Alberta Is Calling. Is Edmonton Ready to Answer?

“How do we set ourselves up to win?”

Mike Kohl of Brookfield posed this question to Richard Goatcher and Dave Young at UDI – Edmonton Metro’s luncheon in October, where attention was turned to Edmonton’s affordability advantage – specifically how to promote and preserve it.

Left to Right: Richard Goatcher, Mike Kohl, Susan Keating, Dave Young

“Edmonton’s affordable land supply is an advantage,” Goatcher answered.

Goatcher, a housing market expert with over 25 years of experience working for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in several cities across the prairies, said Edmonton is one of the most affordable major cities in Canada.

Young, CBRE’s Executive Vice President, cited Edmonton’s business-friendly environment as a particular strength – noting how competitive our land market is when compared to Toronto and Vancouver.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to attract users to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region to take advantage of this economical environment,” he said.

“We have a great quality of life here, good paying jobs, and affordable housing – but we need to continue to highlight our business affordability.”

Edmonton’s advantages

These social and economic strengths are the premise of the province’s latest marketing campaign – Alberta is Calling – which, simply put, invites people to move to Alberta for its affordability, livability, and rich job opportunities. The campaign boasts about the province’s low rents and high disposable incomes.

“We can’t take for granted that Edmonton will continue to be an attractive place for people to migrate to and from across Canada and around the world, nor for capital investors and job creators to place their big bets here,” cautioned Kohl. “We need to leverage our assets while addressing current and future constraints.”

Edmonton’s constraints

Kohl highlighted several barriers that need to be addressed – negative impressions of the city, vulnerability to commodity price fluctuations, and the fact that Edmonton is the fifth largest economy in Canada.

“Canada is a small market, and Edmonton is in fifth place.”

For Goatcher, there are many drivers of change that the city should be cognizant of.

“Rising mortgage rates are eroding affordability,” he said. “And we’re in a volatile landscape of changing policies, processes, supply chain pressures, inflation issues, and more.”

He pointed to prescriptive building code requirements as potentially adding costs to housing – with a spinoff impact of pricing many out of the market.

To address these challenges, the trio of speakers pointed to several actions.

“We’re all in the same water but in different boats,” said Kohl. “We need to lean into our city’s collaborative nature and be loud as a city – advocate and push for what we want.”

For Young, the challenge is in how Edmonton tells its story. The story he shares in his travels to places like Toronto or Vancouver is that Edmonton is young, educated, and growing.

“We need to tell our story better, but most importantly, we need young people to know that there is a future for them here,” Young urged.

“Everyone here gets it, and wants to see our region succeed – so let’s get to it.”

Thanks to our sponsors, S3 Precast and Hi Signs, for supporting this panel discussion.

5 Key Takeaways

    • Shared story. To attract people and investment, we need to reinforce the same story. While we should collectively promote the Alberta is Calling campaign, we also need to hone in on our “Why Edmonton?” sales pitch.
    • Affordable, livable, and prosperous. Edmonton’s advantages include affordable housing, great quality of life, and good paying jobs.
    • Business-friendly. Edmonton yields big returns and premiums for investors and is a low tax environment. We need to continue to push for permissive, flexible regulations that make it easy to develop land and open businesses.
    • Invest in the downtown. Our downtown presents an image of our city. Negative impressions of Edmonton are often associated with our city centre. We need it to be safe, clean, and vibrant – and we need to invest in transformational projects to see it thrive.
    • We are young, educated, and growing. We need to work with post-secondary institutions to nurture talent, as we will benefit from that future labour force.