Rosy economic outlook for Ottawa-Gatineau: report
Region ranks 4th among municipalities studied by Conference Board of Canada
Led by the federal government's hiring spree, Ottawa-Gatineau's economy is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent in 2017, according to an outlook published Thursday by the Conference Board of Canada.
"We're painting a pretty rosy picture for Ottawa-Gatineau this year. It's hard to know where to begin. There are so many good things that are happening in the economy," said Alan Arcand, associate director for the board's Centre for Municipal Studies.
The 2.3 per cent forecast growth in Ottawa-Gatineau's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 is enough to rank it fourth-highest among the 13 municipalities studied in the report, trailing only Toronto at 2.7 per cent, Vancouver and Edmonton, both at 2.4 per cent. As a whole, Canada's GDP is forecast to grow by two per cent.
In 2016 Ottawa-Gatineau's GDP grew by 1.5 per cent.
1 in 5 jobs with federal government
The report credits much of the positive outlook to the federal government's continued hiring spree in Ottawa-Gatineau, which is expected to grow its workforce by 2.5 per cent in 2017.
However that means the region's fortunes are vulnerable because they rely largely on a single sector, and the whims of the Liberal government.
"One of the risks of Ottawa-Gatineau is that of all the cities we covered, it has one of the least diversified economies," said Arcand. "There's always the risk that if the government slams the brakes on spending, you will see much slower growth."
Since 2014, the federal government has added 20,000 jobs in the National Capital Region, solidifying its position as the area's largest employer, accounting for one in every five jobs.
"If you're concerned about diversification issues, the fact that the high-tech sector seems to be doing better, that's a positive sign," said Arcand.
Arcand points to plans by Ottawa's e-commerce company Shopify to triple its workforce at its downtown office from 750 to 2,100 by 2018, as well as Kanata's move to position itself as a cluster for the technology behind self-driving cars.
Canada 150 also boosting fortunes
The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce welcomed the report Thursday.
"Frankly I think it matches what the business community is telling us in our surveys, in our discussions with them. They certainly expect the economy to be robust," said Ian Faris, the chamber's president and CEO.
The good news for public sector and high-tech workers is also expected to boost Ottawa-Gatineau's retail sector, which the report predicts will see sales rise by four per cent in 2017, thanks also in part to the increase in tourists visiting the region for Canada 150 celebrations.
Arcand and his team published their Metropolitan Outlook based mostly on data from Statistics Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.