May 16, 2019 9:12 pm

B.C.-Alberta trade worth $30B annually, with economies most intertwined in Canada: report

A Canadian Pacific Rail train hauling grain passes through Calgary, Thursday, May 1, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
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The bad blood may be running thick between B.C. and Alberta when it comes to trade issues, but a new report suggests the two provinces may be better served as friends than enemies — with the most closely-intertwined economies in Canada.

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Relations between the two provinces have soured over the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney threatening to “turn off the taps” of gasoline to the west coast.

READ MORE: Why can’t we be friends? Callers from B.C., Alberta sound off on pipelines, climate change and gas taps

But a new report from the Business Council of BC (BCBC) suggests despite their differences, the two provinces rely on one-another to the tune of $30 billion annually.

“The functioning of labour markets and interprovincial migration flows also suggest B.C. and Alberta share the closest economic ties of any two provinces in the country,” wrote study author and BCBC chief economist Ken Peacock.

Among the report’s key findings were that B.C. exports more merchandise to Alberta than it does to China. In 2015, it also exported $16 billion to Alberta, more than any other province — even Ontario, with an economy two and a half times larger.

READ MORE: B.C. downplays tourism fears amid pipeline spat with Alberta, businesses call for cooler heads

About $6.9 billion of that was goods, while $9 billion was services.

Alberta, likewise, exports more to B.C. than it does to all of Asia, the report found. In 2015, it exported about $14 billion to B.C., second only to Ontario within Canada. Goods made up about $6.9 billion of that, while services made up $7.4 billion.

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“Alberta depends on B.C.’s Gateway infrastructure to ship its products to Asian and global markets and also to obtain the vast array of goods imported to the province,” wrote Peacock.

“In turn, British Columbia benefits from the resulting income and jobs created by two-way trade.”

READ MORE: Kenney’s threat to ‘turn off the taps’ to B.C. ‘doesn’t make any business sense:’ experts

Oil and gas were the top category of trade between the provinces, according to the report, with B.C. and Alberta exporting $2.2 billion and $2.6 billion in petroleum and natural gas products to each other, respectively.

B.C. relies on Alberta for much of the fuel that supports its transportation industry, the report notes, while Alberta is highly reliant on B.C. natural gas — the province’s biggest export to its eastern neighbour.

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The two provinces also have the highest level of inter-provincial migration of any two provinces in Canada, with more than 225,000 British Columbians crossing the Rockies east, and more than 250,000 Albertans moving west in the last decade, the report found.

“Policy-makers in both provinces need to keep this in mind,” wrote Peacock. “And work to further expand and facilitate trade, labour mobility and business connections generally.”

WATCH: Alberta – BC trade dispute isn’t beneficial for employment or environment: political scientist (February 2018)

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