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Why Alberta may be the best province to live in

Brenda Bouw
Why Alberta may be the best province to live in

It ranks fourth in both size and population compared to other provinces, but Alberta outranks everyone else in the country when it comes to the best places to live in Canada, according to a new survey.

In fact, Alberta cities hog the top three spots on Money Sense magazine’s 2014 rankings and four out of the top 10.

What do first-place suburb St. Albert, second-place Calgary and third-ranked Strathcona County, (Edmonton was 8th) have in common? Average incomes are high and unemployment rates are low.

What’s not to like?

Don’t forget: Albertans also don’t pay provincial sales tax, so people are also saving more money.

Living near the mountains is also attractive, even if it means brutally cold winters (but it’s a “dry cold”) and weather than can turn on a dime (they even have their own weather system, the Alberta Clipper).

Weather aside (it’s worse elsewhere), those mountains aren’t going anywhere and if the latest employment figures are any indication, Alberta isn’t expected to lose its appeal anytime soon.

Employment data for February shows Alberta is a jobs juggernaut, churning out nearly 19,000 jobs for the month. The province can also boast the enviable position of having an unemployment rate at 4.3 per cent (only Saskatchewan rate is lower at 3.9 per cent). That compares to the rest of Canada, which lost 7,000 jobs last month and where the unemployment stands at 7 per cent.

It’s Alberta versus everyone else, Bank of Montreal economists noted recently, citing the “extreme gap” in job growth between Wild Rose Country and the rest of Canada.

Alberta’s employment rate is the highest in Canada, BMO notes. While Canada’s employment rate has fallen to 61.6 per cent in the past year, Alberta’s has risen to just under 70 per cent.

In fact, almost all of Canada's new net jobs in the past year came from the prairie province, according to Statistics Canada. Of the 94,7000 jobs created nation-wide, 82,300 were in Alberta.

What’s more, Alberta’s median hourly wage rate is almost $3 above the national average. BMO says that’s near the widest gap in at least 17 years, but “realistically much longer than that.”

“Alberta’s better job prospects (if you don’t have one) and higher wages (if you do) continue to draw migrants from almost every other province in the country,” noted BMO economist Robert Kavcic.

But it’s not just about money.

They have the Rocky Mountains, but also that wide open prairie, all within roughly 662,000 square kilometres.

Having two National Hockey League teams (that have actually won Stanley Cups in this lifetime) and two decent Canadian Football League teams also makes Alberta a great place for sports lovers. The Calgary Stampede is fun, although some Calgarians have been known to leave town when that show rolls in.

The humanitarian side of Albertans shown after last year’s devastating flood has also endeared many to their province. And while Alberta’s politicians aren’t scandal free these days, overall, they’ve fared better than in a few other major Canadian cities lately.

Of course many people across the rest of Canada are likely scoffing at Alberta dominating the latest quality of life rankings. They’ll be quick to poke fun at what you can’t do in Alberta, characterizing it as a province of cowboys and oil workers.

Albertans take it in stride, though. Many quietly get their revenge with regular Facebook posts of them skiing or camping someplace that took them less time travel to than most people need to commute to work.

Disclosure: Brenda Bouw isn’t from Alberta and she tries ignore most Facebook posts from friends in the province.