Next up on the pan-Canada tour of shame is a province that the reactionary left loves to hate. Alberta, mockingly referred to as “Canada’s Texas” has little in common with the snarling nu-left jackoffs in Ottawa and Toronto. Indeed, outside of Quebec Alberta has perhaps the most reason of the caker provinces to consider itself aggrieved by senseless federal action and thus deserving of independence. Alberta is more tragic than stillborn provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba for one crucial reason: although it understands that the great eastern croupier stick isn’t to be trusted it has no meaningful prescription for its own salvation. Instead of looking to resolve its failures by considering the outsized role of extraction and speculation within itself, the reactionary core of the province calls for doubling-down on maintaining Alberta’s status as an extractive hellhole and what diversification exists is in the form of yet more speculation. Fucking Saudi Arabia has made a more sincere try of developing a post-extractive economy than Alberta has. But what really makes Alberta special is how its housing market serves as a portent for failures to come for the rest of Canada.
Let’s start with the extractive present of Alberta, a province that is desperately hooked on oil and resource extraction. Nearly 20% of the province’s GDP is based on oil and mining (see page 10), with 15% more based on financial speculation and 11% built on something called “business and commercial services”, which is a bundle of bureaucratic mush that at best has a knock-on effect for the economy as a whole. Speculation, bureaucracy, and boom-bust cycles do not an economy make. And despite Alberta’s rocky history and weathering of bust after bust, as of 2015 it still hadn’t bothered to hedge its bets instead of “picking winners”. Why do that when you can diversity your economy by relying on two boom-bust cycles instead of one? Enter bubble number two: the housing market.
Speaking of Texas, that infamous left-sizzling state has actually gone ahead and looked at protecting itself from the kinds of fiscal shock caused by boom-bust cycles. Canada’s Texas is out-Texasing the real Texas in terms of half-assed planning and non-existent foresight.
This is all so far pretty par for the course, albeit in the more tacky and egregious stylings of nu-monied morons than the traditional slapdash failure aesthetic associated with the rest of the country. But the uniquely malodorous cowpie that is Alberta has to offer us is its role as a canary in Canada’s real estate coal mine. As I mentioned, Alberta joined the rest of this fell country in overbuilding its housing market. What came after are data that should scare anyone looking to buy a home in Canada – after the one-note oil economy collapsed, housing sales in the province fell 8.8%…and prices in Alberta’s major cities haven’t fallen to reasonable levels yet. In Calgary, a city where 10% of the population is spending more than 30% of its income on housing, prices just aren’t coming down to a point where people can actually afford them. Just to add a special flavor of fuck you to the mix, Alberta has no rent control either. And those with the audacity to be poor in Alberta also get to enjoy being fucked around with and treated as subhumans.
So there’s your future, Canada. If you want to see where you’re living and how you’re pulling it off in the future, be sure to take a look at Alberta. The Icarian tale of a province that flew too close to a boom-bust cycle and decided to replace its easily-melted extractive economic wings with waxy new plumage founded in real estate speculation has a familiar end for Canadians now living in the worst of both worlds. Hooked by the long horns of low income prospects and high prices, Alberta’s bleak prospects reflect those of the country it loathes belonging to.