Census shows income growth
Some challenges still remain, as P.A. supports a large proportion of lowincome households
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.”