Calgary

2 provinces with deepest ties are Alberta and B.C., according to report

From migration to trade, Alberta and B.C. have possibly the closest relationship of any two provinces in the nation, according to the Business Council of British Columbia. 

From bilateral migration to trade in goods and services, the two westernmost provinces are deeply entwined

British Columbia and Alberta have economies that are deeply integrated. (CBC)

From migration to trade, Alberta and B.C. have possibly the closest relationship of any two provinces in the nation, according to the Business Council of British Columbia. 

In an update to a 2017 report, the council shows the two provinces are deeply connected and economically dependent despite heated rhetoric over pipelines and warnings of "turning off the taps" that have threatened to sour the relationship. 

"We exported $9 billion worth of services to Alberta and $6.9 billion of goods. This means B.C.'s merchandise exports to Alberta exceeded the value of its goods exports to China ($5.7 billion) in the same year," reads the report. 

"In 2015, Alberta exported $6.9 billion worth of goods to B.C. Its exports of services to B.C. amounted to $7.4 billion in the same year. As such, Alberta's goods exports to B.C. significantly exceeded its goods exports to all of Asia in 2015."

More trade than to Asia

B.C. exports more goods and services to Alberta than to any other province, while B.C. ranks as Alberta's second-largest export market after Ontario, according to the report. 

Alberta is also dependent on its neighbour for shipping goods to Asia. 

"Last year, it exported more than $5 billion in goods to China, $2 billion to Japan, and another $1 billion to other Asian countries," according to the report. 

"Nearly all of these Alberta goods destined for offshore markets are shipped through British Columbia ports."

That movement of goods benefited the B.C. economy as well, the authors note. 

"Interestingly interprovincial trade kind of flows below the radar and doesn't always get a lot of attention and it's surprising that our trading relationship in many ways is more significant than our international exports," said report author Ken Peacock.

Movement of people

It's not just dollars and cents that bind the two western provinces, whose relationship has been tested of late by battles over the flow of oil to the coast. 

B.C. and Alberta show the highest levels of bilateral migration between any two provinces in Canada. 

"Much of this movement is motivated by employment opportunities and differing labour market environments, but housing costs, lifestyle choices, companies transferring employees and family considerations are also factors that influence interprovincial flows," reads the report. 

Over the past 10 years, more than 225,000 people from B.C. have moved to Alberta, while almost 253,000 Albertans moved the other way. 

"In many respects, the B.C. and Alberta labour markets function as a broader western Canadian labour market," according to the council. "Much of the interprovincial migration reflects people moving for employment and career reasons."

He says it's important for policymakers to keep these facts in mind at a time when politics and pipelines are hurting the relationship. 

Free trade area

The report concludes with the observation that B.C. and Alberta "pioneered" the elimination of trade barriers between provinces — although some barriers remain — with the creation of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, which paved the way for the New West Partnership. 

That latter deal now envelops B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and aims to create a single, free market in the West. 

B.C. and Alberta are also two of the most prosperous areas of Canada, leading average GDP growth over the past 10 years. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca.

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