Construction driving economic turnaround

As Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, November 14, 2014 by Minister Currie Dixon

Recent revised GDP data from Statistics Canada confirmed what many Yukoners already knew: 2013 was a difficult year for our economy. After nine years of steady growth, Yukon’s real GDP decreased modestly by 0.7 percent in 2013 to $2.21 billion. Contributing to this reduction in real GDP was a decline in the construction industry and a cooling off of the mining and exploration industry. Non-residential construction decreased by more than 54 percent and residential construction decreased by almost 19 percent. While these 2013 statistics were disappointing, the forecast for our economy in 2014 and beyond looks much more promising.

In direct response to the difficulties that 2013 presented, Yukon government brought forward the largest capital budget in Yukon’s history. We recognized the challenges faced in the construction industry and sought to do our part by increasing spending on capital projects significantly to stimulate economic activity and job creation. The evidence of this is apparent when we look at the numerous large construction projects underway in Whitehorse.

The FH Collins replacement project is well underway and many Yukon workers, subcontractors, and supply businesses are seeing the benefits. The construction of new backup generators at the Whitehorse dam, the completion of the new seniors’ residence at 207 Alexander Street, and the multiple construction projects underway between Front Street and 2nd Avenue all highlight the considerable activity in the local construction industry.

On the residential construction front, one only needs to take a drive through Whistlebend to get a sense of the activity in that sector. While all of these projects provide evidence that citizens of Whitehorse can see for themselves, the statistics also back up the idea that there has been a turn-around in the construction industry.

According to the latest Stats Canada data, non-residential building permits increased 31 percent from August to September of 2014. What is more impressive is that non-residential building permits for September of this year are up a whopping 122.8 percent from September 2013. Similar statistics are presented for residential building permits. September 2014 residential building permits are up 31.4 percent from August 2014 and 119 percent from September 2013. Year-to-date building permits total $64 million, up 24.1 percent from $51.6 million in 2013.

While building permits are only an indication of future construction intent and don’t represent actual expenditures, the trend is very promising. Ultimately, whether Yukoners look at the construction going on around them or the statistical data provided by Stats Canada, it is clear that Yukon’s construction industry is heading in the right direction. This is at least in part due to the decisions and expenditures of the Yukon government.

Currie Dixon

Minister of Economic Development