Building permit values in Winnipeg smashed through the $2-billion threshold for the first time ever in 2012, according to year-end numbers released Thursday by Statistics Canada.
The agency said Manitoba municipalities issued more than $2.4 billion worth of residential and non-residential permits during the year. That was a 30.9 per cent increase from the previous record of $1.8 billion set in 2011.
The Statistics Canada numbers show permit values have been climbing steadily in Manitoba for much of the past decade. The lone exception was the recession year of 2009, when they dipped by 3.7 per cent to $1.58 billion from $1.64 billion in the previous year.
"But for the Manitoba marketplace to hit $2.4 billion is very, very surprising," said Ron Hambley, executive vice-president of the Winnipeg Construction Association. "I thought if we'd be doing very well just to hit last year's number."
And he said 2013 is also shaping up to be another busy year for local builders.
"No one is telling us they're anticipating a slowdown, or that (property) owners are dialing things back..."
What's even more impressive is that last year's record was achieved even though builders and developers hit the snooze button in the final month of 2012. Statistics Canada said permit values plunged by 56.3 per cent to $141.5 million from a record level (for a November) of $324.1 million in the previous month.
Hambley said escalating labour and building material costs are part of the reason for the steady rise in permit values over the past decade.
But an even bigger factor was all of the major new construction projects that have been undertaken during that period. And that boom in activity continued in full force in 2012.
Some of the 2012 projects he cited were new buildings going up on the Health Sciences Centre campus, including a new energy plant, diagnostics centre and women's hospital.
"But it's been a little bit of everything, including lots of multi-family residential projects and lots on the manufacturing side," he said. "One sector hasn't grown at the expense of another."
Statistics Canada confirmed the residential and non-residential sectors saw big gains in permit activity in 2012. On the residential side, permit values were up 22.1 per cent to $1.42 billion. On the non-residential side, they soared by 45.9 per cent to $989.7 million.
Both sides contributed to December's drop in activity.
Non-residential permit values plunged by 78.9 per cent to $31.1 million, while residential values fell by 37.5 per cent to $110.4 million.