Cen­sus shows in­come growth

Some chal­lenges still re­main, as P.A. sup­ports a large pro­por­tion of low­in­come house­holds

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY AND PETER LOZIN­SKI

Prince Al­ber­tans have got­ten richer since 2005, but not as quickly as other Saskatchewan peo­ple.

That’s one in­sight from the lat­est cen­sus re­lease on in­come and poverty, which also showed Prince Al­bert lead­ing all Saskatchewan cities in its pro­por­tion of low-in­come res­i­dents – de­spite a no­table im­prove­ment.

Statis­tics Canada re­leased the data early Wed­nes­day morn­ing. It put Saskatchewan first among the ten prov­inces for me­dian in­come growth be­tween 2005 and 2015. But Prince Al­bert lagged about nine points be­hind that sprightly growth rate.

Take the poor­est half of Prince Al­ber­tans and find the res­i­dent who makes the most among them. That per­son made $35,862 be­fore taxes – the me­dian to­tal in­come for the city. That’s less than the me­dian in­come for Saskatchewan as a whole, which came in at $38,299, but more than what StatsCan re­ported for the na­tion as a whole.

Cal­cu­lated in con­stant 2015 dol­lars, that mid­dle-of-the-range Prince Al­ber­tan’s earn­ings rose 27.6 per cent, trail­ing Saskatchewan’s na­tion-lead­ing growth rate of 36.2 per cent. Canada’s me­dian in­di­vid­ual in­come grew by 12.7 per cent, be­fore taxes.

Prince Al­bert is also home to the high­est pro­por­tion of low-in­come peo­ple among the 15 largest com­mu­ni­ties in the prov­ince. StatsCan found that 10.5 per cent of Prince Al­bert res­i­dents fall be­low the low-in­come cut off – the level at which fam­i­lies need to spend about two thirds of their money on ne­ces­si­ties like food, cloth­ing and shel­ter.

That’s still a ma­jor im­prove­ment since the 2005 cen­sus, when 17.3 per cent of the city made less than that thresh­old. In fact, that 6.8-point drop out­paced the prov­ince’s four-point re­duc­tion, sug­gest­ing that Prince Al­bert is do­ing rel­a­tively well at fight­ing poverty.

The news came as no sur­prise to Mayor Greg Dionne, who cited those fam­i­lies liv­ing be­low the low-in­come level as rea­son to at­tract more busi­nesses to the city.

“Our young, es­pe­cially our young abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion, is look­ing for em­ploy­ment. They’re look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to work,” he said.

“That’s why we have to work harder to keep at­tract­ing busi­nesses, so they have an op­por­tu­nity to find right­ful em­ploy­ment in our com­mu­nity.”

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties spar over num­bers Un­sur­pris­ingly, the op­po­si­tion NDP and gov­ern­ing Sask. Party had very dif­fer­ent takes on the num­bers that came out Wed­nes­day. The NDP cred­ited the in­come growth to the rise in com­mod­ity prices, and said the Sask. Party has hurt eco­nomic growth.

“This re­port cov­ers the years that Saskatchewan was ben­e­fit­ing from record re­source rev­enue. Since then –dur­ing years of Sask. Party’s mis­man­age­ment, scan­dal and waste – av­er­age weekly earn­ings in both BC and Al­berta have grown more quickly than in Saskatchewan,” in­terim leader Ni­cole Sa­rauer said in an emailed state­ment.

“De­spite the pre­vi­ous strength in our econ­omy, the Sask. Party have al­lowed the num­ber of peo­ple look­ing for work in Saskatchewan to dou­ble from 20,000 in 2007, when they were first in elected, to 40,000 in 2017 and, with their heart­less cuts, un­fair tax hikes, and des­per­ate sell-offs, the Sask. Party have raised the price on ev­ery­thing from kids clothes to in­sur­ance rates and made it even harder for Saskatchewan fam­i­lies to make ends meet.”

The Saskatchewan Party, un­sur­pris­ingly, saw it quite a bit dif­fer­ently.

“While we have faced some chal­lenges re­cently with weaker com­mod­ity prices, the fact is Saskatchewan fam­i­lies have done well dur­ing the Saskatchewan Party’s time in of­fice,” a spokesper­son wrote.

The spokesper­son cited sev­eral eco­nomic indi­ca­tors to counter the NDP’s “state­ment about the prov­ince’s sup­pos­edly dire eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.”

It cited the na­tion­ally-lead­ing growth in af­ter-tax in­come over the past decade, as well as com­par­ing 2007 to 2016. Back in 2007, Saskatchewan’s av­er­age weekly earn­ings were be­low the na­tional av­er­age. In 2016, they were ranked third high­est in the coun­try, well above the na­tional av­er­age.

The spokesper­son also cited pop­u­la­tion growth, the fastest in 80 years, the cre­ation of 60,000 new jobs in the last decade, record cap­i­tal in­vest­ment and the tax sys­tem.

“We have the most com­pet­i­tive tax sys­tem in the coun­try,” the spokesper­son wrote, “with lower in­come taxes and lower cor­po­rate taxes (this bud­get), the low­ers man­u­fac­tur­ing and pro­cess­ing, no health care pre­mium and no car­bon tax.”

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