The Real Cost of Living in Alberta
Analysis from Western Insurance based on 55 different factors shows Alberta has 3rd highest cost of living in Canada. Take that, MacKinnon report.
When the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances were unveiled in September 2019, it predictably determined that public spending in Alberta was out of control, which was used by Premier Jason Kenney as an excuse to take a cudgel to the public sector.
It’s been largely forgotten over the past 20 months, with high oil and gas revenues resulting from Russia’s Ukraine invasion and Premier Danielle Smith needing to open up the spending taps to appeal to particular constituencies for the May election, but it will surely be resurrected in some capacity once fossil fuel funds dry up.
The panel, chaired by Janice MacKinnon, a former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister who implemented brutal austerity under the government of then-premier Roy Romanow in the ‘90s, reached this conclusion by comparing public spending per capita in Alberta to those of the three largest provinces — Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
In my forthcoming book, Kenneyism: Jason Kenney’s Pursuit of Power (see what I did there), I critique the profoundly flawed methodology of MacKinnon’s neoliberal blueprint for Alberta.
To address the argument that the cost of living is higher in Alberta, the panel used an unusual definition of ‘cost of living’ — comparing only the costs of utilities and tax rates between only people in Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto who make $75,000 in income, which gamed the report to its desired conclusion.
Calgary, as a proxy for Alberta, was depicted as not just having the lowest cost of living, but by far the lowest — almost half the cost of living in Toronto, which was determined to be the most expensive city in Canada, as a proxy for Ontario.
If we look at the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is how cost of living is normally calculated, Alberta consistently has the highest prices for consumer goods in the country, which Albertans may not notice, since they tend to make higher wages — especially in the private sector. This is as true today as it was when the MacKinnon report was released.
But the CPI is not the only way to measure cost of living. Examining 55 different factors, including the cost of real estate, taxes, health care, utilities and various categories of consumer goods, Westland Insurance gave each province a score out of 100 for the cost of living, with 100 being the least affordable and 0 being the most.
Here are the results:
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