Alex Carrick, the chief economist for CanaData | ConstructConnect was the first speaker at the 2016 CanaData East construction industry forecast conference in Toronto, held on September 22nd.
Carrick's talk, "A Post-Sustainability World, Part 1" began by looking at construction in Canada by region. Since 2014 to now, he said, there has been a decline in construction capital investment spending of approximately $23 billion.
"It's nice that there's talk of infrastructure from Ottawa, but it's going to be hard to replace $23 billion over 10 years," Carrick said.
Partly this change is due to the U.S. developing its own energy sources faster than common wisdom held would occur, as well as Saudi Arabia "pumping out oil as fast as they can."
Carrick said Canada's foreign trade is wehere the problem truly lies. Prior to the great recession, Carrick said, Canada had a trade surplus of $40 to $60 billion every month, and since the great recession, "we've been running nothing but deficits, and they've been getting bigger."
This is primarily because the United States doesn't need our exports as much as they previously have, he said. Shale is providing them with natural gas, the housing crash dampened the need for softwood lumber, and cars are coming out of Mexico rather than Canada.
Since 2013, the construction employment chart for Canada has flattened out, with the United States pulling ahead, Carrick said. Manufacturing employment, he added, has also been flat in Canada with a slight downward trend.
Total employment in Canada is also falling behind the U.S., and Carrick maintained "we can't stand still and be complacent."