Manitoba Prosperity: We're Not There Yet

By Gardner, William | Winnipeg Free Press, April 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

Manitoba Prosperity: We're Not There Yet


Gardner, William, Winnipeg Free Press


Manitoba's political parties have been promising in this election campaign to remedy our economic ills and lift our standard of living. While we've all heard about the miracle cures and the promise of prosperity they bring, far less time has been spent diagnosing the problem.

So just how healthy is the Manitoba economy? Listening to the forecasts from out-of-province experts, you would think Manitoba is one of Canada's healthiest provincial economies. While Manitoba's economic record shows moderate improvement from 2005 to 2014, the fact is Manitoba significantly lags behind our provincial siblings, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, in most indicators.

The Manitoba Employers Council, which represents 24,000 individual employers and 300,000 Manitoba jobs, took an in-depth look at key indicators of economic health and compared them with the performance of our provincial neighbours.

Let's start with the most basic measure of prosperity: gross domestic product per capita. Over this 10-year time frame, Manitoba had the smallest GDP per capita of the five provinces. In 2014, Manitoba trailed fourth-place Ontario by $1,863 per person. Manitoba's economy would have to be $2.3 billion larger in order to match Ontario's per capita prosperity. To put this in perspective, this difference is equivalent to Brandon's entire economy!

To be fair, Manitoba did have the best GDP per capita growth rate among the provinces analyzed. But this ranking is more symptomatic of significant economic contractions in other provinces during the 2009 financial crises rather than Manitoba's success. At less than 1.5 per cent, Manitoba's GDP per capita annual average growth rate was satisfactory, but hardly meteoric.

This lacklustre growth is the culmination of poor performance in a number of human and financial capital indicators. At 8.7 per cent, Manitoba had the weakest population growth over the decade. As a percentage of the labour force, we have the fewest workers with university degrees and the most workers without a high school diploma. Regardless of occupation, Manitobans, on average, receive the smallest paycheque each week. These are all fifth-place rankings among the five provinces studied.

Manitoba does not perform much better on the business side of the equation. We have the fewest businesses per 1,000 residents. Investment in innovation -- measured as per capita investment in research and development -- dropped to last place, as Saskatchewan overtook us. Until 2013, Manitoba had the lowest levels of capital investment per capita by the private sector. We now outrank just Ontario. …

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