Ottawa-Gatineau economy to grow 2.1% in 2018: Conference Board


Ottawa-Gatineau may not be partying like it’s 2017, but the outlook for the region’s economy should still give residents plenty to cheer about, the Conference Board of Canada said Tuesday.

In an updated forecast, the think tank said it expects the local economy to grow by 2.1 per cent in 2018 and an additional two per cent the following year.

That forecast ranks the region's growth 16th out of 29 Canadian metropolitan areas covered by the Conference Board’s report.

A modest downturn from last year’s real GDP growth of 2.7 per cent was anticipated in the aftermath of the festivities that marked Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Even though the Conference Board previously predicted that the number of visitors to Canada’s capital would remain steady through 2018, the think tank said economic output from tourism-reliant industries such as the arts, entertainment and transportation would be lower.

However, other industries are expanding at the fastest rate in several years, led by a robust public sector that’s fuelled by higher government spending and a growing civil service.

The Conference Board’s analysis reinforces the perception that the federal government remains the region’s primary engine of economic growth.

At a time when the previous Conservative government attempted to restrain departmental spending, the Conference Board said Ottawa-Gatineau’s real GDP growth averaged a mere one per cent in the five years to 2013.

More recently – under the current Liberal government – the public sector has been in “expansion mode.”
The Conference Board says output from the public administration sector rose by an average of 3.1 per cent annually between 2015 and 2017, “light years” above the 0.1 per cent average growth in 2010-2014.

That mirrored federal spending, which the think tank said was largely flat between 2011 and 2014, but but rose nearly four per cent in 2016 and was up more than five per cent from a year earlier during the first three quarters of 2017.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • A “robust” performance of the city’s high-tech sector and other professional, scientific and technical services providers, led by local e-commerce darling Shopify and the autonomous vehicle work by BlackBerry QNX. The industry’s output growth hit a six-year high of 1.5 per cent in 2017 and is expected to accelerate to 2.8 per
    cent in both 2018 and 2019, the Conference Board says.

  • A “full pallet” for Ottawa’s construction sector, which is gearing up for several mega-projects including the second phase of the city’s light-rail line, a massive renovation of Centre Block on Parliament Hill and the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats. The sector is expected to grow 1.3 per cent in 2018 and a further 2.3 per cent in 2019.