Chatham-Kent 'fighting back' as Alberta tries to lure skilled workers

An Alberta campaign to attract skilled workers to that province is being met with resistance by at least one mayor in southwestern Ontario.

Municipality launched radio ad campaign airing in Calgary

Chatham-Kent is going to try something new to find skilled workers as part of a provincial pilot project which helps foreign workers become permanent residents. 
Chatham-Kent was working to attract new residents and skilled workers before the Alberta campaign started. (Google Maps)

An Alberta campaign to attract skilled workers to that province is being met with resistance by at least one mayor in southwestern Ontario.

The campaign features radio ads hoping to lure workers west.

That's why Darrin Canniff, mayor of Chatham-Kent, wanted to get a campaign of his own going.

"We were inundated with them and I know that a lot of people were rather agitated," he said.

"And I'm thinking why aren't we fighting back? Why aren't we out there letting people know how great our region is?"

Canniff said the municipality got to work on some radio ads that are now playing in Calgary.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff took in the races at Dresden Raceway on Monday.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff says the municipality can't afford to lose skilled workers to Alberta. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"We picked out what we believe was attractive things, affordable housing," he said.

"The bigger cities that's much more expensive and just the quality of life here in southwestern Ontario and Chatham-Kent."

Eric Labadie, marketing and communications officer for Chatham-Kent, said the municipality doesn't have the same kind of financial backing the campaign in Alberta does.

"They're working with a $5 million budget," he said.

"We have nowhere near that. So we decided we would get one of our local broadcasters to use his golden voice to do a little kind of a response."

Labadie said media in Calgary have been reaching out to the mayor about the campaign and the hope is that will translate into interest from workers.

Warmer climate

Canniff admits this region can't compete with the Rocky Mountains, if that's what someone in Alberta loves about living there.

"We can compete on climate," he said, adding he found Edmonton's average low for the year is -1 C.

Darrin Canniff, the mayor of Chatham-Kent, speaks with CBC Windsor Morning host Peter Duck about advertising Chatham-Kent to Albertans.

"A lot of people care about temperatures and that we have a lot longer summers, shorter winters and that's a big piece for a lot of people as well."

Peter Voyer, a marketing professor at the University of Windsor, said the competing campaigns have a lot in common.

But he questioned the efficacy of focusing the campaign on Calgary, and Alberta because of the perceptions people have about those places.

"Currently ensconced in many consumers minds is that Alberta for decades really has been the go to place to seek economic opportunity, jobs and financial benefits, so that is firmly established in the consumers minds," he said.

"Hence my recommendation to try to focus efforts for more on GTA or possibly Ottawa or maybe Vancouver or other areas that are known to be and perceived as being very high cost of living."

Canniff said Chatham-Kent is already drawing a lot of people from the GTA.

A man wearing a blue suit and light blue shirt stands and speaks at a podium that has a sign that says Alberta is Calling.
Speaking in Canmore, Alta., on Monday, Alberta Jobs Minister Brian Jean announces details of the latest phase of Alberta's campaign to attract skilled workers from elsewhere in Canada. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

'We have to fight back'

Labadie said Chatham-Kent has already been focused on bringing people to the region.

"We've been doing talent and resident attraction for quite some time," he said.

Canniff said population growth is needed in Chatham-Kent and the surrounding area.

"We have major shortage of workers and when I talked to employers across the board that's their biggest need is in employees. And so we need to attract more people, to attract the industry and to just maintain the industries that we have.," he said.

"They're trying to steal our people so we have to fight back."

With files from Windsor Morning and TJ Dhir