Category Archives: Economy

Alberta, the Home of Tar Sands, has “Increasing Income Inequality”

Repost from Oil Change International

Alberta, the Home of the Tar Sands, Has “Increasing Income Inequality”

By Andy Rowell, April 21, 2015

As the Albertan election heats up, the worsening economy – in large part caused by the plunge in oil prices – is taking centre stage in the province’s election campaign which comes to a head in early May.

The early election comes as Alberta, the home of the tar sands, is feeling the full force of the declining oil price, with some 8,000 job losses expected in the energy sector.

The province’s government is grappling with a multi-billion deficit and is scrambling to reduce the reliance of the province on the tar sands industry.

“The premise for calling the election … was that we need a structural shift that is going to take the economy off of oil so that the proportion of the budget that’s accounted for by oil and gas resources goes down,” Bruce Cameron, a local pollster told the Globe and Mail.

Not only is the tar sands industry responsible for this boom and bust jobs cycle, it is also contributing to a widening gap between rich and poor.

A new analysis, published yesterday by the Parkland Institute, entitled From Gap to Chasm: Alberta’s Increasing Income Inequality, concluded that “the gap between the rich and the poor in Alberta is the widest in the country”.

The bottom line is that over the last couple of decades, as the tar sands industry has grown, so has the gap between those earning huge petro-inflated wages and those not.

The Institute, which is an Alberta research network situated within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, found that the disparity between those Albertans at the top of the income ladder and those at the bottom has been growing faster than in any other province in Canada.

Back in 1990, Alberta was roughly comparable to Canadian national averages of income inequality levels. However by 2011, the most recent year for which the data is available, it was the worst province.

The author of the new factsheet analysis, who is a public finance economist, Greg Flanagan said “The data show clearly that Alberta is now the most unequal province in Canada, and that the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom widened in Alberta over the past 20 years twice as much as the national average.”

Flanagan added that “Equally worrisome is the fact that because Alberta is the only province without a progressive taxation system, Alberta saw the least improvement in income equality after taxes.”

The rich have certainly got much richer, with the share of total income enjoyed by the top 10% of income earners in Alberta climbing by almost 30% between 1992 and 2007.

Meanwhile, the share of total income that went to the bottom half of earners in the province dropped over the same period, and has flatlined at or below 16% of total income since 2000.

“All the parties in this election should be presenting plans to address what is clearly a serious inequality problem in Alberta, and one that is getting worse, not better,” says Flanagan, who called on a significant shift to progressive taxation in Alberta to help reverse what he called “this troubling trend”.

A month later in Gogama, Ontario: Clean-up continues, concern spill could repel tourists

Repost from CBC News

‘There’s still definitely a lot of concerns long-term from the people of the community’

Apr 10, 2015 7:00 AM ET
An aerial eastward view on March 7 of a CN train derailment site near Gogama.
An aerial eastward view on March 7 of a CN train derailment site near Gogama. (Transportation Safety Board)

It’s been just over a month since a train carrying crude oil derailed near Gogama sparking a massive environmental clean up.

CN Rail said remediation crews have now removed all the ice for an approximately 400 meter stretch up and downstream of the rail bridge where the train carrying crude oil from Alberta left the tracks on March 7, causing the fire and spill.

The company has not said how much oil leaked out of rail cars in the wreck, but Gerry Talbot said it’s a significant amount.

“So far there has been 926,000 litres of oil and water mixture type of thing that has been collected,” said Talbot, the secretary of the local services board in Gogama.

CN said large ice booms have also been installed on the river to prevent the uncontrolled flow of ice through the remediation site during the spring thaw.

Testing so far has not shown any contamination of ground water, the company said, and monitoring continues.

Concerns for tourism

While it’s good news, Talbot said some in the community are still worried about what the oil spill will do to property values, and whether tourists will still flock to local lodges for the summer fishing season.

“People may not be calling the local tourism lodges to book rooms or to book a trailer site. Is it because of the oil? Well, you probably won’t know because they are not calling,” he said.

“There’s still definitely a lot of concerns long-term from the people of the community, and rightly so.”

CN is also asking local fishermen to drop off specimens at the Gogama Community Centre so it can continue to test for the presence of any oil products in the fish.

The company said there is no estimate on how long it will take to complete the environmental remediation of the area.