Western cities still on top in 2008



    OTTAWA, Jan. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - The east-west economic disparity will only
narrow slightly in 2008, as the five fastest-growing cities in Canada will
still be west of Ontario, according to the Conference Board's Metropolitan
Outlook for 27 Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs). This is the first
time that 27 CMAs are being ranked simultaneously in the Metropolitan Outlook.
    "Calgary and Edmonton will remain in a league of their own in 2008.
Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Abbotsford are also expected to emerge as strong
performers this year, with all three CMAs posting economic growth of more than
three per cent," said Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies.
"In 2007, only two of the top 10 positions in the overall economic growth
rankings were held by CMAs located east of Manitoba; this year four eastern
Canadian CMAs are expected to make the cut."
    With real gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast to reach 4.2 per
cent this year, Calgary is expected to match its growth performance in 2007
when it was the third-fastest growing CMA in the country behind St. John's and
Saskatoon. Strong energy demand, furious construction activity and robust
consumer spending growth will continue to drive Calgary's outlook.
    Edmonton's economy will be fuelled by stronger energy output and solid
domestic demand. As a result, real GDP is forecast to grow by four per cent
this year.
    Winnipeg, which posted its fastest rate of growth in ten years in 2007,
will see growth ease only slightly from 3.9 per cent in 2007 to 3.4 per cent
this year. The strong economy has led to solid job creation, which in turn,
has helped the CMA attract more immigrants. This is good news for Winnipeg's
economic potential.
    Strong consumer spending and a flurry of non-residential construction
projects will propel real GDP growth to 3.3 per cent in Vancouver in 2008.
However, increasing prices, which will erode affordability even further, will
squeeze housing demand in the CMA.
    Abbotsford's economy is also expected to expand by 3.3 per cent in 2008,
as strong retail trade activity and a rebound in the manufacturing industry
will more than offset slower growth in the services sector and weakening
residential construction.
    Victoria's economy performed exceptionally well for the fourth straight
year in 2007, with real GDP growth coming in at 3.3 per cent last year. But
economic growth is forecast to decelerate to 2.7 per cent in 2008, as activity
slows in both the construction sector and in the services-producing
industries.
    Both Saskatoon and Regina reached 10-year highs in real GDP growth in
2007. Coming off a 4.9 per cent gain last year, second highest in the country,
Saskatoon's economy will expand by a more sustainable 2.7 per cent in 2008.
Regina is also expected to post slower economic growth of 2.6 per cent this
year, due mainly to decelerating activity in the services sector, which will
offset improving conditions in the manufacturing and construction industries.

    Central Canadian CMAs to Show Only Modest Gains in 2008

    After being shut out of the top 10 in the economic growth rankings in
2007, central Canadian CMAs can look forward to only modest improvement in
2008. But looking ahead to the 2009-12 forecast period, the central Canadian
CMAs of Toronto, Oshawa, and Kitchener are expected to occupy three of the top
five positions, along with Calgary and Edmonton.
    Toronto-along with Quebec City and Halifax-will each post growth of
2.8 per cent in 2008. Although the rise in the Canadian dollar has wreaked
havoc on Toronto's manufacturing sector, resilient consumer spending has
helped the services sector pick up some of the slack.
    Kitchener and Ottawa-Gatineau are forecast to grow by 2.7 per cent in
2008. Kitchener's fairly diverse economy has withstood the manufacturing slump
better than Ontario as a whole, and growth is expected to remain steady in
2008. Improving manufacturing activity will make up for slowing domestic
demand. Meanwhile, the Ottawa-Gatineau economy can expect solid gains from the
high-tech sector and stronger job growth in the public sector.
    Oshawa's manufacturing sector is not yet fully on the road to recovery,
but services sector activity remains healthy. As a result, real GDP is
forecast to expand by 2.6 per cent in 2008.
    Thanks to continued strength in the services sector as well as solid
non-residential construction activity, London will post real GDP growth of 2.4
per cent this year. On a negative note, housing starts are expected to fall
for the second straight year.
    After steady growth in each of the last three years, Kingston's economic
gains will be limited to 2.1 per cent in 2008. Services activity will remain
healthy, but construction output will continue to decline and the
manufacturing sector will continue to bleed jobs.
    Although further job losses are expected, Hamilton's key manufacturing
sector is expected to begin a slow recovery in 2008, with output posting a
marginal gain. Still, real GDP growth is expected to be limited to 1.9 per
cent in 2008, the third straight year in which overall economic growth will
fail to reach 2 per cent.
    Thanks to strong nickel prices, the outlook for Sudbury's key mining
sector remains healthy. As a result, real GDP is forecast to grow by 1.9 per
cent this year, down slightly from a 2.3 per cent gain in 2007.
    St. Catharines-Niagara, Windsor and Thunder Bay, all hit by a
manufacturing slump, had the three weakest metropolitan economies in 2007.
Unfortunately, their struggles are expected to continue in 2008, with all
three economies forecast to generate only modest economic growth this
year-1.5 per cent in St. Catharines-Niagara, 0.9 per cent in Windsor and 0.7
per cent in Thunder Bay.
    In Quebec, Trois-Rivières is projected to grow by 2.6 per cent, while
Sherbrooke and Saguenay will each expand by two per cent in 2008.
    The Atlantic Canadian CMAs of St. John's and Saint John enjoyed banner
years in 2007, with the Newfoundland and Labrador capital ranking first
overall by achieving economic growth of 7.7 per cent. In 2008, growth will
slip back to 1.9 per cent. All the while, overall growth is forecast to come
in at 1.6 per cent in Saint John.
    The Metropolitan Outlook, published quarterly, provides economic
forecasts for 27 Canadian CMAs, their province, and Canada. Once a year, the
Conference Board's new Centre for Municipal Studies will publish forecasts for
all 27 CMAs simultaneously.




For further information:

For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, (613) 526-3090
ext. 448, corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca; www.conferenceboard.ca


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