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Canada's GDP expanded by 0.9% last year, but growth wasn't even

Canada's economy expanded by 0.9 per cent last year, but there were wide differences across the country.

British Columbia led with 3% growth last year, while Alberta's economy shrank by 4 per cent

Canada's economy expanded by 0.9 per cent last year, but there were wide differences across the country.

Statistics Canada released final numbers for 2015 on Thursday that showed the economy expanded in seven provinces, but shrank in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

After growing by an average of 4.4 per cent between 2012 and 2014, Alberta's economy fell off a cliff last year, shrinking by four per cent. That's almost as bad as the performance during the Great Recession of 2009, when Alberta's economy shrank by 5.3 per cent.

"There's no surprise where the downturn was felt most, with oil and gas support activities and related construction each falling by more than 30 per cent," BMO economist Robert Kavcic said.

Alberta's oil patch managed to produce more during the year that saw drastically lower oil prices. But new investment in the sector dried up, which is why the province's economy contracted.

Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador also contracted, by 1.4 and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, British Columbia led the way in terms of growth. The province's economy expanded by three per cent during the year, its best performance since 2006.

"Ontario was also strong," Kavcic noted, "rising 2.5 per cent for a second year, led by the biggest gain in construction output in 14 years."

British Columbia's economy expanded by 3 per cent last year, but neighbouring Alberta contracted by 4 per cent. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

Quebec eked out a slight 1.1 per cent expansion, continuing the slow but stable performance seen since 2012, while Manitoba picked up to 2.3 per cent.

Atlantic Canada's economy was mixed last year, with 1.9 per cent  growth in New Brunswick. PEI also grew a solid 1.5 per cent, largely on the back of a booming tourism sector. "Nova Scotia's economy expanded 0.8 per cent, the best clip in five years, as shipbuilding activity ramped up and supported the manufacturing sector," Kavcic said.

Up North, Canada's territories were up and down, with Yukon's resource-dependent economy shrinking by 3.8 per cent. The economy of the Northwest Territories grew by 2.5 per cent largely because of new engineering and construction activity in the area's many diamond mines.

Nunavut's economy, meanwhile, edged down 0.3 per cent, largely because of a downward trend in many of the commodities that the area produces.

Kavcic expects those national trends to continue, as Canada's economy reorients away from its dependence on the energy sector and towards other things.

"The big regional story of 2015 was a reshuffling of economic growth away from oil-producing regions of the country—and that reshuffling was even more significant than originally expected," Kavcic said. "That theme should continue to play out through 2016 as well."

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