Manitoba economy among strongest in Canada, think tank says

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Construction will help push Manitoba's growth in 2015, the Conference Board of Canada says. Jordan Pearn / Global News

WINNIPEG – The Conference Board of Canada predicts Manitoba’s economy will be among the strongest in Canada in 2015 and lead all provinces in 2016.

The economic think tank forecasts the province’s economy will grow 2.9 per cent in 2015, outstripping national growth of 1.9 per cent, and a country-leading three per cent in 2016.

“Manitoba’s near-term economic outlook is a good news story. The positive outlook is mainly due to a boom in the construction industry, and the manufacturing sector will also benefit from the strong U.S. economy and retreat in the Canadian dollar,” said Marie-Christine Bernard, the conference board associate director of the provincial forecast.

Conference Board of Canada real GDP

Manitoba’s growth will only be beaten by B.C. in 2015, as other provinces face difficulties caused by declining oil prices and a weakened Canadian dollar. Governments are also expected to cut spending in an attempt to control rising deficits.

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Fairly strong population growth will keep demand for housing rising and increase retail sales, which the conference board expects to grow 3.6 per cent this year. Employment is also forecast to grow two per cent.

Construction is forecast to gain 8.5 per cent in 2015 and 10.7 per cent in 2016 due to a combination of public infrastructure projects and new private investment, the conference board said, pointing to the Bipole III transmission line construction as one driver of growth.

Manufacturing will benefit from the strengthening U.S. economy and the lower Canadian dollar, which will in turn help the transportation and warehousing industries, the conference board forecast. The agriculture sector is also expected to rebound.

Economic growth will allow the province to balance its books in 2016-17 as promised, the conference board said in its report summary, provided the government meets the spending targets outlined in the 2014 budget. Per capita debt in Manitoba remains below the national average, the board noted.