Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Saskatoon tops growth list

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Cities in Western Canada are expected to lead the country's metropolitan areas in economic growth this year, a report by the Conference Board of Canada says.

But Winnipeg is at the bottom of the list of western cities.

The Conference Board says the continuing slow recovery of the manufacturing sector and weak employment gains influenced by public-sector belt-tightening will keep the city's economy in the middle of the pack of the 13 largest metropolitan centres in the country.

The Ottawa think-tank is forecasting 1.4 per cent economic growth in Winnipeg in 2013 (compared with 1.5 per cent in 2012) and 1.5 per cent in Manitoba (compared with 2.7 per cent last year). Nationally, the economy is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent.

Saskatchewan is forecast to grow by 3.5 per cent, Alberta by 3.2 per cent and Ontario by 1.2 per cent.

Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver make up the top five in the board's latest outlook for 13 Canadian metropolitan areas, while Ottawa-Gatineau and Victoria are at the bottom of the list due to government spending cuts.

The report says construction -- both residential and non-residential -- continues to be strong in Winnipeg but the negative effect of public-sector belt-tightening indicates the extent to which Winnipeg remains a government town.

"Despite a healthy increase in construction output in 2012, growth in the overall economy was hurt by weakness in the region's manufacturing sector and in most services sectors. Indeed, public administration and defence output declined last year as a result of government cutbacks," the Autumn 2013-Economic Outlook report states about Winnipeg.

"Continued fiscal austerity is expected to lower public administration and defence output further in 2013 and lead to just modest growth next year."

The report forecasts increasing growth in manufacturing in Winnipeg in 2014 and an overall increase in the municipal economy of 2.1 per cent in 2014.

Growth in Saskatoon is forecast to reach 5.2 per cent this year, up from 4.1 per cent in 2012, while Regina's economy is expected to grow five per cent, repeating its performance last year.

"Despite some setbacks, Saskatchewan's economy is expected to perform well in the near term, with real GDP forecast to expand 3.5 per cent this year -- more than twice the national average," the board's fall metropolitan outlook said.

Calgary is expected to grow by 3.3 per cent, Edmonton by 4.2 per cent and Vancouver by 2.2 per cent. That compared with growth of 4.3 per cent, 5.9 per cent and 2.6 per cent for the three cities respectively, in 2012.

Overall, the Conference Board said the Canadian economy is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent this year.

However it suggested the improving U.S. economy would give a boost to 2014.

The five Western Canadian cities stand in contrast with the other eight areas studied, which are expected to grow by less than two per cent this year.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2013 B9

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