‘Alberta is Calling’: Marketing campaign calls on Toronto residents to move out west

The TTC's Bloor-Yonge subway station is wrapped with 'Alberta is Calling' posters, displaying messages about better affordability and job opportunities. Mark McAllister gauges reaction.

By Lucas Casaletto and Mark McAllister

The Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Bloor-Yonge subway station is covered with Alberta is Calling posters, displaying messages about better affordability and job opportunities and strongly encouraging Torontonians to move out west.

Premier Jason Kenney announced in August the Alberta is Calling campaign to recruit skilled workers with a marketing campaign touting the province’s lower taxes, housing affordability, shorter commutes and proximity to the Rocky Mountains.

The $2.6-million effort includes ads on social media, radio and posters in high-traffic areas. As a result, the province of Alberta has taken over at least one part of Toronto in the form of a major advertising campaign.

“It’s mountain time somewhere,” reads one. “An engineer, accountant, walk into a province. They all get jobs,” reads another.

The less-than-subtle messaging comes as Canada’s homeownership rate is on the decline, with young adults, in particular, less likely to own a home in 2021 than they were a decade earlier, says Statistics Canada.

Housing prices have climbed considerably in recent years compared with Canadians’ incomes. Statistics Canada says while the median household income grew by 18 per cent between 2016 and 2021, the average value of an owner-occupied home rose by 39.6 per cent.

Statistics Canada data also revealed that British Columbia is leading the country as the province with the highest rate of unaffordable homes.

According to the report, British Columbia (25.5 per cent) and Ontario (24.2 per cent) had the highest rates of unaffordable housing nationally in 2021.

“Find things you’d never expect, like an affordable house,” reads another poster in Bloor-Yonge station.

alberta is calling

Alberta is Calling campaign ads at the Bloor-Yonge subway station.

The Alberta is Calling website provides information on affordability, lifestyle and career opportunities. The homepage reads, “Start your journey. Discover what it means to live in a province with lower taxes, a better quality of life, and endless opportunity.”

Claire Tsai, Marketing Professor at the Rotman School of Management, says the ad campaign and assertive messaging are effective.

“The visuals are attractive because they’re very simple to understand, and the numbers are striking,” Tsai tells CityNews.

“They would definitely catch our attention, especially in the current climate of inflation and high-interest rates. People want to buy homes but may not be able to afford mortgages.”

Some Toronto transit riders admit the Alberta advertising campaign makes a compelling case.

“It makes you think. It makes you consider and evaluate whether ‘can I be far from my family, is it worth it, can I have money in my account?'” one woman said.

“It’s more affordable to live there. It’s more accepting to live here. You win some, and you lose some, man,” another local woman said.

Photo: Alberta is Calling.com.

While even hot regions like Vancouver and Toronto have been cooling in recent months, homeownership remains out of reach for many trying to put away money to buy while contending with 30-year high inflation and surging rent costs.

Renters were more likely to be in core housing needs than owners across most of the country. The gap was largest in Montreal, and renters in Toronto and Vancouver were more than twice as likely to live in core housing needs than homeowners in those cities.

No matter the effort to convince people that everyday life in major cities like Calgary and Edmonton can offer more opportunities, there are other considerations for packing up and moving your future to another province.

“If I give up what I have here in Toronto or in Vancouver, how will I rebuild that in Alberta?” Tsai said. “It’s not very obvious to me from the ad campaign.”

Kenney, however, continues to shout from the mountain tops assuring Toronto and Vancouver residents that the move would be worth it in the long run.

“The message we’re sending is that Alberta is home,” Alberta’s Premier said.

The campaign will continue to run in Toronto until at least October.

With files from The Canadian Press

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