At the end of last month, the Alberta government published the most recent Consumer Price Index data for the province and for Canada as a whole.
The CPI represents changes in consumer prices, measured by comparing the cost of a fixed basket of goods and services over time.
For example, between March 2020 and March 2021, the overall CPI increased by 2.2% for the country as a whole. For just Alberta, it increased by 1.9%. That means that consumers in Alberta paid 1.9% more for the goods they purchased this year than they did last year.
Here’s how the CPI looks when compared to more specific product groups.
For the most part, Canada’s CPI seemed to have increased more than Alberta’s, which isn’t that surprising, given that its overall CPI increased at a greater rate.
Most of product groups—food, shelter, health and personal care, recreation and education, and alcohol and tobacco—saw small increases, both nationally and provincially. These increases ranged from a decrease of 0.89% provincially for alcohol and tobacco to an increase of 2.4% nationally for shelter.
Three product groups saw significantly larger year-over-year changes.
The clothing and footwear CPI had the largest decrease, dropping 8.5% in Alberta and 5.4% in Canada.
Transportation had a 9.1% increase in CPI provincially and 7.1% federally. Energy had the largest increase of all product groups: 19.% for the country and 28.6% for Alberta.
I figured that since I had the data, I might as well look at CPI over the last 15 years. First, here’s Alberta’s overall CPI:
Over the last 15 years or so, Alberta’s CPI has increased by 33.5 points, from 113.4 to 146.9—a 29.5% increase.
And here’s Canada’s for the same period:
Canada’s peaks and valleys pretty much mirror Alberta’s; however, Canada’s CPI is generally lower than Alberta’s during the same period. I started out at 109.6 (nearly 4 points less than Alberta’s) and finished 15 years later at 139.6 (roughly 7 points less than Alberta’s. This 30-point difference amounted to a 27.3% increase, which is slightly smaller than Alberta’s.
Finally, here is Alberta’s CPI by product group over the last 15 years:
Most of the product groups saw pretty consistent increases in CPI since the summer of 2016, averaging 26.9%.
Clothing and footwear, however, actually saw the consumer price drop during this period. It wasn’t much though, dropping only 1.7% from 96.2 to 94.6.
The two categories “household operations, furnishings and equipment” and “recreation, education and reading” had fairly small increases in CPI, the former increasing by 17.4% and the latter by 11.3%.
The only other one that didn’t see a consistent, significant increase was energy, which was pretty volatile. Actually, let’s isolate it into its own chart:
As you can see, energy CPI was all over the place, falling right at the start of the reporting period, then rising almost right away, then falling during the Financial Crisis, then rising and plateauing, then falling during the 2015–16 recession, then—well, you get the picture.
If this chart were an actual roller coaster, you’d probably be sick right now.
It’s weird that Alberta ties so much of its rhetoric into a sector that creates such unreliability for the consumer.