Skip to main content

Those of you who know me well are aware of how much I adore Montana and its residents. I nearly forgot this during the extended lockdowns and blocked borders. So when I spent a month in Montana at the family cabin for a ‘Health and Wellness retreat,’ I was reminded of why it is so ‘dear’ to me. 

My journey into the benefits of a retreat location started in Montana when I hired a local contractor to build my cabin eight years ago. I had previously spent leisure time in a fifth-wheel trailer on the Canadian side of the border for nine years. The closest town for supplies on the Canadian side was 50 minutes away, so we would often trek to the more intimate USA side of the border for food and alcohol. So it wasn’t for just that reason we decided to move to the American side; it was much more. 

During my month-long retreat last year, I reflected on life and having a vacation home in Montana was one of them. 

In talking with one of the cashiers at the local Walmart in Kalispell, I learned that 45,000 people had moved into the Flathead Valley over 2021/22. “Who are they, where did they come from, and why?” I asked with genuine curiosity. I was told they primarily came from California. Why? Because their dollars went further in Montana when it came to housing and buying goods. Not to mention being able to live a much-improved lifestyle. The key attraction was that they were able to buy a house rather than live in a condominium. Their jobs allow them to work remotely, which is a massive bonus towards enjoying a much better lifestyle. The best part is that they can get anywhere they want to go within 20 to 30 minutes. But, she added, she “hopes they left their politics in California.” I quickly agreed! 

Our cabin is closer to a smaller border town, but the growth is noticeable. Several new homes are under construction for the first time in 5 years, and recreational properties are turning into full-time residences. The locals are always friendly at the local gym, where I hold a part-time membership. We discuss everything from “what’s going on in town, politics, to where I live when I am not in Montana.” At the local grocery store, I am now recognized as a ‘regular’ and am privy to their life stories and challenges. My neighbour, who is a local contractor, talks to me about his work and what he can do better in his business. The friendliness and welcoming culture remind me of a ‘young Calgary’ and a current Airdrie. 

 So, where am I going with this? Calgary, Edmonton, and Alberta, in general, are experiencing tremendous growth due to a noticeable exodus from Eastern Canada and immigration to Canada. Our city, politics and planning are changing, but not always for the better. 

Not unlike Montana, we are open and welcoming, and we love the idea that other Canadians see our province as an opportunity to improve their lifestyles, particularly after the 2-years of lockdowns and ‘carryover’ restrictions. We have more than doubled in population from the early 80s to where we are now. Not many provinces can ‘make that brag.’ We have been able to keep things relatively simple in our approach to how our City and Province operate to this point without a lot of bureaucracy, politics and (incorrigible) rules. That in itself adds to what we see as the ‘Alberta Advantage.’ 

I’m sure by this point, some of you think I’m opposed to change and just want Alberta to stay the same. No, I do not. Not unlike my business, we must change with the times. However, the same principles in lifestyle as in business apply when it comes to these changes. Although, at some point, I will perhaps not like the change coming at me and will have to step aside for the next generation to take over. However, there is ‘acceptable change,’ and then there is ‘radical change.’ So we are hearing attempts to push for such changes now. 

So, what do I consider ‘radical change’? A major one is a recent announcement by the NDP, should they be elected, to spend billions of Albertan tax dollars on shifting the electricity grid to net-zero emissions to achieve a pre-set ‘fictitious goal by 2035′. This task is insurmountable, not only in such a short time frame but in many ways. Moreso, should we even consider it if we could? Alberta does not possess the lakes, rivers, or dam systems to support hydro-energy, which would perhaps be less expensive. With that said, the ignorance towards nuclear power generation as an alternative astounds me when many European countries acknowledge its’ ‘Green benefits.’ No matter which side of the ‘climate fence’ you sit on, when it comes to this issue, the (projected) figures are just shy of $100 billion. Nor does it include your personal costs to adapt your natural gas furnace, hot water tank, gas stove (if you own one) etc., to accommodate this new source of energy, Not to mention the increased monthly costs to operate your home and your (electric) vehicle. 

It’s beginning to concern me that some ‘fashionable woke virus’ is sneaking in to take over our lifestyle without regard to affordability. It appears the proposers should have considered the ‘affordability factor’ concerning this proposal. If a different Party were to be elected, this would not even be part of the conversation. For our future enjoyment and affordability, Albertans, new and old, need to pay closer attention to what does not sound like any common sense is in play when it comes to this idea and others. Or we might find ourselves running elsewhere, like the Californians! 

In thinking back to that comment from the Walmart cashier in Kalispell, Montana, I have a simple request. I assume many of the new Albertans left the East Coast to enjoy the many Alberta Advantage reasons I have been talking about, and they have been missing.

So, would it be too impolite of me to ask them to “please leave your politics behind” so we can all continue to enjoy the Alberta lifestyle?

Shane Wenzel

Shane is the President & CEO of the Shane Homes Group of Companies and the namesake. Shane's responsibilities include strategic direction for the companies, policy advice for the building industry through BILD Calgary, and political involvement through the Alberta Enterprise Group on the economy, making him an industry leader in his field. Shane's sales and marketing background comes from growing up with two entrepreneurial parents, Cal and Edith, and participating in a business advisory group. On the personal side, Shane considers himself a bit of a "tech junky" and social media influencer on various platforms. He's also proudly apart of the LGBTQ community.