COLUMN: Alberta an eye opener to B.C. boy

Exploring Wild Rose Country reveals a province enjoying a booming economy.

Had a chance to explore Alberta’s Wild Rose Country this summer, and have to admit I can see what all the fuss is when it comes to British Columbians moving there to work and live.

We visited my wife’s children in Tofield and Red Deer, and wherever we went, you see a province enjoying a booming economy.

From the big rigs taking up two lanes of highway hauling gigantic pieces of machinery north to the oil sands, to the young people with their new vehicles towing new RVs, Alberta seems to be a ‘have’ province.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to be abandoning Super Natural British Columbia anytime soon, but there are a few things in Alberta that make you stand up and take notice including:

Gasoline

Flying in on the Friday of the August long weekend, we were on the road less than a minute when the first gas station advertised $1.04 per litre. We had left $1.32 in Nanaimo.

The funny thing is gas jumped to $1.14 per litre on the Tuesday and all the news stations were hammering home the fact the cost of gas increased following the long weekend instead of before.

Filling up at home a week later, I noticed an Alberta licence plate and struck up a conversation with the driver who was bemoaning the cost of B.C. gasoline.

He was familiar with the area because he knew Duncan and Victoria stations had lower costs than Nanaimo.

The only reason he was filling up here was to have a enough fuel to avoid stopping in the Lower Mainland and hopefully make it to Kamloops that has some of the lowest gas prices in the province.

Alcohol

Walking into Costco in Red Deer, I could have sworn we were back in Nanaimo. The cookie cutter layout is alive and well, making it easy for customers to find their goods no matter where they are from.

But walking out was a entirely different story.

Wanting to pick up a dozen beer and some wine, we were about to get on the smartphone to find a liquor store when I remembered something about Alberta liquor laws differing from B.C.

Sure enough, Costco (Sobeys, Real Canadian Superstore and other grocery outlets) have a separate store for liquor sales.

The companies are not allowed to sell the booze alongside the groceries as is done in the U.S., but make it readily available just the same.

With the talk in B.C. about privatizing government liquor stores, the more availability of the product for the consumer, the better it would be.

Thunderstorms

Living here on the coast, we are subject to thunder and lightning once in a blue moon.

I understand the Island had a heat wave while we were gone which produced a significant thunderstorm, but we were entertained by them every night while on holidays.

It was fascinating to watch the clouds roll in across the prairie, see the lightning and count the seconds before the thunderclap.

While in Red Deer, we sat through the worst (or best depending on how amazed you are) storm I had ever seen.

The lightning and thunder were instantaneous – directly over the house, shaking not only the windows but my wife (she is not a fan of storms) as well.

As for things I didn’t like about Alberta, bugs would rank right up there at the top. We quickly found out that the family-friendly (“green”) mosquito repellent that works here on the coast, doesn’t cut it in Alberta. If it wasn’t for the hundreds of dragonflies feasting on the bugs, I don’t know what we would have done.

But, by far the best thing about our trip to Alberta was finding out my stepdaughter, Krista, and her man, Peter, are going to be parents in February, making us grandparents for the second time.

Now we have an extra special reason to holiday in Alberta.

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