Canada's gross national product grew at a 1.9 per cent annual pace in the first three months of the year, the same pace seen at the end of 2011.

Statistics Canada said that in real terms, the total value of the economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the January to March period. Annualized, that means the economy is on track to grow by 1.9 per cent this year as a whole.

That annualized figure is the same pace of expansion as in the United States.

The 1.9 per cent pace of growth was in line with what economists were expecting, but there were some good and and bad surprises buried within the data.

Government spending fell by 2.1 per cent in the quarter and consumer spending downshifted from a 2.8 per cent increase the previous quarter to a 0.9 per cent increase in the first three months of 2012.

"The domestic economy cooled in the quarter, with final domestic demand up just 1.3 per cent, the slowest pace since [the second quarter of 2009]," BMO economist Robert Kavcic noted.

On the positive side of the ledger, strong homebuilding activity in parts of the country supported growth overall, with residential investment growing by 12.3 per cent.

"[This] result doesn’t provide a great handoff to the second quarter, and suffice it to say that we’re not holding our breath for a strong pickup," Kavcic said.