#ThrowbackThursday to Mar 21, 2001

Title Alberta leads in many fields: [Final Edition]
Publication title Leader Post
Publication date Mar 21, 2001

EDMONTON -- The other evening, after the kids were safely abed, I sank into my favourite chair and began reading Statistics Canada's "Employment Patterns in the Non- Metro Workforce". (We newspaper people surelead glamorous lives, don't we?) That tasty tidbit happily digested, I dived into "Rural Youth Migration between 1971 and 1996." Then I noticed a connection: what the two were saying, subtly and unintentionally, about Alberta. The first report states, "In non-metro areas . . . Alberta had the highest employment rate." In other words, Albertans living in small cities and rural areas were more likely to be employed than residents of similar communities in other provinces. In fact, the report went on, "Alberta had the highest employment rates in both metro centres and in non-metro areas." The report doesn't say it (although its charts show it), but Alberta's rural and small-city employment rate (its non-metro rate) is higher than any other province's metro rate. This is especially remarkable for two reasons: First, because non-metro employment rates are usually lower than metro rates. Big cities tend to produce more jobs than smaller ones or the countryside, so the percentage of residents with jobs is typically higher in metropolises. Then there is the fact that Alberta enjoys the highest in- migration rate (another term I learned from my nights before the fire with StatsCan documents) of residents from other provinces, including "the strongest rate of provincial in-migration of young adults." We're an employment mecca. Tens of thousands of mostly working- age Canadians stream in here each year searching for a living, and find it. And yet this massive influx of job-seekers does not reduce the chances of long-term Albertans finding jobs. We are creating new jobs so quickly our own citizens who want them can find them, as can all new Albertans with a real desire to work. So conscientious are we Albertans, so committed to providing for ourselves and our families rather than taking handouts, that 68 per cent of us who live in big cities are employed, just as 67 per cent of us in smaller centres are. Ontario, by comparison, has a metro employment rate of 61.8 per cent (the same as Nova Scotia's) and a non-metro rate of just 56.6 per cent. New Brunswick has the lowest metro rate (54.0 per cent) and Newfoundland the lowest non-metro rate (36.6 per cent). The study on "Rural Youth Migration," taught me a couple of other facts. "The province with the smallest loss of rural youth was Alberta," during the past quarter century, even though "urban areas in Alberta showed the largest gains" in population. Sure lots of young Albertans from rural areas flock to our cities for education or jobs. But fewer are forced to move to find opportunities than in other provinces. And while our cities are booming, it's not mostly at the expense of our small cities and towns. All of which got me thinking about Alberta's other first places. We are, perhaps most importantly, the greatest per capita contributors to Confederation at around $2,600 per man, woman and child per year, nearly 45 per cent higher than second-place Ontario ($1,800). Not only are more of us employed than the residents of other provinces, we work more hours and are more productive. We produce more GDP per hour worked than other Canadians. We have the highest per-capita incomes (although, when energy prices slip, we sometimes lag behind Ontario) and are less dependent on government cheques than others, deriving just 11.8 per cent of our incomes from the state, compared to the national average of 18.2 per cent. We volunteer more, give the most to charity most years, and have the greatest number of residents with a college or university education despite liberal-left shrieking about our education spending and the central Canadian image that we're nothing but ignorant hayseeds. Of course, we also have the lowest taxes, the least public debt, the highest standard of living, nearly the highest per capita provincial spending on health care, the best-paid doctors and nurses, and are set once again to have the fastest-growing economy in the nation this year. And yet, if you were to listen only to our national leaders, only to the Liberals of Jean Chretien, and to such large national media outlets as the Globe and Mail, the CBC and the Toronto Star, you'd think Alberta was the concentration camp of Confederation; a place where things are bleak, heartless, uncultured and unacquainted with the sophisticated ways of our betters in the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal triangle -- downright un-Canadian, in fact. Well, perhaps we're better off not knowing. We'll just toil along in our unrefined bliss.