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 May 2023, so keep that in mind.
First, here’s the number of active businesses in each province, as of May 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.
|Apr 2023||May 2023||Change||% change|
Between April and May, nearly every province saw a gain in the total number of active businesses. Alberta saw the fourth largest increase in active businesses in the country. The province’s active businesses increased by 136, from 118,887 to 119,023.
British Columbia, which was at the top of the list, saw 724 more active businesses this past May than they did the month before. Newfoundland and Labrador, with a loss of 34, was the worst performing province in the country.
On a percentage basis, Alberta had the only the 6th largest gain, ahead of Saskatchewan,. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, the latter of which saw losses.
Now let’s take a look at how things changed in each province over the past year.
|May 2022||May 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta gained 522 active businesses over this 12-month period, the third largest increase the country. Ontario topped the list, with over 2,100 more active businesses. Québec was in second place, with 1,134 more businesses.
New Brunswick and, again, Newfoundland and Labrador were the only provinces to see their number of active businesses drop over the last year.
Since April 2022, the number of active businesses in Alberta increased 0.44%, again the sixth largest increase among all provinces.
The story worsens the further back we go. Take a look at the last two years, for example.
|May 2021||May 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta’s increase of 2,277 active businesses over the last 2 years keeps it in 4th place; however, they drop to 7th place on a percentage basis (1.95%).
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, despite having a population only 14% larger than Alberta’s.
Québec was more than triple, and Ontario’s increase of almost 20,000 active businesses was nearly 9 times larger than what Alberta saw.
It’s slightly better for 3 years.
|May 2020||May 2023||Change||% change|
May 2020 was 10 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 last 3 years, Alberta was still in fourth place spot.
The largest increase was seen in Ontario, which has nearly 62,000 more active businesses than they did in May 2020.
On a percentage basis, Alberta’s gain of 12.87% of its active businesses over the last 3 years, however, was the fifth worst increase, on a percentage basis. Only Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador saw lower percentage increases than Alberta.
Finally, here’s how things looked compared to May 2019, the month the UCP were finally in office after winning the 2019 provincial election.
|May 2019||May 2023||Change||% change|
Alberta had the worst performance of all the provinces in Canada, losing over 1,100 active businesses. Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick were the only other provinces that saw a decrease, but it was only 747 and 39, respectively, far less of a loss than what Alberta saw.
Ontario saw the largest increase in total active businesses since May 2019, increasing by nearly 10,500.
On a percentage basis, Alberta was 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 119,023 active businesses we saw in May 2023, is much higher than was at the start of the pandemic, it’s still lower than where it sat when the UCP took power.
Heck, it‘s even lower than it was just 4 months previous, when the numbers sat at 119,576. We have 500 fewer businesses than we started 2023 with.
Plus, the number of active businesses was already declining for months before the pandemic-fuelled recession kicked in. Between May 2019 and February 2020, Alberta had gone from 120,136 active businesses to 118,473.
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 worst loss (second worst if you look at percentage) in active businesses in the country is notable, given that the UCP implemented the Job Creation Tax Cut just 2 months after May 2019.
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?