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Where are Canada’s best incomes? Look north – or to the capital

Canada's Parliament is pictured on Sept. 30, 2013, in Ottawa. New Statscan figures show that Ottawa has the highest total median family income among cities.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

We all hear about the middle-class squeeze, so where exactly is the best place in Canada for an average family to earn a decent income?

Wood Buffalo, Alta. The municipality, which includes Fort McMurray and sits at the epicentre of oil-sands development, has by far the highest total median family income in Canada, at $175,230, new Statistics Canada income tax data show.

Yellowknife, NWT, is next at $133,670. Both municipalities have been at the top of the list since record-keeping began in 2001.

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At the other end of the spectrum, the place with the lowest median family incomes in Canada is Campbellton, N.B., at $52,160.

While median family incomes didn't much change at the national level, rising 0.5 per cent in 2011 from a year earlier, there were plenty of shifts at the city and town level.

The biggest jump among smaller towns was in Bay Roberts, Nfld., which posted a gain of 6.2 per cent. The largest drop was in Leamington, Ont., where incomes fell 6.8 per cent.

As for larger cities, Ottawa once again tops the income list. Families in the Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area have a total median income, before tax, of $93,440.

The next two cities on the list are in Alberta: Calgary and Edmonton have median incomes of $93,410 and $91,860, respectively.

The ranking has been the same since 2009, though the gap between Ottawa and the western cities shrank "considerably" between 2010 and 2011, the statistics agency said – a reflection of the relative strength of labour markets in the Prairies.

Abbotsford-Mission, B.C., has the lowest family income among bigger cities, at $64,250. The biggest changes among cities were both in Ontario: Sudbury posted the country's largest gain in median family incomes, rising 4.1 per cent, while incomes fell the most in Brantford, sliding 1.4 per cent.

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For single people (or those not in census families), Calgary and Edmonton have the highest incomes. Calgary is also the spot with the highest incomes for single parents.

The data are based on 2011 personal income tax returns. Median reflects the number at which half of people have incomes below that level and half above.

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