Are you thinking about moving to Alberta? If you are weighing up your options, it is helpful to look at the pros and cons of living there. There are many positives to life in Alberta, including low taxes and high average pay. On the flip side, it has harsh winters and a high crime rate. In this article, we have collected the pros and cons of living in Alberta to help you decide if the province is for you.
Facts about Alberta
Alberta is one of the ten provinces in Canada. The province borders British Columbia to the west, and Saskatchewan to the east. It shares its northern border with the Northwest Territories and the southern border with the American state of Montana. The capital of the province is Edmonton, but Calgary is Alberta’s largest city.
The province is the sixth-largest province and only one of the two landlocked provinces. The other one is Saskatchewan. Alberta has the fourth biggest population in Canada. The oil industry is the main industry in Alberta, followed by agriculture.
Since Alberta is such a large province, the north and south are very different. The winters are colder in the north, while the southern parts of Alberta stay warmer. The most southern quarter of the province is mostly prairie whereas the northern half is boreal forest.
The highest median household income among the provinces
Alberta has the fourth-highest median household income in Canada and the highest among the provinces. Median household income looks at the amount families take home after tax, and the median after-tax income in 2023 for Alberta is $77,700. A median is the middle point on the income scale, with half of the families in Alberta earning more and the other half less than the median. Edmonton has the highest median household income after tax at $97,800.
The median in Alberta is higher than the median for Canada, which at the end of 2023 was $75,452. And it is over 20,000 higher than in New Brunswick, the province with the lowest median household in Canada, at $56,900.
Employees in Alberta enjoy higher-than-average wages from entry-level to the top. In Alberta, the average salary in the last quarter of 2023 was $67,247.96, which is the highest average salary out of the provinces. All the territories had higher average salaries: Nunavut, $83,251.48, the Northwest Territories $82,837.56, and Yukon $71,901.96. The Canadian average was $63,181.04.
Alberta was the first Canadian province to offer a $15 minimum wage, which at the time was the highest in the country. However, other provinces have since increased their minimum wages. The highest minimum wage is now in Nunavut and it is $16.
Here are some average salaries in Alberta according to Job Bank Canada.
- Doctor 96,125 – 456,307
- Judge 318,500 – 383,700
- Real estate agents 32,867 – 138,000
- Musicians and singers 32,867 – 82,000
- Dentist 32,867 – 270,000
The job market
In November 2023, Alberta’s unemployment rate was 5.9% according to Statistics Canada. This was 0.1% higher than the average for the whole country. During the same month, Yukon had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.6% and Nunavut the highest at 11.3%
There are always employment opportunities in the oil industry and agriculture, the two main sectors in the province. Some of these roles are permanent, others are seasonal. However, there are other sectors where workers are in high demand. They include nursing, managerial roles in retail and wholesale, information system analysts and consultants as well as truck and bus drivers.
Buying a home is a lot more affordable in Alberta than many other provinces. The cost of properties has remained more reasonable in the province thanks to the better availability of properties.
The average price for a single-family home in Alberta was $455,891 in October 2023. That is over 50% lower than the neighbouring British Columbia where an average family home costs nearly a million dollars and in some places such as Vancouver, over million dollars.
However, Alberta is more expensive than Saskatchewan where the average is $382,700, or Manitoba with $344,478.
Alberta has one of the lowest income tax rates in Canada. In Alberta, you only pay 15% of your taxable income over $314,928. Below are all the income tax rates for Alberta as published on the Canadian Government website.
on the first $131,220 of taxable income, +
on the next $26,244, +
on the next $52,488, +
on the next $104,976, +
on the amount over $314,928
The province has an excellent health care plan for its residents called Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan. This plan covers almost all check-ups and treatments, including full coverage for physician services, psychiatrist visits, transgender surgery, and hospital stays. There is also partial coverage available for some dental and optical services.
Access to healthcare facilities is made as easy as possible across the province and the facilities include hospitals, clinics, a range of social services, and health consultations. For example, there are 106 acute care hospitals and 249 community palliative and hospice beds in Alberta.
The ease of getting a permanent residency
Alberta offers a few different routes to get a permanent residency. If your profession fits into a skilled work category, you might qualify for the Alberta Express Entry system. It is an example of a Provincial Nominee Program. Though the federal government has the final say, getting a provincial nomination will go a long way toward getting approved for permanent residency.
Another route to receive permanent residency is through the Alberta Opportunity Stream. This route is for people who are working in an eligible occupation. To qualify, you need to be working 30 hours per week for at least six months.
Alberta is one of the best provinces for natural beauty with a wide range of wilderness. You can spend a lot of time exploring the mountains, foothills, and caves. There are beautiful waterfalls and glaciers that are worth checking out.
One of the must-see places in Alberta is the Athabasca Sand Dune Ecological Reserves. There you can see kames that are sixty metres high and twelve-meter-tall sand dunes. They are classified among the highest dunes in the world.
The boreal forests in the north are a paradise for nature lovers and a home for abundant wildlife. Anyone into hiking will want to head to the Hard Luck Canyon, which is a unique formation of banks and cliffs and has excellent hiking trails.
And if you are someone who enjoys figures, here are some impressive facts about Alberta: It has 76 provincial parks and 31 wildland provincial parks; 15 ecological reserves, and two heritage range lands. You certainly won’t run out of places to explore!
Less open water
For many Canadians considering a move to Alberta, this can be a fallback. Alberta is landlocked, and it even has fewer lakes and rivers than average provinces. So if you enjoy regular watersports, then Alberta might not be the ideal choice for you. In addition, many of the lakes and rivers freeze completely in the winter.
But that’s not to say that you cannot do watersports in Canada. The water in the mountain lakes might be too cold for swimming, but they are great for boating and kayaking surrounded by beautiful scenery. The lakes in the prairies have warmer water and you can even find some beaches there. These lakes are popular summer destinations for many families.
Long and rough winters, especially in the north of the province
Alberta’s winters are longer and colder than in provinces such as Ontario or British Columbia which benefit from being coastal provinces. First snow falls in mid-October and when it settles, it stays until April.
Because of the lower number of lakes and rivers, there is low humidity in the province so it doesn’t get quite as much snow as some other provinces. However, cold temperatures can be hard to deal with, especially if you are used to more temperate climates.
The days in the winter are short and you will find that it is dark when you leave for work and dark when you get home. This can feel depressing if you are used to more sun throughout the year.
The roads need maintenance
The roads and highways in Alberta are far from great. The cold and snowy winters damage the roads, and many of them need maintenance. But it is not the only Canadian province with lots of snow and freezing winter temperatures and other provinces don’t have similar issues with their roads.
According to Statistics Canada, approximately 43% of the roads and highways are rated as very poor, poor, or fair. Alberta now has a greater share of its highways in “very poor” condition than any other province in Canada.
What is the reason for the poor condition of Alberta’s roads? Officials say it is because the budget the province has for maintaining highways has not been enough for at least the last ten years. Without the budget for proper regular maintenance, their condition has deteriorated year after year.
High rate of crime
Unfortunately, Alberta has one of the highest rates of crime in Canada. However, the good news is that the province has put in place measures to reduce crime and this is already providing results.
For example, the number of breaking and entering offenses was 8,880 from January to September 2022 compared to 8,784 from the same period in 2023. While it is still a reduction, it is not as significant reduction as between 2020 and 2021 when breaking and entering offenses fell by 26%. The number of thefts of motor vehicles, thefts of under and over $5,000, and arrests for possession of stolen goods also fell between 2022 and 2023.
Yes, the income taxes are in the cons, too. Why? Because if you are a lower-income earner, you pay more than in other provinces such as Nunavut, British Columbia, and Ontario.
To demonstrate this, let’s say you earn $41,000 per year. In Alberta, you will pay 10% of that in taxes. In Nunavut, you will only pay 4%, in British Columbia 5.06%, and 5.05% in Ontario. So while people in the higher tax brackets are reaping the benefits of Alberta’s tax rates, those working in lower-paying positions or just starting their careers are not.
If you are a social butterfly and enjoy going out, then the nightlife in Alberta can be a letdown. There are some good places in Edmonton and Calgary, but in the more rural communities, there is not much nightlife on offer, especially in those communities with an aging population.
But it is not all dull in Alberta. For example, Edmonton’s nickname is The Festival City because there is a festival every week of the year. One of the most famous festivals is the Edmonton Fringe Festival held every year in August.
So, should you move to Alberta? Hopefully, this list of pros and cons will help to decide whether Alberta is the province for you. There are definitely solid financial reasons for moving there including the highest median household income in Canada and a solid job market.
Of course, there are cons, too, but that applies to every place on the planet. It will be up to you to decide whether those cons are big enough to outweigh all the positives of living in Alberta.
Frequently Asked Questions
Alberta has the highest median household income in Canada, there are good job opportunities and a strong economy.
The answer to this depends on the lifestyle you are after. If you are looking for somewhere with a lot of nightlife, then no. However, if you are looking for a place with great nature, affordable homes and good job prospects, then yes.
Winters in Alberta can be very long and cold, which is not for everyone. The crime rate in Alberta is higher than the Canadian average, and for people who enjoy living near water, there is less open water than in the average province in Canada.
Alberta has some of the most affordable property prices in Canada with the average home costing $465,198 in May 2023 which is around 50% cheaper than in British Columbia.