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Monday, January 22, 2007

Average Work Hours and Equalization Payments

Is this the reason for equalization payments from Alberta and Ontario? Statistics Canada did a study on average work hours for a year in the provinces and regions. Surprise, surprise, the provinces in which people put in longer working hours , make equalization payments to those provinces where people work less. Here is a teaser from the report:

In 2004, workers in Alberta averaged 1,880 hours a year -- the highest in the country -- the equivalent of 36 hours a week for a full-year worker. Their counterparts in the combined region of Manitoba-Saskatchewan were close behind with 1,860, followed by workers in Ontario, with 1,850 hours

In contrast, workers in Quebec averaged the lowest number of work hours -- 1,750 hours

Read the CTV report here:     http://tinyurl.com/2eep9g
I guess in a perverse way it makes sense. You need spare time to spend money so it is taken away from those who don't have time to spend it and given to those who do. Perhaps the workers should insist on equalization of work hours across the country. Don't take that suggestion seriously, but maybe those work hour figures should somehow be worked into the equalization formula so those hard working people can keep more of their hard won earnings for themselves.

Posted by Bob Wood on January 22, 2007 | Permalink


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I always said those Easterners - Ontarians - were lazy while Alberta did all the work. Now here's the proof.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2007-01-22 8:05:28 PM

We're all slackers compared to the Americans.

Posted by: rebarbarian | 2007-01-22 8:55:57 PM

Given that I'm Canadian and I work more hours than the average American, I don't see how it is the case the *we* are *all* slackers compared to the Americans.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-22 9:13:59 PM

"We need to work more. We don't work enough. We work less than Ontarians, and infinitely less than the Americans.

In the United States, their week amounts to 37 hours [average]. In Ontario, it's 34 hours, and in Quebec, it's 32.

Quebecers also leave the workforce earlier than others and choose to retire at a younger age.

Lucien Bouchard, Pierre Fortin

The answer from a union leader:

"Productivity levels are lower in Quebec but that doesn't mean they don't work hard [?????]. Rather, it's an indication of how important it is to Quebecers to achieve a satisfying quality of life, by balancing work and personal demands.

It means Quebec is a happier and healthier society, said Henri Massé, president of the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, one of the largest labour federations in the province.

We have better vacation. We have better congé parentaux [parental leave] when we have children."

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-22 9:24:07 PM

Ok, let's see. 1880 hours per worker per year in Alberta, minus 1750 in Quebec, times, say, 2 million workers in Alberta, times, say, $20 per hour per worker on average, is, let's see, 4, 2, carry the three... aha: is 5.2 billion dollars per year.

Say, isn't that amount of the same order of magnitude as the amount of money Alberta sends to Quebec every year? No wonder Quebec can afford to slack off -- it's on someone else's time.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-22 9:44:05 PM

Moreover we in Alberta make easy money and we are the milk cow for Canada!

Posted by: Cal | 2007-01-22 9:56:27 PM

It's true that Quebecers works less hours but we're more efficiently during this amount of time…

The Quebec Unions are directly linked with that shameful statistic, according to 2/3 of Quebecers. Most of Quebec Unions are now at crossroads with today’s reality.

Still, if one (like an entrepreneur) can make great money in 5-6 hours a day...
…what’s the point in working 9 or 12?

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-22 10:05:09 PM

Well pardon my work ethic, but I would have thought that the point was to carry one's weight in society. If everyone becomes a lazy slacker, who will fund Quebec?

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-22 10:09:50 PM

I dont profit from any funds or programs in Quebec. If I make more than enought money inna 6 hours shift as a sales rep to pay all my taxes, bills and to provide a good life to my familly...why work 3 hours more ?
I prefer enjoying those hours with my familly. That's all.
Sorry if I offend you.

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-22 10:24:55 PM

Though Vitruvius' calculation is baseless, the conclusion is right; see the union leader's statement above.

Alberta does not "send" any cent to Quebec, as the equalization payment comes from the federal government, from the big coffer. Albertans contribute to that for example through the federal income tax.

The distribution of equalization will be calculated largely on the "tax base per capita" of the province (not on the actual taxes). So, if people in Alberta earn more than in Quebec, then Alberta's tax base is higher, which means it can (or could) afford to steal more money from the people, i.e. less equalization is needed (in Alberta's and Ontario's case it ie zero).

It does not matter if the higher tax base will be realized through long working hours or through high hourly wages.

If Quebec's productivity were higher than the average, as Mark stated above ("more efficient during that time"), that would be visible in higher wages, higher tax base, less equalization payment received.

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-22 10:26:00 PM


your lifestyle is solemnly your issue. However,

1. if the people of a province prefer a more relaxed lifestyle, they should not be expecting other provinces (where people prefer to work more) to pay for "equalizing" Quebec with those provinces,

2. Quebec has the largest per capita debt in North America. That means, that Quebecers *continuously* don't cover their costs even with the equalization.

The "Quebec Manifesto", issued on 2005-10-16 by Bouchard et al described the problem well, but nobody acted; the debt became even higher in the meantime.

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-22 10:52:04 PM

I knew all that. I don't critisized those facts. But I personally don't feel concerned by anything you've said.

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-22 11:08:33 PM

Net it out, Cato. I don't have two wallets, one for federal extortionists and one for provincial, I only have one wallet. And, by the way, my calculation was not "baseless", it accurately computes an estimate of the monetary value of the extra hours worked by Albertans compared to the Quebec average. Or have we become an innumeracy club?

I have, in my life so far, personally sent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to Quebec? Why? You are a great people, you have a great culture, you have great cities, you have the Saint Lawerence seaway, you have the northern hydroelectric resources, you have immediate proximity to a huge market, why?

Are you lazy, or incompetent?

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-22 11:26:59 PM

If we broke Ontario's numbers down by race, I'll bet that non-whites work 2-3 times more than whites. This supports my firm belief that white Ontarians are a lazy, idle, privileged aristocracy ruling over a non-white underclass. In effect, Ontario is the world's largest plantation.

Time to abolish Ontario.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2007-01-23 12:52:38 AM

Your bet supports your firm belief? No doubt.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-23 1:10:09 AM

Looks like Mr. Bouchard wasn't so off-base with his comments last year, after all.

And, maybe there is a 'fiscal imbalance' - but not quite how it's been figured. I know that if I don't put in sufficient time at work, my finances tend to become "imbalanced." Maybe Quebec should take that sort of personal lesson to heart.

But I can see the bumper sticker in Alberta, now; "Work harder. Millions in Quebec depend on you."

Posted by: Rhys Courtman | 2007-01-23 6:18:46 AM

Newly elected Liberal Premier of New Brunswick wants to opt out of Equalization Payments - GNP of NB will not permit that, This is really a "have not Province" essentially controlled by the Irving Group and their interests. I suggested to one of Graham's
people to talk to former Premiers Bernard Lord and FrankMcKenna about "his concept" which will prove unacceptable to the NB public - "keep those cards and envelopes full of money coming into "The Picture Province" MacLeod

Posted by: Jack MacLeod | 2007-01-23 6:41:33 AM

Equalization payments should be used in a different way than they have in the past. For instance, when the IMF helps out a country in trouble, it insists that certain policies come into conformance with IMF principles. If equalization payments were used in a better way, Alberta and Ontario would be able to directly influence the provincial policies of the other provinces. Ontario has a history of doing this already (in an indirect manner) because of its obvious influence within the Canadian Parliament but this could be a way for Alberta's policies to become more widespread across the country. Another way of using equalization payments is to use them in a more "market friendly" approach. From an economic perspective, current equalization payments reflect and attempt to compensate for the reality of under-utilized human resources throughout the "have not" provinces. A more efficient use of equalization payments would be to allocate them towards moving costs to have familes migrate to Ontario and Alberta.

If these two policies were enacted, the have not provinces would change their policies much more quickly than otherwise. The current situation encourages policies to remain the same. These suggestions would cause policies to change because politicians would not want Ontarion and Alberta (in particular) to have such direct influence over their policies and nor would they want to suffer the decreasing political influence associated with their populations being reduced in a noticable manner.

Equalization payments are a bad idea - yet, they are here to stay for the time being because they are mandated in the Canadian Constitution.

Posted by: Brent Weston | 2007-01-23 7:53:18 AM


That $5.2 billion figure in equalization is so yesterday.

Latest numbers are coming in at around $7 billion for the nation within a united Canada.

Still, I'm not buying the Quebecers are more efficient argument.

If they were more efficient within a shorter work week, would that not imply equal productivity in a smaller time frame? Of course, that is laudable.

At the same time, it's common practise in the oilpatch to push the roughnecks to a point where it could endanger some limbs. That's only during times of high oil prices.

Watch what's happening now that the prices have plunged ... there's going to be massive layoffs as the oil companies cut back on the supply flooding the market.

Posted by: Set you free | 2007-01-23 8:11:37 AM

I've never seen such a stupid remark in my life.
Non-White Ontarians work less than Coloured Ontarians???
Ontario is the world's biggest plantation??

And just what the hell does all that have to do with equalization payments??

Posted by: Ralph Rattfuc | 2007-01-23 8:16:24 AM


It doesn't - this discussion began with two topics: average work hours and equalization payments.

I took issue with the former, average work hours. Ontarians work less than those in Saskatchewan/Manitoba and (gasp) Alberta.

I surmised, on the basis of what I know of Ontario society - that the white population there does less work than non-whites. Non-whites are brought in to do the dirty work that whites refuse to do. In effect, it's a form of slavery. That's why Ontario is the world's largest plantation, and why it should be abolished.

Ontario has some serious racial divisions about which it is in complete denial. Whites are simply valued more by that society than non-whites. Don't try to deny this, because I've seen it with my own eyes. What a horrible, fascist, evil society you people have created for yourselves. I hope it ends soon.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2007-01-23 8:21:31 AM

Equalization Payments have nothing to do with work hours, racism or anything other than the original concept enacted by the Liberal Government of St. Laurent to provide access to shares in the wealth generated by high Federal revenue producing Provinces - I am old enough to remember what Alberta was like before big time oil and petroleum, it in fact received much in Equalization - had to along with the Atlantic Provinces, Sask, and Manitoba to survive. We don't treat Stats Can info too seriously
-they have a political agenda - have had for years. MacLeod

Posted by: Jack MacLeod | 2007-01-23 8:32:56 AM

In addition to the work ethic spread there is the spread on investment psychology:

Bob Wood says “Surprise, surprise, the provinces in which people put in longer working hours, make equalization payments to those provinces where people work less.”

Surprise, surprise if you add more investment to work-hours into the equation, then you get the winning combo of work and investment versus socialism

…According to TD Waterhouse Poll

"Two certainties that defy geography are the relationship between risk/reward, and the need to contribute regularly and generously to your RRSP," continued Lovett-Reid. "Westerners accept greater risk in their portfolios and therefore have higher expected rates of return.

The Westerners along with Ontarians, are also planning to contribute 47% more on average to their RRSP in the 2006 tax year than investors in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Such differences tend to exacerbate regional disparities in wealth and retirement security."

Read the whole thing here


Posted by: nomdenet | 2007-01-23 8:44:02 AM

Since we're dealing with a statistic, we shouldn't be taking our own attempts to turn it into logical argument too seriously.

That said, if the purpose of equalization is to 'equalize' standards of living, I would cetainly consider a shorter work week as being on the 'up-side', reducing a need for equalization. However, not everything can be worked out 'justly' by looking at averages. Some very wealthy individuals can skew a statistic. Ome workers have hours they get paid for, and hours they don't (teachers, for example).

Statistics mean nothing and prove nothing without a context of reality, and in this world, everyone seems to have their own INDIVIDUAL reality. Argue away. Its meaningless in the context of Canadian society today.

Posted by: lwestin | 2007-01-23 8:48:31 AM

The purpose of the equalization payment is not to "equalize standards of living".

The basis is the Constitutional Act 1982, which states the purpose as

"to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation"

I.e. it's purpose is clearly *monetary equalization* (revenue). Of course, the term "reasonably" is open to interpretation.

As to skewing the statistic by high-income earners: this is irrelevant in this context. High-income earners pay (or could pay) high provincial income tax. The calculation takes the *total amount of potential tax revenues of the provices*, no matter, how many people paid that, and that will be projected over the entire population.

The importance of "potential tax revenue" is, that the calculation is not based on the *actual* taxes raised by a province. For example if Alberta chooses not to raise income tax, the calculation still calculates Alberta's pro person tax revenue as if the tax was as high as the average of the provinces (in percentage).

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-23 10:36:53 AM

Cato you say “As to skewing the statistic by high-income earners: this is irrelevant in this context.”

I don’t think so because there is a correlation between high-income earners and hard work, more investment and less intervention in the economy by government.

Quebec doesn’t believe that. They have a more European socialist model based on less work, job guarantees, heavy unionization and more income redistribution. The Anglo-capitalist system is proven to make a larger wealthier middle class. Quebec doesn’t choose that system. Fine. But don’t ask the ROC to subsidize their inferior economic model. We need to pull a Clinton and put an end to Provincial welfare as we know it.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2007-01-23 10:51:17 AM

OK Pike, I am in need of some proof. Specifically where is this so-called exploitation of non-whites going on in Ontario? And please don't assume I'm an Ontarian just because I called you on your remarks.

Posted by: Ralph Rattfuc | 2007-01-23 11:06:53 AM

There is no such thing like "middle class" in Canada anymore.

One of the "Lucides", Joseph Facal, was saying yesterday that the gap between the riches and the poors is about the same for Quebec and Alberta in today's reality...

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-23 11:59:34 AM

"I surmised, on the basis of what I know of Ontario society - that the white population there does less work than non-whites. Non-whites are brought in to do the dirty work that whites refuse to do. In effect, it's a form of slavery. That's why Ontario is the world's largest plantation, and why it should be abolished."

I agree with Zeb. The remedy is to stop non-white immigration and offer incentives to return non-whites to their homelands. Immigration should be restricited to Europeans only and that will end this horrid period of apartheid in Ontario's history.

Posted by: DJ | 2007-01-23 12:25:12 PM

Marc, I would be inclined to agree with Prof. Facal in terms of Provinces because they are “have” or “have not”.

But I think that if you were to ask most Canadians where they stood on the economic totem poll, they would not say rich nor would they say poor.

Where does the Professor think we are mostly sitting?

Posted by: nomdenet | 2007-01-23 12:26:42 PM

Re the "gap between the riches and the poors": this subject is highly demagogized (I just made up this word). Related statistics have been misused by socialists and like demagogues.

The picture is skewed by including people, who have more money than they are likely to ever spend on themselves.

It has no financial relevance for the poor, nor for the middle-class (nor for anyone else) if a family or a single person controls $500 million, $1 billion, $10 billion or $100 billion.

As to "Facal and the gap": Facal talked about a much more important gap:

At its heart, the problem is financial. Everywhere, government revenues are rising more slowly than social expenditure and in the future the gap will grow wider. ... Inevitably painful choices will have to be made. ...

Few citizens know the real size of their fiscal contribution to our public services and the real cost of the services they consume, taking them for acquired rights...

the welfare state is no longer sustainable and that at least a significant share of the cost of public services must be borne directly by individuals rather than paid for from general tax revenues...

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-23 12:39:56 PM

Cato, when people have more money than they can spend on themselves, then they can invest, investment is not a sin; it is the oxygen of capitalism.

“it has no financial relevance for the poor, nor for the middle-class (nor for anyone else) if a family or a single person controls $500 million, $1 billion, $10 billion or $100 billion.”

It does if they invest it in RIM, in Apple, in Microsoft.

Whereas if we do a big wealth re-disruption grab by Ottawa or Washington or Paris; we know what happens – Adscam

There are no guarantees for wise usage of undisposed income that becomes investable. But this debate is about the concepts of capitalism versus socialism. And there is no evidence on the planet that socialism is better at creating a middle class than capitalism. Even Red China has figured that out.

Cato, I get the sense we mostly agree. Certainly about Facal’s 180% turn from the PQ to signing the Bouchard Manifesto.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2007-01-23 1:21:10 PM


I have not attached any moral qualification to being "rich"; particularly, I did not state that it were a sin.

My post related exclusively to the evaluation of the issue of "gap between poor and rich", which is continuously abused by demagogues.

Re investment: *everybody* makes some investment, when not spending all the available money. Simply keeping the money on a bank account is an investment as well. I don't think there is much money kept under the mattress these days.

This is the basis for my statement, that it does not matter (strictly from the financial point of view), if someone owns a few billion more or less.

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-23 4:01:31 PM

Jesus DJ, you want to return "non-whites" to their
countries of origin? What kind of bullshit is that?
If you are going to do that then my son-in-law and my two grandchildren are no longer Canadian? What is my daughter going to do with not being able to see her kids? Go visit in Thailand?? See, she's white and a native born Canadian. I guess she made the mistake of marrying a brown guy that happens to be Canadian but wasn't born here.
My grandkids are just as Canadian as you are, and I am spending time teaching them what is it to honour your country and be good citizens.
Your comments do nothing to promote that.
Go fuck yourself.
You have no idea what it's like.

Posted by: Ralph Rattfuc | 2007-01-23 4:22:40 PM

Cato , glad we agree that being rich isn't a sin.
If we don't soon generate more people in the "Investment " category of wealth , then we'll be owned by China and India in a couple of decades.

Ralph, DJ is a racist that should be returned to another era when he and his KKK friends wore sheets over their heads. I'm not for banning DJ. I'm for piling on him like you just did.
Also, the left loves DJ. He helps make their arguement for the continuation of insanity from the Human Rights Commisisions that Ezra has to report to simply because he published the Danish Cartoons.

We need to sort out the difference between
politically correct BS from the HRC and
the hate that sickos like DJ are allowed to spew.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2007-01-23 5:22:32 PM

No, we need the slackers to work more, while the rest of us take our well earned vacations, thank you very much!

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-23 5:23:12 PM

Ralph Rattfuc,

You tell'em soldier!

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-23 5:24:25 PM

I am all in favor of non-whites remaining where they are. They do us a great service by showing dedication and hard work to our countries - Canada (Ontario), Quebec, and Alberta.

I just wish that the bigotted people of Ontario would cease their racial prejudices, read their own laws, and become tolerant. I am not holding my breath on that one.

Thank God (yes, God, you heathen Ontarians) that I am Albertan.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2007-01-23 6:10:39 PM

keep busting your asses Alberta the bums on the chantelazy in Quebec need your money so they can keep their daycare, private clinics run a 2or 3 billion dollar deficit against their 132 billion dollar debt. Lets just take a little more equalization payments to appease the lazy french. they are nothing more than a bigger reservatiothan any of the other reservations in this country.

Posted by: bartinsky | 2007-01-23 6:33:17 PM

If you all think they are getting such a great deal in Quebec; why not all move there?

Posted by: Mike D | 2007-01-25 12:22:05 AM

"If you all think they are getting such a great deal in Quebec; why not all move there?"

If Quebecers think that they are treated bad by the ROC (they are Canada's niggers, remember Pariseu?), why don't they move in those oppressive provinces?

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-25 9:11:22 AM

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