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Slight increase in median employment income for Red Deer pre-pandemic

Fraser Institute releases new report
Red Deer’s median employment income grew slightly between 2008 and 2019 according to a new report from the Fraser Institute. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer saw larger swings in its median employment income between 2008 and 2019 compared to other cities in Alberta, according to a new report.

But during those 12 years, Red Deer’s median income did manage to grow by 1.7 per cent (adjusted for inflation) based on the Fraser Institute’s new report Analysis of Changes in Median Employment Income in Canada’s Census Metropolitan Areas, 2008–2019.

That was more than Edmonton’s median employment income which grew by one per cent, but a lot less than in Lethbridge where median income increased by 18.3 per cent.

Calgary’s median income actually fell 3.6 per cent, the second biggest drop among the 41 Canadian metropolitan areas included in the study.

Oshawa, Ont., saw the biggest decline in income at -5.1 per cent. Barrie, Ont., came in third at -2.6 per cent, followed by Toronto at -1.6, and London, Ont., at -1.3.

Overall, the median employment income for all 41 communities increased by 5.4 per cent.

Ben Eisen, senior fellow at the institute, said the income ups and downs for Red Deer followed the same trend as Edmonton and Calgary with strong growth between 2008 and 2014 before a severe drop in the price of oil and gas impacted the median income.

“Obviously the oil and gas industry is only one sector in Alberta which has a diversified economy, but it is an important one. Developments over the past five years prior to the pandemic certainly hurt the province’s overall economy. It had a big impact on employment income in most cities in the province, including in Red Deer,” Eisen said.


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He said income shifts in Edmonton and Calgary were smoother than in Red Deer, but Red Deer experienced roughly the same swings.

“Large scale global forces, particularly related to energy prices are the major driver of what we see in the results here, but it would be a big mistake to overlook policy which will have a big affect on the prosperity of Albertans in the future.”

He said having an environment that’s conducive to growth and investment, like a competitive tax environment, contributes to economic growth and higher median employment income.

Social programs are also important, he added.

“High quality public services, the ones that are being cost-effective, that are being run as efficiently as possible at the lowest expense to taxpayers, matter for a province’s well-being and growth, as does a competitive tax environment.”

He said unlike other reports, this one compares municipalities across the country.

“The major metropolitan areas don’t get enough attention and hopefully digging down a bit further than the national and provincial stats that we see all the time, and getting into these municipal areas, will shed some further light onto the Canadian economy and the strength of labour markets across the country,” Eisen said.


Red Deer’s median employment income fell in 2020: Statistics Canada

Dustin Quirk, an instructor at Donald School of Business, Science and Technology with Red Deer Polytechnic, said the biggest lesson to be learned from the report is the need to have a diversified economy so municipalities are not so reliant on one industry, like oil and gas.

“That would help moderate any swings to hopefully see more sustained positive employment growth,” Quirk said.

He said all municipalities are in competition to encourage business expansion or attract new business creation. Streamlining regulatory processes to reduce red tape, having available land for industry or business development, as well reduced tax rates will help.

Red Deer also has other advantages, he added.

“One thing Red Deer does have going for it is a very high quality of living, not only the natural beauty of the region, but also having the regional hospital here, having the polytechnic here. Those all add to the attraction of businesses looking to establish or grow.”

Quirk said RDP is working to support different industries, and ensures there is a talented supply of local labour.

“I think Red Deer Polytechnic, in working with the city, can play a key role in making this area even more attractive to business.”

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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