significantly more affordable housing than what is available in Metro Vancouver.

More than a quarter of British Columbians (26%) say that they would pack their bags and head to Alberta to start over. Ontario is a distant second at 16%, followed by Nova Scotia with 8%. All remaining provinces and territories are below the 5% threshold.

There are some nuances in the decision-making process that British Columbians would follow if they were forced to move out of the province. Alberta is a particularly popular destination with men (28%) and residents aged 18 to 34 (31%).

The affinity of British Columbians towards Ontario drops with age. The youngest B.C. adults are more likely to settle on Canada’s largest province (23%) than those aged 35 to 54 (17%) and baby boomers aged 55 and over (14%).

Metro Vancouver is the only region of British Columbia where residents would be more comfortable moving to Ontario (24%) than to Alberta (20%). A third of the residents of northern B.C. (33%) and the Fraser Valley (32%) would have no qualms about packing their bags and heading to Wild Rose Country.

The distribution of results was more direct when Albertans were asked where they would move. Only 14% of residents are undecided about where to relocate, and almost half (47%) choose British Columbia. This includes a majority of residents of Edmonton (53%), but also sizable pluralities in Calgary (45%) and the rest of the province (42%).

Ontario and Saskatchewan are tied as the second destination for Albertans with 11% each, with Saskatchewan climbing to 16% among residents aged 55 and over and 20% for United Conserative Party voters.

So, in spite of the tenuous relationship between the two current premiers, there are still features of each province that are attractive to residents of the other.

Practically half of Albertans would have no problem looking west to British Columbia if they had to resettle.

British Columbians have Alberta as their first choice, but not by such a wide margin, and one-third are befuddled when told to imagine having to move. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted July 23–25, 2019, among 800 adults in British Columbia and 700 adults in Alberta. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia and Alberta. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the British Columbia sample and  plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for the Alberta sample, 19 times out of 20.