Friday, January 30, 2009

Where's it all going? Part D'oh!

Two years ago I asked Albertans to think about where exactly all the huge wealth generated by 'the Alberta advantage' was actually going. Bill Kauffman at the Calgary Sun (!) lays out the numbers from Stats Can and the Parkland Institute to answer that question as the fevered haze of the boom lifts and we all blearily stagger around post wild party Alberta trying not to step on any bottles.

From 2002 to 2006, Alberta's GDP fairly exploded, with energy construction expenditures ballooning from $13.3 billion to $33.1 billion. Alberta's labour productivity in 2005 was tops in Canada.

Yet 57% of those workers said their wages weren't keeping pace with living costs spiked by the boom, with the stats bearing that out.

We've been sweating harder to simply tread water.

With things better than ever, Alberta in 2007 hosted the largest per capita population of working homeless in Canada, and 27.7% of those using food banks were employed.

While the energy industry was ascendent and the province was rolling out its biggest budget to date in 2007, say the Parklanders, our grade schools weren't even allocated a cost of living increase and post-secondary tuition fees increased.

Boomtime Alberta had the lowest rate of social assistance for single employables.

Alberta still hasn't replaced the hospital beds it lost during the 1990s cutbacks and with the province hitting a fiscal brick wall, doing it will be that much harder.

Where'd all the money go?

Predictably, not so much trickled down. Instead, it geysered up to the top executive suites in the form of spiralling multi-million dollar salaries and stock options -- or left the country.

Petroleum sector revenue under foreign control in Alberta was 56% in 2003. From just 10 large corporations surveyed, the study determined 55.9% of dividends, or $1.3 billion, left the country in 2005.

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