Alberta’s population has been increasing at rates not seen since the 1980s. Still, the province wants to launch the next phase of the Alberta is Calling campaign in 2024, aiming to attract an influx of skilled workers.
“We’ve got our groove back. People want to be here for the jobs, for the economy,” Premier Danielle Smith said in a year-end interview.
The province witnessed its largest population increase in over four decades last year, with an almost 4.3% growth rate, the fastest in over 50 years. The increase in population of nearly 200,000 brought Alberta’s total population to over 4.75 million, according to Statistics Canada.
Between July and September alone, the population grew by just over 61,000, including 39,000 international newcomers and 17,000 people from other Canadian regions, mainly British Columbia and Ontario.
In 2022/23, Alberta had a net influx of just over 63,000 non-permanent residents and over 56,000 from other provinces.
“I don’t know if you can ever be truly ready. I mean, (former premiers) Lougheed experienced this in the ‘70s, Klein experienced it after the ‘90s recession. Stelmach experienced it in the mid-2000s. And we’re experiencing it again now,” said Smith, according to the Calgary Herald.
However, Smith had been ambitious with her previous projections for the province, expecting the population to more than double to 10 million by 2050. The province’s official projections expect this number to be only about 7.1 million people.
The unprecedented immigration to Alberta has caused rental prices to increase. According to rentals.ca, rents increased 10.6% between December 2023 and the previous year. Rents increased even more in Edmonton, 12.3%; however, Edmonton remains the 31st lowest average cost to rent of 35 cities listed on the national rankings.
“I think we’re beginning to see some pressure on the housing market, but I’m also seeing that everybody is working together to address it,” said Smith.
Housing starts have increased by 29% when comparing November 2023 to the year prior. Despite this, the average home prices in the province have increased 6.3%. One of the largest increases in the province is in Medicine Hat, 22%, while prices in Fort McMurray decreased by 6%. Home prices in Calgary have increased by 10%, while prices in Edmonton have barely increased.
The Alberta NDP has called for a rent cap to address the rising rental prices. True North previously reported that experts warned this policy could cause more harm than good.
In response to the housing pressures, Smith highlighted the province’s efforts to create an efficient environment for housing and rental unit approvals. She also pointed to significant investments, such as Dow’s $9-billion petrochemical megaproject, the world’s first net-zero integrated ethylene cracker and derivatives complex, and several agri-food investments in southern Alberta, which are drawing more people and investment to the region.
Smith explained that families immigrating to the province are accompanied by the need to build new schools, maintain the roads, and add pressure to the hospital system.
“Schools, hospitals, roads, housing — those are going to be the main things that we have to make sure that we stay ahead of,” she said.
The province is also set to launch another phase of the Alberta is Calling campaign in 2024, aiming to attract more skilled workers, particularly in high-demand jobs like healthcare, skilled trades, food service and hospitality, accounting, engineering, and technology. Alberta had previously reported 100,000 job vacancies in these sectors.
“We need skilled workers. We know that being able to manage that growth means that we’ve got to get more boilermakers and millwrights and electricians and welders — and this is going to be our opportunity to tell the rest of the country that we love the professions and the trades, and we want you here,” said Smith.
While the province’s expected annual growth rate is 1.5%, it is expected to grow 2.5% per year between 2022 and 2025.