Alberta and income inequality: A second look

This is, of course, a no-win blog post.  Anything even remotely related to attempting to justify income inequality is like a red flag to the bulls of Pamplona.

But…  just because I love taking a punch.

This is in response to new data suggesting that Alberta has become a place where the top income earners are hoarding all the income.

In many ways the Soviet Union was the most equal society in history.  You had a tiny cohort at the top and everyone else scraping around at the bottom.  But they were equal at the bottom. I realize that is a cliche but it remains mostly true.

Guess which province has the lowest percentage of taxfilers reporting income under $15,000 per year?  Alberta.

Guess which province has the lowest percentage of taxfilers reporting income under $50,000 per year?  Alberta.

Guess which province has the lowest personal tax burden? Alberta.

Of course if you live in the big city you will have to allocate more to housing and I am not suggesting for a moment there are no ‘poor’ folks in Alberta.

Guess which province spends nearly $11,000 per capita on provincial government services? Well, lots. But Alberta is one of them although it is projected to drop somewhat in the coming years.  On a per capita basis in 2013-2014 Alberta will spend more on provincial government services than BC, Ontario, Quebec, NB, NS and PEI.

I guess my point is that it is true that in a Piketty sense the owners of capital and highly specialized skills do better in a boom economy (SK is facing similar issues) but if the rest of people on the income spectrum are doing better their their peers in the rest of Canada (higher incomes/lower taxes) and the government is spending as much or more on public services – it becomes pretty hard to argue we moved back to feudal England or Russia.

Percentage of taxfilers reporting income less than $15,000 per year and $50,000 per year

For 2012. Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 111-0008.


PS – guess which province is most ‘equal’ as measured by the lowest percentage of folks earning over over $50k per year?  PEI with NB as a close second.  If you look at the percentage at the top of the income scale $250k or higher, same thing. PEI and NB.  New Brunswick has 28 people earning $250k out of every 10,000 taxfilers (0.28%) compared to 151 per 1,000 in Alberta (5.4 times as many).

2 thoughts on “Alberta and income inequality: A second look

  1. It’s true that a wealthier province can afford more income inequality. But it would be charlatanism at its worst to suggest that this inequality is what produces the wealth.

    As we all know, Alberta is sitting on a pool of oil. This – and not income inequality – is the reason why it has the lowest the lowest percentage of taxfilers reporting income under $15,000 per year and why it has the lowest income taxes in the country.

    I lived in Alberta for 17 years. The entire time I was there I wondered why so little of the billions earned from oil went back into the province and back to the people of Alberta and of Canada. Alberta spends 13% of its GDP on programs. Imagine what it could do if it sent 23%, the way New Brunswick has to.

    p.s. this is a contradiction: ” the Soviet Union was the most equal society in history. You had a tiny cohort at the top and everyone else scraping around at the bottom.”

  2. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of the situation of the Christians presently suffering persecution in Muslim settings? They would certainly welcome any opportuunity to flee to the Atlantic Canadian region. If ISIS and ISIL have their way they will be facing genocide.
    Of course we could leave them over there or turn them away as we did with the Jews in 1939. But why should WE be those generous Canadians who selflessly help the persecuted, the less fortunate than ourselves? We are busy enough crying the blues over our own situation.
    I’ll tell you why: Most of those Christians in the middle-east are the businessmen, the entrepreneurs who have made that area prosper throughout history. Who is not aware of the fine record of financial contributions of those of our neighours here who hail from Lebanon,- for instance? Many such immigrants have economics ingrained in their family traditions, have studied I.T., have a history of entrepeneurship and will be quick to establish new industries in NS and NB.
    I am proud to call many such immigrants my friends.
    How can we MAKE THIS HAPPEN? By doing what Iam doing in the comment. By saying such things in the social media. By embarassing our deprtment of immigration because of the willing blindness to this situation. If our conservative government is unwilling to recognise the situation … then we talk to Trudeau and company. If they are truly “liberals” then they have no choice but to take up the fight. If not .. then call the hypocrites.
    Here is another one. Let’s say somebody from some religious persuasion thinks it through and decides to become … oh … let’s say “a Christian” … and then because of some tradition … let’s say “sharia law” is automatically a candidate for death … because he/she is now an apostate. Wouldn’t it be nice to save their lives?
    I just bet you that the individual would be so thankful to Maritimers that he wouldn’t move to Alberta for 20 barrels of oil. But what he might do would be to give it all he has to prove that we hadmade a wise choice in bringing him into our neighbourhood. Of course this would apply to anyone from any persecuted minority. Iwonder how much we could have prospered in Canada had we welcomed the Jews fleeing Nazi Germany? Some of us who still believe in God are convinced that He would have blessed us for such an act. He has not changed. Have we?
    Why do we insist that immigrants come here with their pockets bulging with $ ? BTW, may of those persecuted Christians do have $ ! More important they are used to making $. They will make businesses and we will all make $. Did you know that Sobeys were immigrants just a couple of generations back? They had 3 stores when I was a kid … now they have more than 3,000. ( plus Empire theaters, a construction company, etc) That’s $
    Quebec has its own department of immigration. Why not do that in Atlantic Canada? You said Ontario did its own immigration in 1990 and brought in tons of immigrants; so let’s do the same. Maybe we say: “We are a poorer part of Canada; we can’t subsidze you all that much, but if you can carry your own weight nad make things happen, then we welcome you with open arms…Come on in!”

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