UCP saw smallest growth in capital investment

While the UCP have been in power, Alberta has seen the lowest growth in capital investments among all the provinces in Canada.

Last month, Statistics Canada updated their capital investments dataset for the various provinces in Canada to include data for 2022.

So, I thought I’d look through the data to see what I could find.

It’s annual data, effective as of the January of the year it was published, so the 2023 data is as of January 2023.

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First, here’s where each province sat as of January 2023. It shows the amount spend on construction, machinery, and equipment connected to non-residential properties.


Numbers are in the millions. So, for example, Alberta saw $64.013 billion in capital investments as of January 2023, the second highest of all the provinces.

And that sounds good, right?

Well, let’s compare these numbers with what each province looked like the year before.

20222023Change% change
in millions $

While it’s true that Alberta saw the second highest value of capital investments in January, the increase from the previous January was less impressive.

As far as absolute dollar amounts, Alberta saw an increase of roughly $410 million in capital investments between January 2022 and January 2023. That dropped Alberta down to fifth place. Last year, we had the fourth largest increase in capital investments over 2021.

And when we look at the increase relative to the amount invested in January 2022, Alberta had the smallest increase of all the provinces that saw increases: 0.64%. The next smallest increase was New Brunswick, at 2.37%. Saskatchewan saw the largest increase: 21.47%.

Now, to be fair, Alberta wasn’t technically last. Nova Scotia and British Columbia did worse, but they were the only provinces to see a loss in capital investments. Alberta was last for the provinces that saw a gain.

But, you may ask, “What about the pandemic? Of course things will be lower if all the businesses are closed.”

True, but these are the numbers for January 2023, not January 2021. We were nearly three years into the pandemic by that point, and the public health protections were gone.

Besides, Alberta wasn’t the only province hit by the pandemic-fuelled recession. If it was the pandemic, then shouldn’t all the provinces see similar percentages in growth?

But, okay. Let’s take a look at data before the pandemic. Heck, why not start at January 2019, just before the UCP were elected?

20192023Change% change
in millions $

Now, Alberta is a little better. We’ve had more money come in for capital investment as Alberta heads into an election than we had as the NDP were winding down their administration.

Alberta saw the fourth largest increase in capital funding—$4.6 billion—of all the provinces over the last 4 years.

On a relative basis, however, Alberta’s loss of 7.69% was once again the smallest gain of all the provinces that saw gains. Only Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Manitoba, did worse, but that’s because they saw decreases in capital funding.

While I was at it, I figured I’d take a look at the numbers for the last 10 years for the provinces.

20132023Change% change

Yikes! That’s even worse.

Not only did Alberta fare the worst in terms of absolute dollars—losing nearly $28 billion—but it was the worst in terms of relative change, too, dropping by over 30%.

Newfoundland and Labrador was in second place, losing just $2.8 billion, but that was nearly a 35% loss for them.

Here’s what Alberta looked like over the last 10 years, in graph form:

What this shows is a jump of about $20 billion in the first year, than a drop of about $40 billion between 2014 and 2016. It sort of plateaued for the next 2 years, before dropping slightly in 2019 and bottoming out in 2020. It’s been slowly climbing the last couple of years, but the increase of the last year was less than a percentage point.

Now, let’s look at what those capital expenditures look like for the separate industries.

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction$26,961.80
Transportation and warehousing$7,904.20
Public administration$4,737.60
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting$2,289.70
Real estate and rental and leasing$2,225.60
Information and cultural industries$1,585.50
Health care and social assistance$1,316.80
Educational services$1,052.40
Wholesale trade$893.00
Retail trade$872.60
Arts, entertainment and recreation$616.90
Professional, scientific and technical services$551.20
Accommodation and food services$460.60
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services$329.30
Finance and insurance$291.00
Other services (except public administration)$181.00
Management of companies and enterprises$86.40
in millions $

Again, these figures are in millions of dollars, so the highest sector, which includes oil and gad, saw capital expenditures of about $27 billion.

That sector accounted for roughly 42.12% of all capital expenditures in the province during January 2022, which is up from the 39.1% seen last year. However, it’s down slightly from the 42.15% seen in January 2019.

In fact, let’s compare capital expenditures for 2022 and 2023.

20222023Change% change
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction$24,552.50$26,961.80$2,409.309.81%
Arts, entertainment and recreation$468.60$616.90$148.3031.65%
Wholesale trade$765.80$893.00$127.2016.61%
Professional, scientific and technical services$472.80$551.20$78.4016.58%
Health care and social assistance$1,257.20$1,316.80$59.604.74%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting$2,231.20$2,289.70$58.502.62%
Retail trade$828.90$872.60$43.705.27%
Finance and insurance$271.80$291.00$19.207.06%
Management of companies and enterprises$82.50$86.40$3.904.73%
Information and cultural industries$1,592.00$1,585.50-$6.50-0.41%
Public administration$4,766.00$4,737.60-$28.40-0.60%
Other services (except public administration)$211.60$181.00-$30.60-14.46%
Educational services$1,327.10$1,052.40-$274.70-20.70%
Real estate and rental and leasing$2,531.00$2,225.60-$305.40-12.07%
Transportation and warehousing$10,573.60$7,904.20-$2,669.40-25.25%
Accommodation and food servicesx$460.60
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation servicesx$329.30

The oil and gas sector drops down to fifth place, with a 9.81% increase; although, their increase of $2.4 billion was the largest of all sectors.

The arts, entertainment & recreation sector saw the largest relative increase, at 31.65%, but it was only $148.3 million in absolute dollars. Rounding out the rest of the top 5 were manufacturing, wholesale trade, and “professional, scientific and technical services”.

The hospitality sector and the “administrative and support, waste management and remediation services” sector each reported no capital investment in January 2022, so it throws off the change data for those two sectors.

Here’s a look at how the various sectors fared under the UCP, since the January before they were elected.

Jan 2019Jan 2023Change% change
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting$1,542.50$2,289.70$747.2048.44%
Arts, entertainment and recreation$443.00$616.90$173.9039.26%
Public administration$3,643.70$4,737.60$1,093.9030.02%
Professional, scientific and technical services$462.00$551.20$89.2019.31%
Information and cultural industries$1,333.20$1,585.50$252.3018.92%
Health care and social assistance$1,217.80$1,316.80$99.008.13%
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction$25,055.20$26,961.80$1,906.607.61%
Finance and insurance$276.90$291.00$14.105.09%
Wholesale trade$915.70$893.00-$22.70-2.48%
Real estate and rental and leasing$2,315.00$2,225.60-$89.40-3.86%
Transportation and warehousing$8,905.80$7,904.20-$1,001.60-11.25%
Retail trade$1,162.60$872.60-$290.00-24.94%
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services$447.40$329.30-$118.10-26.40%
Accommodation and food services$707.50$460.60-$246.90-34.90%
Educational services$1,699.50$1,052.40-$647.10-38.08%
Other services (except public administration)$325.60$181.00-$144.60-44.41%
Management of companies and enterprises$159.90$86.40-$73.50-45.97%

Since 2019, Alberta’s oil and gas sector actually saw an increase in capital expenditures of only 7.61%, from about $25 billion to about $27 billion. This bumped the sector down to 9th place.

The utilities sector saw the largest increase over the last 3 years, rising by roughly $3 billion, which was a jump of about 83%.

And finally, how each sector fared over the last decade.

Jan 2013Jan 2023Change% change
Real estate and rental and leasing$1,537.40$2,225.60$688.2044.76%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting$1,616.00$2,289.70$673.7041.69%
Health care and social assistance$804.00$1,316.80$512.8063.78%
Information and cultural industries$1,264.30$1,585.50$321.2025.41%
Arts, entertainment and recreation$375.30$616.90$241.6064.38%
Professional, scientific and technical services$332.20$551.20$219.0065.92%
Public administration$4,720.70$4,737.60$16.900.36%
Wholesale trade$925.90$893.00-$32.90-3.55%
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services$500.70$329.30-$171.40-34.23%
Retail trade$1,231.00$872.60-$358.40-29.11%
Educational services$1,419.50$1,052.40-$367.10-25.86%
Accommodation and food services$940.40$460.60-$479.80-51.02%
Transportation and warehousing$9,911.60$7,904.20-$2,007.40-20.25%
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction$54,967.50$26,961.80-$28,005.70-50.95%
Finance and insurance$291.00
Other services (except public administration)$181.00
Management of companies and enterprises$86.40

Here we see that oil and gas has dropped to last place, losing half the capital funding it saw in 2013.

Topping the list over the last decade was manufacturing, increasing its capital spending by over 50%, from $2.1 billion in 2013 to $3.2 billion in 2023.

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By Kim Siever

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

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