An Update on Incomes

January 17, 2015
Jock Finlayson

Statistics Canada recently published a fresh batch of data taken from the Canadian Income Survey. [1] The picture that emerges is similar to what we have reported before. British Columbia remains a middling income performer within the national context.

For 2012, median-after tax income reached $71,700 for Canadian households consisting of two or more related individuals residing in a single dwelling. On this metric, BC comes out slightly ahead of the national average, at $72,200. Among the ten provinces, BC ranks 4th after Alberta ($92,300), Saskatchewan ($77,300) and Ontario ($73,700). New Brunswick has the lowest median after-tax income for census family units. It is striking that median family income in Alberta is more than $20,000 above the national average and above the level in BC. Whether that will continue to be the case in a world of significantly lower oil prices remains to be seen.

Median After Tax Income
by Province, 2012
Economic families (two or more related persons in a household)
Canada 71,700
Alberta 92,300
Saskatchewan 77,300
Ontario 73,700
British Columbia 72,200
Manitoba 68,100
Newfoundland and Labrador 64,500
Quebec 64,000
Nova Scotia 62,900
Prince Edward Island 61,100
New Brunswick 59,300
Unattached Individuals
Canada 27,300
Alberta 36,500
Saskatchewan 32,000
Manitoba 27,400
Ontario 26,600
Nova Scotia 26,300
Quebec 26,200
British Columbia 25,200
Prince Edward Island 23,300
New Brunswick 23,200
Newfoundland and Labrador 22,100

The same survey also produces estimates of after-tax income for single person households. Nationally, one person households had a median after-tax income of $27,300 in 2012, with the three “richest” provinces being Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (in that order). In this case, BC ends up closer to the bottom of the pack ($25,200), ranking 7th among the ten provinces. In other words, BC scores better within Canada when after-tax income is counted for census families than for one person households.

Finally, according to Statistics Canada’s “after-tax low income measure,” 14.3% of BC’s population fell into the low-income category in 2012, which is slightly higher than the national average (13.8%). The low income cut-off point is set where income is half of the after-tax median for all households in the jurisdiction. More than 15% of children in BC live in households below the low-income cut-off – a troubling finding that reflects, in part, significant numbers of immigrant families with low reported incomes, BC’s large aboriginal population, low social assistance rates for some categories of recipients, and an economy that is weighted toward small businesses with generally low levels of productivity (based on the value of output per hour worked) and which therefore often pay modest wages.

[1] “Canadian Income Survey, 2012, The Daily, December 10, 2014.

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