CALLING THE WEST HOME


A Snapshot of Life in Western Canada:
1971 to 2021


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

Governments, and the decisions they make that shape our lives, have an important influence on Western Canadians.

Federal government

1971: Liberal, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
2021: Liberal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Provincial governments

BC
1971: Social Credit, Premier W.A.C Bennett
2021: NDP, Premier John Horgan

AB
1971: Progressive Conservative, Premier Peter Lougheed
2021: United Conservative, Premier Jason Kenney

SK
1971: NDP, Premier Allan Blakeney
2021: Saskatchewan Party, Premier Scott Moe

MB
1971: NDP, Premier Edward Schreyer
2021: Progressive Conservative, Premier Brian Pallister

  • Federal government
    Federal government
  • 1971: Liberal, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
  • 2021: Liberal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • British Columbia, Canada
    British Columbia, Canada
  • 1971: W.A.C Bennett’s Social Credits
    1971: Social Credit, Premier W.A.C Bennett
  • 2021: NDP, Premier John Horgan
  • Alberta, Canada
    Alberta, Canada
  • 1971: Progressive Conservative, Premier Peter Lougheed
  • 2021: United Conservative, Premier Jason Kenney
  • Saskatchewan, Canada
    Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 1971: NDP, Premier Allan Blakeney
  • 2021: Saskatchewan Party, Premier Scott Moe
  • Manitoba, Canada
    Manitoba, Canada
  • 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?

1971

2021

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?

1971

2021

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.

Hockey restarts with all Canadian – North - division Toronto Maple Leafs leading after 26 games in 56 game season (no kidding) 

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

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3610022901

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

1971 (adj. for inflation)

2021

Inflation rate

4.0%

0.62%

Cost of a washer/dryer pair

$425

$2,879.11

$998

Cost to mail a letter

$0.07

$0.47

$1.07

Cost of a movie ticket

$1.50

$10.16

$14.95

GROCERY LIST

1971

1971 (adj. for inflation)

2021

Cost of a loaf of bread

$0.25

$1.68

$2.50

Cost of a pound of butter

$0.69

$4.67

$8.40

Cost of a pound of bacon

$0.75

$5.08

$9.66

Cost of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (680g)

$0.59

$4.00

$7.68

Cost of a container of Miracle Whip (32/30fl)

$0.69

$4.67

$4.48

Note: inflation was calculated according to the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator (https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/) .

Trends

1971: Water beds, Jell-O salad, bell-bottom jeans

2021: Tik Tok, keto diet, craft beer


Read more:
CWF turns 50
Our West: People, Places and Progress from 1971 to 2021

Sources:

Barnes, Dan. “What a difference 44 years make.” Edmonton Journal. May 23, 2015. https://search.proquest.com/docview/2055173240/921CDD2FB807457FPQ/1?accountid=140093.

Boomer. “Throwback Thursday: Buying a Home in 1974 vs. 2014.” Boomer and Echo. March 4, 2015. https://boomerandecho.com/buying-a-home-in-1974-vs-2014/.

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.

Deschamps, Tara. “Women’s participation in labour force reaches lowest level in three decades due to COVID-19: RBC.” CBC News. July 16, 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/women-employment-canada-covid-19-1.5652788.

Government of Manitoba. “Historical Summary of Minimum Wage Rates in Manitoba.” Accessed 2021-02-16. https://www.gov.mb.ca/labour/standards/history-min.html.

Gutoskie, Josh and Ryan Macdonald. “Income growth per capita in the provinces since 1950.” Statistics Canada. May 23, 2019.https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-626-x/11-626-x2019009-eng.htm

OECD. “Five Family Facts.” Accessed 2021-02-09. https://www.oecd.org/els/family/47710686.pdf.

Payworks. “Federal/Provincial Minimum Wage.” Accessed 2021-02-16. https://www.payworks.ca/payroll-legislation/MinimumWage.asp.

Samson, Joe. “Calgary Housing Statistics.” February 2, 2021.https://www.joesamson.com/blog/calgary-real-estate-market-statistics/.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. “A submission to the Minimum Wage Board.” July 13, 2001. http://www.sfl.sk.ca/public/images/documents/minimum%20wage%20brief.pdf

Societe Generale. “Canadian Market: Consumer.” Accessed 2021-02-16. https://import-export.societegenerale.fr/en/country/canada/market-consumer.

Statista. “Canada: Inflation rate from 1985 to 2025.”Accessed 2021-02-09. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271247/inflation-rate-in-canada/.

Statistics Canada. “Average wage and salary rates for selected occupations across Canada.” Accessed 2021-02-09. https://www65.statcan.gc.ca/acyb02/1967/acyb02_19670763024a-eng.htm.

Statistics Canada. “How Canadians spent their money in 2019.” January 22, 2021. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2021006-eng.htm.

Statistics Canada. “Shifts in consumer spending.” June 2004. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/75-001-x/10604/6922-eng.pdf?st=RXIKXI1t.

Statistics Canada. “Spending Patterns in Canada: 2000.” Accessed 2021-02-16.https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/62-202-x/62-202-x2000000-eng.pdf?st=bJIIp5Lw.

Statistics Canada. “The shift to smaller households over the past century.” Statistics Canada. Accessed 2021-02-09. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2015008-eng.htm.

Statistics Canada. “The surge of women in the workforce.” Accessed 2021-02-16. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2015009-eng.htm.

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.


Photo credits:

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, Duncan Cameron, https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/CollectionSearch/Pages/record.aspx?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=3212487

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, BC NDP, Cropped from Flickr

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, (WP:NFCC#4)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Andrew Scheer – Flickr

Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney, 1971-1982, Unknown

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scott-Moe-Crop.jpg

Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer, https://alchetron.com/Edward-Schreyer

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Scott Bourassa, Andrew Scheer – https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewscheer/48002323306/

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