CALLING THE WEST HOME
A Snapshot of Life in Western Canada:
1971 to 2021
By Marissa Dimmell
Over the last 50 years, Western Canada has seen a lot of change. Hard-earned victories and great ideas that failed have each shaped the four provinces that make up the country’s West. New industries have emerged, political battles have waged, and populations have grown. In the “Our West” Canada West Foundation 50th anniversary series, we will share snapshots of changes both big and small, of obvious significance and of lesser-known importance, that have shaped Western Canada since 1971. We will reflect on how far the West has come and look ahead to possibilities that await in our shared future.
Progress is often measured through big moments in history, but revelations about how things have changed over time for people may also be a little less grand. The ins and outs of daily life – whether through evening news headlines, the cost for a bowl of breakfast cereal or the latest trends– contain intriguing clues about our transformation. To kick off our series, we examine a few indicators of what life looked like for the people of the West in 1971 and what has changed – or stayed the same – in our daily lives since.
Governments, and the decisions they make that shape our lives, have an important influence on Western Canadians.
1971: Liberal, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
2021: Liberal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
1971: Social Credit, Premier W.A.C Bennett
2021: NDP, Premier John Horgan
1971: Progressive Conservative, Premier Peter Lougheed
2021: United Conservative, Premier Jason Kenney
1971: NDP, Premier Allan Blakeney
2021: Saskatchewan Party, Premier Scott Moe
1971: NDP, Premier Edward Schreyer
2021: Progressive Conservative, Premier Brian Pallister
What’s happening in the world?
What happens in the world often has important consequences for Western Canada, not only influencing the priorities for policymakers, but setting the topic of dinner table conversations.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD?
The Vietnam War continues on in its 16th year.
Intel releases the world’s first microprocessor (Intel 4004).
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 erupts over territorial disputes.
NASA’s Apollo 14 is the third manned mission to land on the moon.
Qatar becomes independent from Great Britain.
U.S. President Donald Trump faces, and is subsequently acquitted, of his second impeachment and President Biden inaugurated.
More contagious variant strains emerge in the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine inoculations begin.
Global recovery from pandemic driven recession.
Fueled by a Reddit frenzy, GameStop stock price surges, then falls.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN CANADA?
Crisis of Confederation persists with continued threats of Quebec sovereignty.
The Canadian economy qualifies as “stagflation”—high inflation, high unemployment rates and stagnant economy.
Vaccine rollout begins, economic recovery started in late 2020 continues.
What’s happening in the family?
Feminism, a long recession and rising costs of living see more women join the workforce. Female employment rates reach a high at approximately 43% in 1971.
The COVID-19 pandemic sent a curveball into the workforce. Women’s workforce participation hit a relative low for the decade at 63.5% in Western provinces.
Average household size
1971: 3.5 people
2021: 2.5 people
Average annual household income per capita, by province, 1971 and 2021
How much does it cost to live?
From the price for a household appliance to simply grocery list items, the cost of living in Canada has changed over the past 50 years. While inflation rates are lower in 2021 than 1971 (0.62% and 4.0%, respectively), the cost of some daily items have remained roughly the same, while some are relatively more expensive.
THE COST OF LIVING
1971 (adj. for inflation)
Cost of a washer/dryer pair
Cost to mail a letter
Cost of a movie ticket
1971 (adj. for inflation)
Cost of a loaf of bread
Cost of a pound of butter
Cost of a pound of bacon
Cost of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (680g)
Cost of a container of Miracle Whip (32/30fl)
Note: inflation was calculated according to the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator (https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/) .
1971: Water beds, Jell-O salad, bell-bottom jeans
2021: Tik Tok, keto diet, craft beer
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CBC News. “Minimum wage jobs pay roughly the same as they did in 1975.” July 16, 2014. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/minimum-wage-jobs-pay-roughly-the-same-as-they-did-in-1975-1.2708717#:~:text=In%201975%2C%20the%20actual%20minimum,pinpointing%20the%20average%20at%20%2410.14.
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Williams, Cara. “Time or Money? How high and low income Canadians spend their time.” Statistics Canada. August 2002. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/11-008-x/2002001/article/6195-eng.pdf?st=U704-dg4.
Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Rob Mieremet, http://proxy.handle.net/10648/ac62a5f2-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyvEONnqE2Krm9Zi0LVvGmA
British Columbia Premier W. A. C. Bennett, https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/CollectionSearch/Pages/record.aspx?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=3212487
British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Cropped from Flickr
Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, (WP:NFCC#4)
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, – Flickr
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scott-Moe-Crop.jpg
Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer, https://alchetron.com/Edward-Schreyer
Water bed, https://www.waterbed-airbedgallery.com
Jell-O salad, 1971 Betty Crocker Recipe Library
Bell-bottom jeans, sunbelz.wordpress.com
Tik Tok, franck, Unsplash
Keto diet, Jonathan Beckman, Unsplash
Craft beer, Joshua Reddekopp, Unsplash