Wednesday’s release of income data from Statistics Canada marks a shift in the agency’s approach.
In previous years, the census relied on Canadians to report their incomes more or less on an honour system. This year, however, it switched to using data from tax returns, in many ways more reliable. Tax filers were cross-referenced to their census tracts.
However, tax data can only shed light on Canadians who file tax returns; it lets us know little about the layer below the working poor. Also, census tracts only cover towns and cities and the areas around them — they don’t show income patterns in rural and northern communities.
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The Halifax area’s lowest-income neighourhoods are in Dartmouth, around the north end of the Angus Macdonald Bridge and to the northwest. There are also low-income pockets in the south end of downtown Halifax, though in that case, we may be seeing a student ghetto connected to Dalhousie. The HRM’s richest areas are in the Marlborough Woods neighbourhood downtown, and then on the city’s outskirts — Bedford, Hammonds Plain, Port Wallace and parts of Shearwater.
It wouldn’t take long to walk through Montreal’s ten poorest census tracts, cheek-by-jowl with each other northwest and southwest of the city’s downtown core. It wouldn’t take much more of a walk to bring you to Westmount, long the bastion of the city’s wealthy — along with Outremont, on the other side of Mount Royal. Older parts of the city contain both five out of Canada’s ten poorest census tracts and three of its ten richest ones. (#1 is a part of Westmount, amazing given that the city’s economy has been tepid at best for two generations.)
Toronto preserves its traditional income map, with monied neighbourhoods bulging along Yonge Street (and also in a second cluster in mid-south Etobicoke) and in Vaughan. Incomes are rising, along with house prices, in pockets south of Bloor/Danforth. But the city’s V of low-income neighbourhoods persists, with its western arm stretching along the railway and its eastern one covering much of Scarborough away from the lakeshore.
Moving west, Winnipeg’s upper-income neighbourhoods are almost all in the suburbs, mostly southwest of the city, but with an older pocket in River Heights. The city’s lowest-income area is west of downtown — it includes several of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Calgary’s lowest-income neighbourhood is the east part of downtown, but to put things in perspective, this is only the 203rd-poorest census tract in Canada. The map shows a large low-income area along 17th Avenue east of the Bow River. On the other end, a tract in rural Rocky View County, west of the city, is Canada’s fifth-richest neighbourhood.
Statscan cautions that its income data is from before the energy crash.
The area generally north and west of downtown is home to Edmonton’s lowest-income census tracts; higher-income neighbourhoods are to the southeast and southwest of the downtown core.
Once again, an area of the Downtown Eastside is Canada’s poorest census tract, with a median income of under $18,000. The region’s next-poorest tracts are next door, and in Langley and Richmond. Pockets of West Vancouver and Shaughnessy continue to be the city’s richest.