The Resilience of Alberta’s Urban Centres
Uncertainty is at an all-time high in Alberta. It seems as though there are countless factors contributing to a perfect storm that is decelerating the economy and raising questions about the future of the province (low oil prices, NDP Provincial Government, Liberal Federal Government, oil & gas royalty review, corporate and personal income tax hikes, implementation of a carbon tax, and so on). However, amid all the turmoil, the continued growth and transformation of Alberta’s two major centres is being overlooked.
According to the City of Calgary, the city’s total population surpassed 1.2 million in 2015, while the City of Edmonton estimates a total population of 895,000. Without a doubt, these urban centres have undergone major transformations in recent years and are now becoming ‘lifestyle cities’. In both Calgary and Edmonton, old lifeless pockets have been revamped into trendy neighbourhoods lined with new restaurants and shops, significant investment in arts and culture has helped to breathe new life into the community, and real estate development has transformed the skyline. Regardless of the current economic downturn, there are a number of reasons that point to the resilience (and positive outlook) of these two cities.
5 reasons to be bullish on Calgary and Edmonton
Average Age - These two cities boast the lowest average age of any CMA in Canada. This translates into more vibrant and active communities and higher labour force participation rates. With housing affordability becoming a major issue in other urban centres, the outflow of millennials will continue.
Unemployment Rate – Despite significant job losses in 2015, the unemployment rates in both Calgary and Edmonton are still below the national average.
Oil Production – There is a common misconception outside of Alberta that oil production is at a historically low level and that there is no activity in the oil patch. However, according to the most recent available data, year-over-year production is only down 1.6% compared to 2014.
Real Estate Development – Major construction projects in both Calgary and Edmonton forge ahead. In Edmonton, the $2.5-billion `Ice District` chugs along, while Brookfield Place Calgary (which will be the tallest tower in Western Canada at 242m) is slated for completion in 2017.
Mayoral Influence – Both cities have energetic, informed, and progressive mayors. Earlier this year, Mayor Naheed Nenshi (@nenshi) was awarded the 2014 World Mayor Prize for his “handling of Calgary’s 2013 flood, as well as the attention he has gained from urban thinkers around North America”. Since his election in 2013, pro-development Mayor Don Iveson (@doniveson) has helped completely transform downtown Edmonton and pushed through the expansion of the City`s LRT.
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