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B.C. to be No 1 province for economic growth

OTTAWA — Olympic spinoffs and an improved outlook for forestry and manufacturing will make British Columbia the leader in economic growth among Canadian provinces in 2010, says the Conference Board of Canada.

B.C. will post growth of 3.7 per cent over the year, while renewed American auto demand will help Ontario surpass the national average for the first time in nearly a decade with growth of 3.5 per cent, the board said in its Provincial Outlook — Winter 2010, released Monday.

B.C. will also benefit from an estimated $770-million boost to the economy from the Winter Olympic Games.

"The recovery in Central and Western Canada began to take shape in the last few months and will continue to do so through 2010. In fact, all provinces are expected to post positive economic growth this year," said Marie-Christine Bernard, associate director, provincial forecasting.

Government stimulus spending in the U.S. and Canada will be the main driver, before a recovery in the private sector begins to take hold in the latter part of 2010 and into 2011, the report forecasts.

Household spending, aided by a recovery in labour markets in the second half of 2009, will also be a strong contributor.

Housing is expected benefit from that, pushing up residential construction investment by 4.7 per cent. Commercial construction however, will post barely positive growth after companies hurt by the economic downturn slashed investment in structure.

The board described Canada's near-term outlook as "surprisingly strong," and predicted national growth will total 2.8 per cent.

"This year," the board said, "a modest recovery in U.S. auto sales and housing starts will provide a long-awaited rebound in exports of autos and parts, and of lumber and other construction materials," boosting the economies of Ontario and B.C., respectively.

Saskatchewan and Alberta will also benefit from a resurgent energy sector and recovering global demand for potash, with both provinces expected to see economic growth of 2.5 per cent this year.

Quebec' recovery from recession is expected to be more gradual — an estimated 2.2 per cent pace in 2010 — as it wasn't as hard hit as others during the downturn.

Newfoundland and Labrador will lead the Atlantic provinces at 2.4 per cent growth, fuelled by additional offshore oil investments and the return to normal production at the Voisey's Bay mine. The rest of the Atlantic Canadian provinces will post growth under two per cent.


• Forecast growth for 2010:


British Columbia 3.7%


Ontario 3.5%


Alberta 2.5%


Saskatchewan 2.5%


Newfoundland and Labrador 2.4%


Quebec 2.2%


Manitoba 2%


Nova Scotia 1.9%


Prince Edward Island 1.9%


New Brunswick 1.7%


Canada 2.8%


Source: Conference Board of Canada