“We’re facing an exodus” – “Young families will say ‘Let’s sell what we have here, get a better mortgage and make more money somewhere else.’”


Nizam Ibrahim lives in Vancouver but commutes to Calgary, where he rents a two-bedroom apartment in a nice part of town. Despite added monthly expenses of more than $3,000, he still averages $15 an hour more than any job he could get in Vancouver.
“It’s a bit tiring, but to enjoy any kind of lifestyle in Vancouver it’s a compromise I need to make,” said the IBM IT consultant. “I’ve saved more in the last two years working in Alberta and traveling back and forth than I ever did working in Vancouver.”
Recruitment experts predict with its high living costs, skyrocketing real estate and grossly inadequate salaries, more Vancouverites will flee to where salaries are higher and commensurate with their skills and inflation.
“We’re facing an exodus,” said Feras Elkhalil of the WPCG recruitment firm. “We don’t want a brain drain out of Vancouver. We don’t want to lose talented people. If you want good talent, you need to pay for it.”
He added Toronto salaries are at least 15 per cent higher, and 20 per cent greater in Calgary and Edmonton where taxes and real estate prices are lower.
“Employers are not keeping up,” he warned. “I fear they’re turning a blind eye, saying it doesn’t apply to them and we’ll have people frustrated at the cost of living and (foreign investment) driving up costs of real estate. Young families will say ‘let’s sell what we have here, get a better mortgage and make more money somewhere else.’”

– From ‘BC facing a brain drain‘, Erica Bulman, 24 Hours, 17 Jul 2011 [hat-tip to Brent]

The math for Ibrahim is remarkable. It appears that, given the pay differential and his cited extra expenses, he only profits from the commute if he works more than 200 hours per month. Perhaps there are also career advantages.
That aside, the main point of the piece is sound: That income:RE_price ratio in Vancouver is forcing some people away. – vreaa

44 responses to ““We’re facing an exodus” – “Young families will say ‘Let’s sell what we have here, get a better mortgage and make more money somewhere else.’”

  1. I think a lot of employers are banking on the best-place-to-live notion to pay low salaries. However it isn’t cheap doing business here either, with gridlock traffic, higher commercial rents and higher taxes than Ab or Wa.

  2. I smell bullshit. What is Nizam making annually? $400K/year?

    • BS may be a little strong: He probably is making $15 more per hour in Calgary, but his added expenses are probably less than $3K per month.

      • Actually i am looking at this as a possibility too as I am not too happy on my current contract and the rate is shit too.

        Flying back and forth between Calgary and Vancouver isn’t that expensive, a hotel / apartment rental in Calgary would be a business write off, so would be the flight.

        What does that mean? That I wouldn’t end up paying income tax on that amount and it would still make sense.

        Vancouver companies really need to start realizing that salaries DO matter and not everybody here is a snowboard or mountain bike bum.

      • why don’t you just save even more money and MOVE to calgary?

        what is this obsession we all have this place? calgary has banff, hockey, etc.

        if i knew i had a job tomorrow i’d be out of here.

      • why don’t you just save even more money and MOVE to calgary?

        Because I am not a Prairie guy. I tried Edmonton for two years and it is not something I can do happily for extended periods.

        I am considering Toronto or Montreal though, but then I look at the forecast :P (summer weather. The winter weather I actually LIKE).

        what is this obsession we all have this place? calgary has banff, hockey, etc.

        You know, I would live in Canmore but the job prospects there are pretty much the same for what I do as they are here, actually probably worse.

        I am not obsessed with Vancouver in the least, I just, at this point, have no clear idea where I want to live. I am contemplating to spend a month in Toronto and Montreal each in the fall (I work remotely so I can live anywhere) and see if either clicks with me (in the case of Toronto that’ll be an again, but quite frankly with the current City Government I can’t see that).

        if i knew i had a job tomorrow i’d be out of here.

        Well, moves also cost money, and although I could swing it right now sorting out my finances is more important to me :)

      • pardon my tone

        pardon your italics! lol

        i just want to try living somewhere else, there’s douchebags everywhere, i know, but i’m so sick of smug vancouver.

    • the etxra $15 per hour works out to an extra $30K per year.

      • Exactly. He is making 67,200 extra per annum from calgary assuming a 40 hour work week. Not hard to imagine 187k versus 120k salary.

    • I was just in Calgary for the Stampede and I really liked it. The downtown was pretty darn big, bigger than vancovuer, with alot of ‘business action’ going on. You can feel the hustle.

      My bud lived up by 14th?? the red mile street, kind of a robson meets granville. nice area.

      banff was just over 1 hour away. THE ROCKIES. the Bow river was nice and the bike paths, oh dear lord the bike paths!!! (along the river anyways) were awesome maybe 3x what we have for the seawall.

      People are super nice. They will say hi to you for no reason.. i was really offput as normally i try to avoid eye contact with most people in vancovuer, it just doesnt pay off.

      hipster count was at an all time low!! (my freind was dissapointed to hear about main streets fate).

      if you care about malls, they had a big one, metrotown style.

      I gotz no beef with Calgary.

      • Red Mile is 17th Ave and there’s over 700 km of bike paths (more than any other city in NA) with over 130 km cleared during the winter for the die-hards (there’s now also a bike path between Canmore and Banff which is hugely popular in the summer and winter. Calgary is huge mtn and road bike mecca – lower BC mainland doesn’t even come close.

        http://www.calgary.ca/docgallery/bu/engineering_services/emaps/bicycle_pathways_map.pdf

      • Look, I’ll be the first to defend Calgary as being a nice town to live in. I like Cowtown, and am happier here than Vancouver. Having said that, let’s not get carried away:

        1.”The downtown was pretty darn big, bigger than vancovuer, with alot of ‘business action’ going on. You can feel the hustle.”

        Feel the hustle after 5:30pm when the whole downtown looks like the neutron bomb just hit, there’s not a soul to be seen, tumbleweed blows down the streets.

        2. “the red mile street, kind of a robson meets granville. nice area”

        17th Ave. A dozen blocks or so where if you don’t think about it too hard, you might convince yourself you live in a city. That, and about 6 blocks in Kensington, are it for urban life. I always thought of Vancouver as being not-quite-a-city. Calgary has another couple of decades, at least.

        3. “Calgary is huge mtn and road bike mecca – lower BC mainland doesn’t even come close.”

        This is just dumb. I do like the Rockies over the Coast Mountains — I’m a climber, backcountry skier, mountain biker. But not for the mountain biking. No serious or semi-serious mountain biker could say that with a straight face. And no semi-serious road biker is excited by bike paths.

        4. “hipster count was at an all time low!!”

        Got me there…

  3. The general conversation with the employers and employees I have talked to is that Vancouver requires sacrifice to live here, you won’t get paid a lot to live here but you should be thankful that you live here. No wonder the Vancouver area is not producing any world class companies.

    The only people that come and stay here are the ones that want to do outdoor activities every weekend. Vancouver is not the place to build a world class company, but it is a world class outdoor recreation destination.

  4. I’m willing to trade money for lack of snow and no shovelling in winter like in Toronto. However there is limit as the rain is not that great a draw. Outdoor activities are nice but I’m only in the mood when it’s nice and sunny on weekends! When it’s pouring, outdoor activities become a moot point.

    As well with NAFTA and that IT is fairly mobile, Vancouver is not a great draw for IT workers as say California, or even WA with the higher salary, better climate, and cheaper stuff. Yes you can’t ski and golf in the same day in California but then again, if you are working 60 hours/week and making lots of money, living next to the ocean, beaches, destination parks, etc, it’s not a bad trade-off.

    I had hope Vancouver would really make something of itself outside of just basically tourism and RE, but I guess that just requires too much hard work. And yes, we are thinking about leaving, though probably 5 years too late.

    • i do not understand this hate for the snow

      why are we bringing in people from tropical countries?

      i have a lebanese friend that moved to edmonton, he loves it

      man up. nancy

      • Seriously. I’m no fan of the white stuff either. But neither am I a fan of 16 weeks of rain and a socked-in sky. It’s not like winter in Canada anywhere is all that great.

      • I like the snow as long as I don’t need to get up like 5 or 6 AM to clear out the driveway and sidewalk and then do another hour after dinner. :)

      • get a shorter driveway?? get one of those really awesome shovels, it makes a big difference

    • No, most of the time, you CAN’T realistically ski and golf the same day in Vancouver unless you like to do one of those activities in mud.

    • Sure you can ski and golf in the same day! It’s called Tahoe.

    • “Yes you can’t ski and golf in the same day in California but then again,”

      The Cascade mountain range doesn’t stop at the border of US and Canada.

  5. This story makes complete sense to me. I talked to a friend from Calgary a few days ago and he was talking about the high salaries there and called Alberta the land of opportunity. You can make 6 figures without much education there while your costs will be much lower than in Vancouver.

    On the other hand, I noticed that IT recruiters are getting a bit desperate here in Vancouver. It is really difficult to get good people at “good” prices. I think that companies are starting to realize the disconnect between what they are willing to pay and what they should be paying for skilled professionals.

    • It certainly makes sense but works better owning in Calgary and renting in Vancouver. Calgary mortgage actually much cheaper than two bedroom rent in GVR. Also, the fact that time saved commuting daily in Calgary more than compesates for weekly flight times is a huge bonus. Obviously, Calgary has many more employment opportunities as it’s economy is not entirely dependent on Real Estate and Tourism as it is in Vancouver..

      • Calgary is entirely dependent on commodity prices.. I remember the tough times there when oil/gas prices were low…

  6. MAybe he does it to be able to afford a home in Vancouver, as his wife stays at home with their baby. Perhaps this is how desperate people are to live a Vancouver lifestyle. Even he said on TV he does not know how people can afford to live the “Vancouver lifestyle” (whatever that is) on Vancouver salaries, and home prices.

  7. why doesn’t he move completely to alberta? must be something about vancouver that makes him stay. no wonder we have high prices!

  8. Probably the wife – granola loving , hot yoga mom type who needs to be seen and heard on W. 4th avenue, and thinks Vancouver is the greatest city in the world.

  9. He may not move if he is part of a young family and they have extended family here. Especially with young kids, extended family can be a real boon.

  10. when are you moving VREAA? extra $15 an hour sounds attractive.

  11. anonymous coward

    I live in Vancouver with my wife. We’re both born and raised in Vancouver / Vancouver Island. I work in software development, she works in communications. We recently visited friends who moved to Calgary for the reasons we’re all talking about. Good weather, friendly people (no Vancouver attitude), swimming in the Bow river, the Rockies 2 hours away. It’s amazing that we could afford a nice little house by the river, close to downtown for the price of a 2 bedroom condo in Vancouver.

    We also want o have children in the future and were struck by all the daycares advertising availability and open spaces. This is in contrast to the sorry state of finding child daycare in Vancouver.

    Dining, booze, gas and groceries are all cheaper. And that’s before you even talk about sales tax.

    We decided on this trip that if things don’t improve in Vancouver in the next two years, we’re taking our down payment money we’ve been saving up with us to Calgary and start on the property ladder out there.

      • anonymous coward

        We’re in no rush to buy at this time, anywhere. We want to save more down payment money and we’re in a very good rental situation that goes beyond even money related issues.

        The plan is to save for two more years and decide what to do. If our career prospects and/or real estate affordability don’t improve by then, we’re outta here.

  12. To “anonymous coward” – we left 8 years ago, mostly for my wife who had a medical residency here, and we ended up staying. We like many things about Calgary, one being a much younger population and you meet lots of young families. The neighborhoods are great, lots of variety and the shopping malls here are better than many I have been to which include most major cities in North America. The restaurants keep getting better, more ethnic etc. We just felt it was better for us financially to stay, have a much nicer house, live close to downtown etc. We both make way more than what we would be paid in Vancouver. Missing family is the drawback, but we visit frequently, enough to get a dose of my in-laws, traffic, HST, high gas prices, and then want to come back to Calgary.

    • anonymous coward

      Yeah, I think the theme here is that you can only enjoy mountains, water, golf and skiing only as much as you can actually find the time and money to enjoy them.

      Maybe by living somewhere more affordable and with more career prospects we can make up for home sickness with the odd weekend in Vancouver.

  13. I feel I can actually “enjoy” vancouver more now than when I lived there. You don’t take things for granted, the vegetation, variety of restaurants, and cafes etc. I tend to do more touristy stuff when I come back. I rarely went to Stanley Park when I lived there, and now i go a fair bit. I also go to the beach a lot more than when I lived there. I can also afford to eat out at fabulous restaurants than if I was living there and had more income tied up in a mortgage, HST, gas tax etc.

  14. Living in Vancouver definitely comes at a price. The salaries for my line of work (software engineering) are definitely 30% higher down in the US and quite possibly 5-10% higher in ON/QC. Given that I’m not complaining about my salary, what is ultimately driving me out of BC in the next year or two is the price of real estate. When you are working crazy hard and the pay cheque is inadequate to purchase a 1-bedroom $600k nice apartment in Downtown Vancouver then I’m better off in ON buying a 3-bedroom $400k apartment in Downtown Toronto by the water. Sure the view isn’t as nice, and it will get terribly cold and terribly hot, but I never fancied myself the die hard nature lover or weather junkie. For a young family as in my case, establishing a family home is a higher priority than zip lining in Whistler. If majority of Canada’s population can bear the cold, so can I. Hey if I’m making more money and saving more, I can always come on vacation ;) Ultimately it is a shame for BC as a lot of talented engineers and other professionals I know are leaving for better opportunities else in the country. What good is the weather and view if you can’t afford a decent lifestyle because everything is exorbitantly over priced. My 2cents. Adios BC.

  15. I am completing my bachelors degree in December. Vancouver does not have entry level graduate trainee programs. This is mainly due to the lack of head offices. All jobs in Vancouver demand experience and will pay peanuts.

    Now, Ontario and Alberta have hundreds of graduate entry positions with salaries ranging from $40k-50k. Even if Vancouver were to offer such positions – $40k in Vancouver is below the poverty line. Being a mature student with a family, my income should be able to offer my family a middle class existence. For me apartment/condo living does not cut it. I want my kids playing in the backyard. In other Canadian metropolitan cities one can buy a detached family home for $250k. It might not be all that but as a starter home for a young family that would be great.

    I just can not wait to move to Alberta in the new year. This is a major loss to BC since my education was funded by BC taxpayers. As a full time student I had to put my child into daycare and the province subsidized the cost. I even received rent subsidies. I would have loved to serve the Province that enabled me to attain an education but just can not afford to due to the exorbitant cost of living and lack of meaningful career opportunities.

    When you are as busy as I am you hardly have time for the skiing and kayaking. During winter times Vancouverites also get to shovel snow off their driveways. Vancouver winters are relatively mild compared to other parts of Canada but Vancouver weather is no California weather.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s