Canada's capital investment in 2013 will slow to its lowest rate of growth since before the recession, with little to no growth seen in the oil-and-gas, mining and other industry sectors. But there is better spending news from public agencies and certain provinces, says a national government survey released on Feb. 27.
Anticipated investment in construction, machinery and equipment will reach $387.5 billion this year, up just 1.7% in current dollars, says the survey by Statistics Canada, the Ottawa-based federal agency that tracks the country's economic growth and other indicators. "This would be the smallest increase since the economic downturn in 2009," says the survey.
The 2013 growth compares to a 7.4% spending hike last year and a 5.2% hike in 2011. The agency says non-residential construction will rise 1.4% this year, while housing will stay flat at $102 billion—"an optimistic scenario," says Maxim Sytchev, managing director of research in the industrial and construction sectors at AltaCorp Capital, Toronto. Results are based on responses from 28,000 private and public entities between last October and January.
According to Statistics Canada, eight of 21 industry sectors it tracks forecast spending declines in 2013, while seven see slowed growth. While mining and oil-and-gas account for 25% of Canada's capital construction and equipment spending, the estimated $77-billion investment in 2013 is off by 2.2%, "the first decrease since the downturn," says the survey. Metal-ore mining investment is set to decline by 32.1%, to $3.4 billion. Sector spending will drop 30.3% in Ontario and 25.8% in British Columbia. Spending on oil and gas extraction will grow 82.6%, or $2 billion, in Newfoundland and Labrador. While Alberta's O&G spending will rise just 0.1% in 2013, the province makes up 77.2% of national investment.
The strength of spending by government agencies and state-owned firms—up 5% in 2013, which is slightly above 2012's pace—was "surprising" to Sytchev. Big spending in transportation, particularly in pipeline construction, and by utilities on power generation, transmission and distribution fueled the public-sector growth.
"The bottom line is, in a no-growth world with an influx of international competitors in Canada, 2013 does not appear to be a stellar year in terms of opportunities for domestic infrastructure players," says Sytchev. "Company positioning, international exposure and execution of backlog-in-hand are the necessary ingredients for relative performance."