This article in the London Free Press caught my eye. Alberta sent a small team of people to London recruiting for people to move west. They were successful enough that they promise to return.
The headline for this? ‘Alberta poaching London labour’. Like they don’t have the right to find skilled people wherever they may be? As a person that left Alberta this fall and is now resident in London, the reasons for people to quit Ontario are many and varied. Ontarians look with green envious eyes at Alberta’s wealth, yet I suggest that even if they were blessed with oil revenues the situation would be the same, Ontario governments would spend all that wealth on boondoggles and social programs and nothing would permanently improve.
Ontario is a nanny state, even municipal government is trying to run social programs instead of concentrating on what they actually exist for. London has Ontario’s highest city taxes, there is crime and graffiti in the streets and too many nonsensical ideas for small businesses to thrive. Hence there are fewer opportunities for people willing to work – the exact opposite of Alberta. As an example, the London mayor was recently re-elected for a third term, yet the city is clearly mismanaged to a shocking degree, from garbage collection to the huge municipal debt incurred for a conference/sports arena that only returns $150,000 in revenue per year.
Albertans created for themselves the opportunities that now exist in the boom by consistently supporting a strong conservative provincial government that took the economy and managed it to a debt-free and open for business land of opportunity for the enterprising. Admittedly this came at a cost, roads there are in poor shape and the health system was hurting for a while too. However, these are temporary now that the money is pouring into Alberta’s coffers the infrastructure and public services are improving rapidly, still without debt and still with enough left over for its citizens to get ‘Ralph bucks’ in the mail.
The article quotes Jeny Wallace, director of workforce development for the London Economic Development Corp:
"It bothers me because businesses are already struggling and tougher times are coming in terms of labour shortages. Business here needs to understand what is going on — that Alberta is trying to take from our workforce."
Well cry me a river Jeny, but London makes it so easy for Alberta by being backwards in its management that it must be like taking cansy from a baby for the westerners. Instead of looking nervously westward I recommend the focus of the LEDC be on why people are willing to leave, indeed are eager for an opportunity. Whining about the situation is no solution, fixing what is wrong in London, and Ontario more generally, would close the gap to where the positives of a move west become marginal and therefore lessen the net outflow of people.
Ontario is a nice place and I am glad to be here – for one reason the climate is less inclined to try and kill you so early in the year – it is mid November and a pleasant 8C, compared to -27C today in Edmonton. I can live easily with a 35C difference in my favour. Yet as a recent resident of Alberta I could wish for a more vibrant London economy so that I could be applying for more than one job a week, and so that I don’t have to suffer the consequences of the fools in municipal power. But, here I am and so it is – I get my vote and I will use it to try and get change, I can talk to the people I meet here and tell them of how their vote can effect change and maybe I might be a part of the solution.
London and Ontario would do well to look at how Alberta has achieved its success and learn. Until they do they have every reason to be nervous of how many skilled people will leave them without so much as a glance back.