Calgary

The rich got richer — but fewer — in the wake of Alberta's oil-price crash

Thousands fewer Albertans could count themselves among the top one per cent of income earners in Canada in the immediate wake of the oil-price crash but those who remained in the elite category earned more money than ever before.

Smaller group of top-earning Albertans made even more money in 2015, according to Statistics Canada

After oil prices crashed, fewer Albertans were among the top 1% of income earners in Canada but those who remained in the elite category saw their incomes rise by more than 20%. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Thousands fewer Albertans could count themselves among the top one per cent of income earners in Canada in the immediate wake of the oil-price crash but those who remained in the elite category earned more money than ever before.

That's according to data released this week by Statistics Canada, which details trends among high-income earners in 2015.

It took an income of $234,700 that year to qualify among the top one per cent of Canadian earners.

A total of 65,185 Albertans met that threshold — 3,390 fewer than in 2014.

The vast majority of those losses came in the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo region, where there were 2,330 fewer tax filers in the top one per cent.

Calgary also saw a decline of 785 tax filers in the top category, while Edmonton gained 395.

For those who remained in the top one per cent, however, 2015 was an especially good year.

The rich get richer

Albertans in that top income category earned $572,400, on average, up by 20.7 per cent from 2014.

Their share of total income also increased, growing from 17.8 per cent to 19.8 per cent.

In Calgary, specifically, the top one-per-cent's income share grew from 26.9 per cent to 28.6 per cent.

Nationwide, the top one per cent of earners take home a much smaller share of total income but they, too, saw their share increase, growing from 10.3 per cent in 2014 to 11.2 per cent in 2015.

"This was the first increase in the share of total income going to the top one per cent (nationwide) since 2006," Statistics Canada said in a report.

Average total income for the top one per cent of Canadian earners rose to $529,600 in 2015, up 12.2 per cent from the year before.

Statistics Canada said that was largely due to "a sharp increase in the dividend income from Canadian corporations."

The top one per cent of tax filers received, on average, $102,300 from dividend income, up from $66,700 in 2014.

In general — and especially in Alberta — the top one per cent saw a shrinking proportion of their income generated from salaries and wages, with more coming from other sources such as investments and pensions.

More women in the top 1%

Men still make up the vast majority of top income earners but women are catching up.

Female tax filers accounted for 23.2 per cent of the top one per cent of earners in 2015, up from 21.7 per cent in 2014.

"This was the largest yearly gain since 1989," Statistics Canada said.

In Alberta, specifically, the proportion of female members of the one per cent grew to 19.4 per cent, up from 16.5 per cent in 2014.

And while fewer Albertans were among the top one per cent of Canadian earners in 2015, Alberta continued to have a higher proportion of its citizens in that group than other provinces.

A total of 1.6 per cent of Albertans earned above the threshold in 2015.

That's twice the national rate of 0.8 per cent. (It's less than one per cent because not all citizens are tax filers.)

In Calgary, specifically, 2.4 per cent of the population was in the top one per cent of Canadian earners and in Edmonton, it was 1.2 per cent.

After hovering above $100 a barrel for most of 2014, oil prices crashed in the latter half of that year and fell as low as $39 a barrel in December 2015.

Alberta's GDP shrunk in 2015 and 2016 but numerous analysts suggest the province has returned to growth in 2017 and may even lead all provinces in GDP growth this year.

What about the 1% in Alberta, specifically?

All the above numbers are based on the top one per cent of earners, calculated at a national level.

Recall that the threshold to be included in that category in 2015 was an annual income of $234,700.

If you're curious, these are how the income thresholds compare within smaller geographic areas:

  • In Alberta: $344,400
  • In Edmonton: $295,900
  • In Calgary: $467,800

People earning above those levels would be in the top one per cent of earners in those local areas.


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