Alberta’s municipalities improve spending habits, but property taxes remain a concern for small businesses

Calgary, July 28, 2021 – Alberta municipalities reduced their operating spending in 2020, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB’s) latest Alberta Municipal Watch Report. The report looks at operating spending trends and property tax fairness in Alberta’s 17 largest municipalities. In 2020, 15 of Alberta’s 17 largest municipalities reduced their operating spending, which is a trend we hope to see continue. However, municipalities did little to address property tax fairness, with Alberta businesses paying nearly 40 per cent of all municipal property taxes while only making up 20 per cent of assessed property values – a fairness ratio of 1.98.

“The pandemic forced municipalities to reduce their operating spending in 2020, and some property tax relief was provided to small businesses,” said Keyli Kosiorek, CFIB senior policy analyst. “We hope municipalities will continue this trend and reduce taxes for small businesses and residents, who are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.”

Property taxes are still a top concern for Alberta small business owners with 73 per cent agreeing property taxes should be lowered in their municipality to help their business succeed. In addition, 93 per cent of Alberta small businesses agree not imposing new or increasing existing municipal costs for small business is key for economic recovery. A strong majority (90%) also want to see the province work with municipalities to address increasing property taxes. 

Key findings from the report include: 

  • The average real operating spending per capita across Alberta’s 17 largest municipalities was $2,383 in 2020. 
  • Cochrane decreased its per capita operating spending by 32 per cent between 2010 and 2020 while seeing the greatest population growth (108%) of any municipality.
  • Cochrane reported the lowest per capita operating spending ($1,452) while the Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo reported the highest ($4,629). 
  • Alberta’s average property tax fairness ratio was 1.98. Leduc has the fairest property tax system with a fairness ratio of 1.11 – meaning the municipality has near fair property tax treatment between businesses and residents. 

“With municipal elections around the corner on October 18, we are closely watching which candidates will make municipal spending and property tax fairness a priority,” concluded Kosiorek. “Alberta small businesses face a tough uphill battle to recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Real leadership will be needed from incoming municipal governments to ensure small business survival and economic recovery.” 

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Keyli Kosiorek
Senior policy analyst, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members across every industry and region, and 9,300 in Alberta. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at