In this series of articles I will attempt to present a portrait of Alberta’s performance with respect to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN SDG #2 is to achieve zero hunger. On an international level the UN’s goal is to: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Alberta is not a province which experiences hunger or malnutrition as some developing countries.

One of the sub-goals relevant to Alberta that By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.

According to provincial food security statistics, an estimated 11.5% of Albertans (the lowest rate in Canada) experience have inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints, the lowest in Canada.

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There are still too many people using food banks in Alberta despite having one of the highest average household income levels in Canada. According to the Alberta Food Bank Association food bank usage across all 84 provincial food banks increased with usage doubling in the past two years (since 2014). In Alberta, food bank usage climbed by 18 percent to a record number of clients in 2016 reaching 79,293 people who accessed Alberta’s food banks in March, 2016. That is the largest number of people to visit food banks in this province in the 35- year history of food banks.It has been eight years since the provincial low point of 33,837 individuals served in 2008.

Roughly 25% of Albertans who accessed a hamper program in 2016 were employed.

Food insecurity has a lot to do with financial constraints: not earning a sufficient income to pay for affordable housing and food. As per the first article, roughly 32% of Albertans were not earning a living wage (about $15/hour) in 2014. This number has likely increased over the past 3 years with a sluggish economy. Yet, median household income in Alberta has grown 21.6% between 2005 and 2015, reaching $93,835 median household income, according to the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada. Despite having the highest household income amongst the major provinces, too many Albertans do not earn a living wage, that is, the amount of income a family needs to bring home based on the actual costs of living in a specific community Alberta. In 2015, living wages are estimated at $18.15 per hour in Calgary, $16.31 per hour in Edmonton and $13.65 per hour in Medicine Hat.

The Canadian Index of Well-being suggests a number of other indicators that can be used to measure Canada’s (and provincial) progress towards Goal #2 to End Hunger (see diagram).

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Alberta’s Ecological Footprint was calculated in 2011 by my associate Jeff Wilson and I for Alberta Environment showing that the average Albertans consumed about 8.8 hectares of land per person to sustain our lifestyles in 2005. The Ecological Footprint is a measure of how much land and sea space each person needs to support their current economic life including land for food, energy, transportation, housing, and other services (see following diagram). The Ecological Footprint is calculated based on annual household expenditures on food, shelter, transportation, energy (heating, electricity), clothing, and other goods and services. As a rule, the Ecological Footprint goes up with rising expenditures and is generally correlated with household income; poorer households tend to have a relatively smaller Ecological Footprint requiring less land to meet their needs.

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Source: Anielski Management Inc. 2011. Alberta Ecological Footprint Report: Measuring the Sustainability of Alberta’s Progress – Report I –Ecological Footprint Accounts. Prepared by Jeff Wilson and Mark Anielski

The following figure shows the trends in Alberta’s per capita Ecological Footprint from 1961 to 2005.

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Source: Anielski Management Inc. 2011. Alberta Ecological Footprint Report: Measuring the Sustainability of Alberta’s Progress – Report I –Ecological Footprint Accounts. Prepared by Jeff Wilson and Mark Anielski

4 Comments

  • Alan Blanes says:

    Thanks very much for analyzing the steps required to reach the 17 SDGs Mark. I feel that Alberta and BC ought to be developing some tactical collaborations that will make earnings of people with various diagnosed barriers a recognized floor, rather than a “maximum allowed income”. This kind of enforced impoverishment is counter-productive to the enabling of maximization of the functionality of people with diverse abilities.

    Is there an chance that a task force might be created to enable the income support for people who – because of diagnosed conditions – are not able to work in regular hourly employment – that the programs such as AISH in Alberta and PWD in BC be recognized as strictly replacement income, due to not this diagnosed population viably working in the 40 hour a week labour force?

    This would enable disabled persons in the two western provinces to become a population sample that could introduce the concept of basic income. This would mean that earnings above disability support would categorically not be seen as funds that could result in “clawing back” income support. The funds that are earned above the allowable $800 that can be earned in casual work each month, would ONLY be subjected to normal income tax rules.

    This would provide a recognition that disabilities that are sufficient to cause a person to not be suitable for regular hourly employment, should enable that factor to be compensated as a discrete, free-standing, event. However, it is not in the interest of either the disabled community, or the public in general, to see any deliberate marginalization of this population, by disallowing other forms of earnings from being pursued.

    Alberta and BC could become leaders in the economic empowerment of those who are prevented for normal workday employment, by allowing their authorization to become engaged in non-hourly employment service delivery, that falls within the capacities of people in this demographic, without creating a situation of being “reclassified as employable”. Our provinces have to develop an understanding of the distinction that needs to be made here. Inability to do hourly jobs, is a separate subject than being involved with remunerated contracts for services that are not deemed hourly employment earnings.

    Anti-poverty and disability activists would be well advised to get these distinctions fully developed and understood by the public services sector, and by the population as a whole. It would enable a tangible practice of the goals of economic self determination, that Canada has been – on paper – supportive of, since Canada began the drafting of the Declarations and Covenants on universal rights 72 years ago.

    I see this as being relevant to Goal 16 of the 17 SDGs as well. This goal addresses overhauling dysfunctional institutional systems, and achieving equal justice for all.

  • Alan Blanes says:

    I would like to share your reply with everyone who has graduated from the Inter Council Network Hive Mind course, who has an interest in Goals 1 and 16.

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