Late last month, Statistics Canada released data on active businesses in Canada, and I thought I’d go through it to see how Alberta fared.
The most recent data is February 2023, so keep that in mind.
First, here’s the number of active businesses in each province, as of February 2023.
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Alberta came in fourth place, which shouldn’t be that surprising given that it has the fourth highest population as well.
Now, let’s look at how that number compares to the past. First, over the previous month.
|Jan 2023||Feb 2023||Change||% change|
Between January and February, nearly every province saw a loss in the total number of active businesses. Alberta saw the fourth largest decrease in active businesses in the country. The province’s active businesses decreased by 124, from 119,576 to 119,452.
Ontario, which was at the bottom of the list, saw 840 fewer active businesses this past February than they did the month before. Québec, with a gain of 256, was the best performing province in the country.
Even on a percentage basis, Alberta had the second smallest loss, behind only New Brunswick.
Now let’s take a look at how things changed in each province over the past year.
|Feb 2022||Feb 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta gained over 1,500 active businesses over the past 12 months, the fourth largest increase the country. Ontario topped the list, with over 6,600 more active businesses. Québec and BC were in second and third place, respectively, with 3,417 and 1,577 more businesses.
Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province to see its number of active businesses drop over the last year.
Since December 2021, the number of active businesses in Alberta increased 1.31%, the fifth largest increase among all provinces.
Of the other provinces, 5 of them saw increases near or higher than 1% between February 2022 and February 2023, and one of them was just under 3.5%. The national average was 1.17%, which was less than the increase Alberta saw.
The story is pretty much the same when comparing 2 years.
|Feb 2021||Feb 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta’s increase of over 3,100 active businesses over the last 2 years keeps it in 4th place; however, they drop to 7th place on a percentage basis (2.69%).
As well, the 3 provinces with total increases larger than Alberta’s actually saw much larger increases. BC, which was in third place, had more than double the increase as Alberta, Québec was more than triple, and Ontario’s increase was more than 7 times larger than what Alberta saw.
This is where the good news ends.
Let’s look at active businesses over the last 3 years to see what I mean.
|Feb 2020||Feb 2023||Change||% change|
February 2020 was 8 months after Alberta’s UCP government implemented their so-called Job Creation Tax Cut. When they implemented it, they claimed it would lead to tens of thousands of more jobs being created.
However, what we see is that in the 8 months since the UCP government cut the tax rate on corporate profits over half a million dollars, Alberta was still in fourth place spot, but we saw a smaller increase in active businesses over the last 3 years than we did in just the last year.
Only one province—Newfoundland and Labrador—saw a loss in total active businesses between February 2020 and February 2023.
The largest increase was seen in Ontario, which has over 11,600 more active businesses than they did in February 2020.
On a percentage basis, Alberta’s gain of 0.94% of its active businesses over the last 3 years, however, was the second worst increase, on a percentage basis. Only New Brunswick saw a lower percentage increase than Alberta.
Finally, here’s how things looked compared to February 2019, the last February under the NDP.
|Feb 2019||Feb 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta had the second worst performance of all the provinces in Canada, losing 3766 active businesses. Newfoundland and Labrador was the only other province that saw a decrease, which was more than double the loss that Alberta saw.
Ontario saw the largest increase in total active businesses since February 2019, increasing by over 14,000.
On a percentage basis, Alberta was still in second last place, ahead of only Newfoundland and Labrador.
Here’s another look at the numbers over the last 4 years.
You can see the huge drop in active businesses in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another thing this chart clearly shows is that any growth in active businesses that have occurred during the UCP administration has been entirely recovery growth.
After all, even though the 119,452 active businesses we saw in February 2023, is the highest it’s been since the pandemic began, it’s still lower than where it sat when the UCP took power.
In April 2019, the month the UCP won the provincial election, Alberta had 120,068 active businesses, and the following month, it rose to 120,044, the highest number seen in the last 4 years. That’s still nearly 600 more businesses than we saw this past February.
Plus, the number of active businesses was already declining for months before the pandemic-fuelled recession kicked in. Between February 2019 and February 2020, Alberta had gone from 119,828 active businesses to 118,342.
So, although the pandemic played a huge role in the massive drop we saw during the UCP’s first year or so in power, it wasn’t the only factor.
Even so, the fact that Alberta has seen the second worst loss in active businesses in the country is notable, given that July 2019 was the month the UCP implemented the Job Creation Tax Cut.
When the UCP announced that they’d cut the tax on corporate profits, they promised that it would result in more jobs, that it would encourage companies to move here.
But if other provinces with much larger corporate profit tax rates are seeing larger gains than we are, can we really say that the tax cut accomplished what they promised us it would?