Saskatchewan family sells everything, moves to Alberta in search of jobs

Christine Angst and her spouse, Jeremy Dole, were lifelong Saskatchewan residents until last November, when they decided to sell everything they owned and move to Alberta in search of work.

Alberta's economy stronger than Saskatchewan's, says economist, but both impacted by recession

Christine Angst, Jeremy Dole, and their five children under the age of 10 moved to Edmonton from Saskatoon to make ends meet. Their gamble paid off and both parents now have full-time jobs. (Christine Angst/submitted)

Christine Angst and her spouse, Jeremy Dole, were lifelong Saskatchewan residents until last November, when they decided to sell everything they owned and move to Alberta in search of work.

"Our life basically degraded to a point where we couldn't look after our children properly and were in fear we'd have to give them up," said Angst from her new home in Edmonton where she lives with Dole and their five children.

Since 2015, the family struggled to make ends meet in Saskatoon.

Dole worked as a drywaller off and on, while Angst tried to supplement his wages with her job as a waitress. Her shifts at the restaurant dwindled until it wasn't worth the gas money to go into work anymore.

Dole and his nephew decided to combine their money and head to Alberta. Both men received full-time offers of employment within two weeks of living in the province.

We had to make a decision and gamble.- Christine Angst

They sent for Angst and her children in November and she found a job as a commercial cleaner.

The move was difficult and expensive, but worth it.

"I was very scared, but we were at a point where we weren't making it, and we had to make a decision and gamble," said Angst.

"We can put food on the table, we have a nice little four-level split, my kids are in school, we have the things we need for them, not worrying and struggling day after day about how we're going to pay bills, or feed our kids, or pay for gas."

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe says predicting how the price of oil will impact Alberta's bottom line is complicated. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Alberta rebounds from recession

Migration from the Angst and Dole's home province to Alberta isn't new, but it is notable at this time, since Saskatchewan's unemployment rate — 6.2 per cent — is slightly better than Alberta's at 6.9 per cent.

Alberta's joblessness rate is falling more quickly than Saskatchewan's.

"Broadly speaking, Alberta and Saskatchewan went through a very similar experience in the last couple of years. Low oil prices was a big negative shock to both economies," said University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe.

"Alberta does have a stronger economy than Saskatchewan overall, even at the bottom of the recession, and it had prior to the recession." 

The strong economy may be the force pulling residents from Saskatchewan west, but it's difficult to make any assumptions or connections based on job vacancy.

"We don't have data to exactly see what the job success rate is of migrants between provinces, but we do have data on the number of unemployed workers per vacant job," said Tombe.

In Saskatchewan, there are 5.7 unemployed people per vacant job, and in Alberta, slightly lower at 5.2 people per vacant job, meaning the labour market is slightly easier in Alberta, but not much.

Migration from Sask. 'consistent'

Since 2014 — the beginning of the most recent recession due to a drop in oil prices — people from Saskatchewan have been moving to Alberta in higher numbers than the other way around.

"Migration from Saskatchewan to Alberta has been a consistent feature of inter-provincial migration flows for some time," said Tombe.

In the first quarter of 2014, approximately 2,600 — about 1,000 people per month — moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta. Only 1,800 moved in the other direction.

The latest numbers are similar, more than three years later. Only once did the quarterly numbers reflect more people moving to Saskatchewan than Alberta and then, it was only 53 people.

Christine Angst isn't surprised to hear Saskatchewan residents are on the move.

In addition to her nephew and his spouse, Angst says she met a neighbour who also moved from Saskatchewan to Edmonton to find work. She has a friend who recently moved to Calgary, too.

The Angst-Dole family has no plans to return to Saskatchewan, even though their relatives and support systems were unable to follow them west.

- with files from CBC's Ashleigh Mattern


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