News that Manitoba recently earned the title of the country’s fastest-growing province — in terms of prosperity — only proves that ordinary Manitobans are more financially prudent than our provincial representatives.
As the Globe and Mail reported on Monday, WealthScapes 2012, an annual neighbourhood-level analysis of Canadian wealth conducted by Environics Analytics, suggest that Manitoba is positioned to be the fastest-growing province in the country, having seen a 2.3 per cent growth to $270,639 in 2011 for average household wealth.
Our big advantage, according to senior research associate Peter Miron, is Manitoba’s diversified economy. While we have never been a “star performer” like Alberta — or even Saskatchewan, for that matter — that everyman economy has helped drive the rise in the average Manitoba household’s net worth.
“There’s a little bit of everything, and there’s private sector investment and infrastructure development there to drive it,” Miron said.
The same report states that Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the only two provinces to increase their stock-based investments in 2011. The analysis suggests the two provinces took market downturns in stride, and the growth in Manitoba and Saskatchewan has kept residents interested in potentially risky investments.
No doubt about it, this is good news. But before Premier Greg Selinger and his NDP government start holding up this analysis as proof of their marvellous management skills, we would note that the picture isn’t as rosy as they might have us believe.
Our net household prosperity may be strong, but Manitoba falls short in several other areas that need to be addressed.
As the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba reported last November in its own 2011 prosperity report, among western provinces we have the highest high school dropout rate, and the lowest level of educational attainment for the 25- to 54-year-old workforce.
Aboriginal students continue to face difficult challenges within the public school system, a large problem for Manitoba which also has one of Canada’s largest numbers of aboriginal youth 15 years and older.
Another 2011 prosperity report, this time researched by the Manitoba Employers Council, suggested Manitoba ranks below its neighbours when it comes to household disposable income, and the provincial labour force. While personal income taxes for a two-earner family with an income of $60,000 has decreased by 15 per cent, Manitobans still rank among the highest taxed Canadian citizens.
And those taxes are trending higher, as Manitobans begin to pay more to the provincial government for provincial sales taxes, insurance premiums and vehicle registrations.
The revenue generated by these new taxes — an expected $106.5 million — will apparently be used to help navigate an ocean of red financial ink. While Manitobans, compared to other Canadians, have taken on lower levels of household debt, our government is still expected to post a $460-million summary deficit. That’s on top of a provincial debt load that as of last spring, was more than $1.2 billion.
Certainly Manitoba’s situation is not all doom and gloom. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and Manitoba is among the most affordable provinces in which to live.
All we’re saying is, there’s a whole lot of room for improvement.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 19, 2012