Barry Klatt

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High oil prices, oilsands activity to boost economy


CALGARY — Alberta is booming and poised to regain its role as Canada's growth engine over the next two years.

Western provinces will continue to set the economic pace in Canada with Alberta leading the way, says a new report published Wednesday by the Conference Board of Canada.


The board's Provincial Outlook - Spring 2012 said elevated oil prices and expanded activity at numerous oilsands projects will help drive Alberta to the fastest economic growth in the country in both 2012 and 2013.


"While other provinces continue to struggle on the road to recovery, Alberta is booming and poised to regain its role as Canada's growth engine over the next two years," the report said.


"Bolstered by strong income gains and population growth twice the national pace, Alberta's economy is forecast to grow in the next two years by 3.8 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively."


Marie-Christine Bernard, the board's associate director for Provincial Outlook, said it is no surprise that Western Canada continues to perform well, thanks to major projects in the mining and energy sector.


The board's report said real gross domestic product is forecast to grow by 2.9 per cent in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan this year and by 2.4 per cent in British Columbia.


At the national level, economic growth is forecast for 2.3 per cent in 2012 and 2.8 per cent in 2013.


"If the debt crisis in Europe continues to fester, economic growth in Western Canada would slow modestly this year. Europe's financial crisis could have a dampening effect on growth in the United States, although, at this time, the U.S. economy appears to gaining momentum," the report said.


The conference board said Alberta will have an "incredibly strong construction profile over the next two years, particularly in the energy sector where oilsands development continues to be a driving force behind Alberta's growth."


The province is forecast to lead the country in employment growth in each of the next two years at 2.7 per cent in 2012 and 2.8 per cent in 2013. Nationally, employment growth is forecast for 1.2 per cent this year and 2.3 per cent next year.


BMO Bank of Montreal's Hiring Intentions Survey said 46 per cent of Canadian businesses plan to hire new employees this year, while 51 per cent do not have plans to add additional staff this calendar year.

In Alberta, 44 per cent plan to hire and 50 per cent do not plan to hire this year.


For those Canadian companies who indicated that they are looking to hire this year, 43 per cent plan to hire the same, and 51 per cent hire more than they did last year. Only six per cent say they will hire but do so to a lesser degree.


Seventy-three per cent of Alberta employers plan to hire more employees this year.


According to the survey, mining, oil and gas, construction and manufacturing have strong hiring plans, with 57 per cent of employers planning to hire in 2012.

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