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Saturday, April 03, 2010

stop the calgary-edmonton rivalry habit.

I have been meaning to write about this for a couple of weeks. The Edmonton International Airport recently launched a semi-guerilla marketing campaign to convince Edmontonians and northern Albertans to "Stop the Calgary Habit." The campaign is geared towards stopping travellers from flying on departing flights from the Calgary International Airport (where there are many more connecting flights) and depart from the Edmonton International.

When I first heard about the campaign, I pictured the messaging being conceived by a group of grey-haired baby boomer marketers whose target audience was the +65 year old couple with a time-share in Boca. When it comes to travel, and in general, I do not feel any animosity towards Calgary (or their airport and its free wireless internet), nor do I feel that there is any point to a rivalry between the two cities.

In recent conversations with some friends, the question was raised: "Why would we want to compare ourselves to Calgary?"

A big deal was made in the mid-1990s by political groups like The Edmonton Stickmen and politicians like Mayor Bill Smith about the lack of corporate headquarters in Edmonton and businesses being lost to Calgary. The hockey rivalry does not interest me and now that Premier Ralph Klein has retired to become a gameshow host, the political rivalry feels practically inexistent and pointless. From the amount of cranes in its downtown skyline, it appears that Calgary is continuing its dream of becoming the Toronto of the West. As a proud Edmontonian, I say: "they can have it."

As Calgary charts its own course, Edmonton is charting one that will be shaped by its own unique identity, strengths, and opportunities. Outsiders might be shocked to learn about the vibrant and engaged communities that our city has  (last week's GalaGuru event at the packed Latitude 53 Studio was a great example of these vibrant communities). I used to believe that I would need to move to bigger cities like Vancouver or Toronto (or even Calgary) in order to find a great job and quality of life, but I share the perspective of a growing number of younger city-dwellers who believe that Edmonton is a place to be. There is a new confidence in a younger generation that perhaps was not there when the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry was at its hottest twenty or thirty years ago.

When I fly to other cities, I fly from the Edmonton International Airport, not because of loyalty or rivalry, but because it is the closest. If Calgary International Airport is attracting important international flights and airlines, I say: "good for them. It is good for Calgary, good for Alberta, and good for Edmonton."


Jeff S. said...

Well said, Dave.

My other beef with the campaign is that people choosing Calgary (although I'm yet to talk to anyone who drives there to catch a flight...) would be choosing it because AIR CANADA and WEST JET choose where to fly out of. It's not always the consumer making the call.

I also like when the Journal or some other traditional outlet does a story on this campaign and people in the comments whine about the "Leduc International" being so far that they're better off driving to Calgary.

Jenn <3 said...

I agree to a point, however it is important for Edmonton to attract these major flights as well, as it's important for the survival of the International Airport. The more we fly out of Edmonton to catch the connecting flights, the more direct flights that will actually come to our airport. Companies like WestJet and AirCanada fly out of the places that have the most demand, and we need to create that demand. That will make it just that much easier to travel.

That being said, I know numerous people who continue to skip the connecting flight and just go straight to Calgary. It saves money, and often it just saves time (i.e - not having to sit around in the airport for layovers, etc). I think it'll take more than this campaign to get people to stop this, maybe an incentive to fly out of Edmonton, for people to actually start using our airport.

Alberta Historian said...

The Edmonton / Calgary rivalry began in the time of the Gold Rush.

It started when merchants from Edmonton began advertising in Calgary news papers that they had less expensive wares then Calgary merchants for prospectors heading north to the Yukon.

Calgary merchants were PO'ed at this because they knew the Edmonton merchants were lying as they had to ship their supplies through Calgary and the cost was ultimately more expensive.

Some news paper columnists of the day traded barbs over the issue and a rivalry for the ages was born.

Jae/Jennie said...

As a non-native Albertan, I mostly just find the rivalry funny. And to be honest, I think the cities have more in common than either of them cares to admit. They're very (very!) close in size, they've both got a bunch of unique, interesting neighbourhoods in the centre surrounded by a lot of scary yucky suburbia, they both have very wide, straight streets set up on a grid system, they both have rivers running through them &etc. &etc. To people who have spent a lot of time living elsewhere in the world, it's actually not all that easy to tell them apart.

That said, Calgary is cool, but Edmonton is home.

David J. Climenhaga said...

The Edmonton-Calgary rivalry's entertaining enough in a Tweedledee-Tweedledum kind of way. A hockey game is a hockey game, but an inter-city rivalry always adds a bit of spice if you like that sort of thing.

What strikes me as particularly idiotic about this EIA campaign is that a taxpayer-supported entity is spending its (that is, our) money on advertising that is obviously doomed to failure. If people are going to Calgary, it's because they get better service out of Calgary or because the airlines in their wisdom have chosen to put the flights travellers need there. So right from the get-go, the money spent on the campaign is wasted because travellers are not going to stop doing what's in their own interest just to pad the bottom lines of the people who run our local airport.

EIA, of course, has contributed to this state of affairs by closing the downtown airport to regular passenger flights. For those of us on the north side of the city - I live in St. Albert - EIA is not that much less inconvenient to get to than Calgary itself. If I have business in Calgary, I can drive an hour to EIA, wait an hour for my flight, spend three quarters of an hour in the air, take a quarter of an hour to clear the airport and have a ridiculously expensive cab ride at both ends. Alternatively, I can drive about three hours front door to downtown and have the convenience of my own vehicle when I get there. My fuel costs are lower than the combined cab and air fares.

If I want to go overseas or the the United States, for business or personal reasons, I will go where the flights are to get me there. The most likely place is Calgary. Once it was Kelowna. I'm going to miss my trip to pressure the airlines to run flights out of Edmonton? Please! And by the way, if I have to take a flight out of Calgary, having had the experience of trying to connect there from Leduc International, it's just as easy to drive down there and leave the car in long-term parking for the reasons cited above.

If EIA wants me to use their airport, it's up to them - not me - to provide the service I require. Meantime, while you wait and fume and worry about your connecting flight from Leduc Field, that'll be me whizzing down the highway with time to spare for a coffee and doughnut at Red Deer. The only annoyance on the way most days is those ridiculous EIA billboards.

Berry Farmer said...

If we built a high speed passenger train link between the two cities and put one of the stops at Calgary International, the problem of where to fly from... and all the duplication of services would be done.

Downtown Edmonton would be accessible from Calgary International within 75 minutes... not a great deal different than it is now from EIA.

We've spent 50 years building that airport and with the money that we've spent on it, we could have built the rail link.

Time to stop thinking about the best way to make 20th century infrastructure work for us and time to start thinking about how to make this province a better... more efficient place for all of us... and leave out the petty rivalry.

Build the train without public money said...

Okay Berry Farmer,

You can build a train, found a corporation, come up with a buisness plan to show profatability, get financing and build the damn train. Don't expect it to be built on the back of the tax payers. Albertan's don't want to be saddled with an unprofitable train that's going to take decades to pay off.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of throwing gas on the fire, isn't this concern about an Edmonton-Calgary rivalry pretty one sided at this point?

Mandel complaining about Calgary getting better billing at the Alberta olympic pavilion and the EIA campaigning against the "Calgary habit" are two recent examples, but they match a theme I've noticed.

Edmontonians spend a lot of time worrying about Edmonton's position relative to Calgary. Calgarians are not weighed down by this insecurity, and its a big part of the reason why they're kicking our teeth in on almost every metric I can think of.

I agree with you Dave, let's show some confidence, and be the Edmonton we want to be. We don't build Edmonton up by trying to tear Calgary down.

Christopher Spencer said...

WAP has an anti-Edmonton flavour to it, built on a belief that Ed Stelmach doesn't care about things that happen beyond his backyard. Calgary oil money seems to drive the Wildrose engine, but the party doesn't have much of a presence in the Capital Region.

Within cabinet, the Edmonton ministers (Dave H., Gene Z., Heather K.) seem to embrace a vaguely progressive identity; fiscal and social conservatives (Ron L., Ted M.) come from the south. In general, I think Edmontonians are more likely to embrace public enterprise, because so many jobs depend on government (often indirectly through contracts.) Klein's first term was a disaster for the local economy. Danielle Smith -- another right-wing Calgary populist with a background in television -- might not appeal to people who vividly recall slash-and-burn fiscal management.

Except for the 1993 election, the PC tent has been big enough to accommodate the differences between Edmonton and Calgary. Perhaps that will continue, but there is also a possiblity that, in the near future, Edmontonians and Calgarians will cleave to divergent political identities.

Instead of getting past the rivalry, perhaps it will be elevated to an intensity that makes cooperation between the cities nearly impossible.

By the way, and I can't believe I nearly forgot to include this: Flames suck. (smilie face)

Jennifer Martin's Shower Gel said...

Let consumers decide. Market distortions inevitably cause higher prices (air fares) or higher taxes (rail links.

Stu said...

Edmontonians like to go on and on about the arts and cultural scene and totally run down Calgary. Little does anyone in Edmonton notice that Calgary's just as good and Edmonton's been coasting.

Anonymous said...

I live there and Edmonton is kind of a dump. There are just sooo many trashy areas of town that no one in their right mind visits... Stony Plain Road in the west end, everything in "the quarters", 107th Ave, Alberta Ave, all of Calder...

That said, we do have some tasty ass tap water. It is consistently rated tops too. Whereas Calgary is nicer visually and has mountain to look at, but their tap water smells (and tastes) like someone peed in it. Can't live there as such!

Lynda Steele's Lip Gloss said...

Only uncouth Calgarians still drink tap water.

Anonymous said...

Drinking only bottled water leads to the feminization of men. It has to do with the estrogen like substances that leech from oil based plastics into the water in said bottle. Kind of explains Calgary's Flaming Flames I suppose...

Donn Lovett's Lack of Sense said...

Really? REALLY?

The guys with the last place team in the league are going to throw rocks at the Flames?

C'mon. This is what Anonymous 1:27 was talking about.