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Alberta sees largest loss in active businesses

Between May 2019—two months before the Job Creation Tax Cut came into effect—and May 2022, Alberta has seen the largest loss in the number of active businesses of all the provinces in Canada.

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 2022, so keep that in mind.

First, here’s the number of active businesses in each province, as of May 2022.

ON357,053
QC199,876
BC155,159
AB118,494
MB28,285
SK24,914
NS20,606
NB17,387
NL12,590
PEI4,082

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 2022May 2022Change% change
ON355,751357,0531,3020.37%
AB118,351118,4941430.12%
BC155,128155,159310.02%
NS20,59020,606160.08%
NB17,40617,387-19-0.11%
NL12,61212,590-22-0.17%
PEI4,1104,082-28-0.68%
MB28,34928,285-64-0.23%
SK24,98024,914-66-0.26%
QC199,949199,876-73-0.04%

Between April and May 2022, Alberta saw the largest increase in active businesses in the country. The province’s active businesses increased by 143, from 118,351 to 118,494.

Only Ontario did better, having increased by nearly 10 times that number.

That’s about as good as it gets for Alberta though. Take a look at the table below, performance over the last year, to see what I mean.

May 2021May 2022Change% change
ON339,897357,05317,1565.05%
QC193,305199,8766,5713.40%
BC150,678155,1594,4812.97%
AB116,968118,4941,5261.30%
NS19,79620,6068104.09%
NB17,05917,3873281.92%
MB27,99528,2852901.04%
SK24,75824,9141560.63%
PEI3,9504,0821323.34%
NL12,48812,5901020.82%

Alberta drops down to 4th place, which isn’t that much of a shocker, given that we have the fourth largest population, which I pointed out earlier. But it reminds us to keep in mind that 1 month of data may not tell us the entire story.

Since Alberta has the fourth largest population, it makes sense that it’d have the fourth largest increase, in absolute numbers. But what about on a percentage basis, which gives us a more accurate picture of performance?

Over the last year, the number of active businesses in Alberta increased by 1.3%, which drops the province down to seventh place.

Only 3 other provinces—Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan—saw smaller increases. The other 6 provinces saw increases higher than or pretty close to 2% since May 2021.

The story is pretty similar when comparing 2 years.

May 2020May 2022Change% change
ON297,247357,05359,80620.12%
QC173,523199,87626,35315.19%
BC132,125155,15923,03417.43%
AB105,460118,49413,03412.36%
NS17,55520,6063,05117.38%
SK22,34024,9142,57411.52%
MB25,89828,2852,3879.22%
NB15,68317,3871,70410.87%
NL11,44712,5901,1439.99%
PEI3,5174,08256516.06%

Once again, Alberta’s increase of 13,034 active businesses over the last 2 years puts it in 4th place, but they drop to 6th place on a percentage basis (12.36%), still putting them in the bottom half.

Finally, let’s look at active businesses over the last 3 years:

May 2019May 2022Change% change
ON349,508357,0537,5452.16%
QC192,890199,8766,9863.62%
BC148,870155,1596,2894.22%
MB27,66928,2856162.23%
NS20,13820,6064682.32%
PEI3,9434,0821393.53%
NB17,43317,387-46-0.26%
SK25,03024,914-116-0.46%
NL13,32512,590-735-5.52%
AB120,211118,494-1,717-1.43%

In this case, Alberta falls all the way to last place, joining just 3 other provinces—New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador—who saw decreases in the number of their active businesses.

Compared to May 2019, Alberta still has over 1,700 fewer active businesses. The next largest loss was felt in Newfoundland and Labrador, which saw 735 fewer businesses.

The largest increase was seen in Ontario, which has over 7,500 more active businesses than they did in May 2019.

On the plus side, Alberta wasn’t in last place for the percentage of active businesses lost: Newfoundland and Labrador took that honour.

Alberta’s lost of nearly 1.5% of its active businesses over the last 3 years put it in second to last place.

Even so, the fact that Alberta has seen one of the largest loss in active businesses in the country is notable, given that May 2019 was just two months before the UCP implemented their so-called Job Creation Tax Cut.

When the UCP announced that they were going to be cutting how much they would tax corporate profits, they promised that it would result in more jobs, that it would encourage companies to move here.

But if we have companies shutting their doors, can we really say that the tax cut accomplished what they promised us it would?

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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