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Building permits, April 2014

Released: 2014-06-05

Following two consecutive monthly declines, the total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities rose 1.1% to $6.0 billion in April. This increase resulted from higher construction intentions in the residential sector, which more than offset the decline in the non-residential sector.

The value of permits was up in six provinces, led by Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total value of permits - Description and data table
Total value of permits

Chart 1: Total value of permits - Description and data table

The value of residential building permits rose 2.0% to $3.7 billion in April, a second consecutive monthly gain. Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia were responsible for most of the advance. Three provinces posted declines, led by British Columbia.

Contractors took out non-residential building permits worth $2.3 billion in April, down 0.4% from the previous month. Gains in five provinces, led by Quebec, were not enough to offset the declines in the other provinces. British Columbia posted the largest decrease.

Residential sector: Large increase in construction intentions for single-family dwellings

The value of building permits for single-family dwellings rose 2.8% to $2.1 billion in April. The gain came in the wake of two consecutive monthly decreases. The increase in Ontario more than offset the declines in five provinces. Alberta posted the largest decrease.

Canadian municipalities issued $1.6 billion worth of building permits for multi-family dwellings in April, up 1.1% from March. This increase was largely the result of higher construction intentions in seven provinces. Alberta posted the largest gain, followed by Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

At the national level, Canadian municipalities approved the construction of 15,416 new dwellings, down 3.2% from the previous month. The decline was attributable to a 6.0% decrease in the number of multi-family dwellings to 9,641 units. Conversely, the number of single-family dwellings increased 2.0% to 5,775 units.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors - Description and data table
Residential and non-residential sectors

Chart 2: Residential and non-residential sectors - Description and data table

Non-residential sector: Large decline in construction intentions for commercial buildings

The value of permits in the commercial component fell 14.8% to $1.3 billion in April, the lowest level since March 2013. The decline followed a 0.3% gain the previous month. The value of permits was down in seven provinces, led by Ontario. Lower construction intentions for retail complexes, recreational facilities, warehouses and hotels and restaurants were responsible for the decline at the national level.

The value of building permits in the institutional component rose 37.2% to $664 million in April, after falling 28.9% the previous month. The April advance was the result of higher construction intentions for government buildings, senior citizen residences and health care facilities. All provinces posted gains except British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

Construction intentions in the industrial component rose 10.5% to $345 million in April, following a 12.3% decline in March. This increase was the result of higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants and utilities buildings. The advance observed in four provinces, led by Ontario, more than offset the decline in the other six provinces.

Provinces: Large gains in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario

The value of permits increased in six provinces, with Quebec posting the largest advance, followed by Saskatchewan and Ontario.

The increase in Quebec was primarily attributable to higher construction intentions for institutional buildings. Institutional buildings were also responsible for the gain in Saskatchewan. In Ontario, the advance was the result of higher construction intentions for institutional buildings, single-family dwellings and industrial buildings.

Following a 12.1% gain in March, British Columbia had the largest decline in April. This decrease was due primarily to lower construction intentions for institutional buildings and multi-family dwellings. Both components posted large increases the previous month. New Brunswick was a distant second, with lower construction intentions for industrial and commercial buildings.

Higher construction intentions in most census metropolitan areas

The total value of permits was up in 19 of the 34 census metropolitan areas in April, led by Calgary, London and Halifax.

Calgary posted the largest increase, as a result of higher construction intentions for institutional buildings, commercial structures and multi-family dwellings. Multi-family dwellings contributed the most to the increase in London. Conversely, the advance in Halifax was due to multi-family dwellings, institutional buildings and, to a lesser extent, single-family dwellings.

Vancouver had the largest decline, followed by Oshawa and Edmonton. The decrease in Vancouver was mainly attributable to multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings. Oshawa's decline was primarily the result of lower construction intentions for commercial buildings, which had posted a sharp gain the previous month. In Edmonton, the decrease came from institutional and residential buildings.

  Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally Adjusted Data – Frequently Asked Questions.

The Building Permits Survey covers 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the population. The communities representing the other 5% of the population are very small, and their levels of building activity have little impact on the total for the entire population.

Building permits data are used as a leading indicator of activity in the construction industry.

The value of planned construction activities shown in this release excludes engineering projects (for example, waterworks, sewers or culverts) and land.

For the purpose of this release, the census metropolitan area of Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario/Quebec) is divided into two areas: Gatineau part and Ottawa part.


Data for the current reference month are subject to revision based on late responses. Data have been revised for the previous month.

The trend-cycle estimates have been added to the charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. Both the seasonally adjusted and the trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and even lead to a reversal of movement, especially at the end of the series. The higher variability associated with the trend-cycle estimates is indicated with a dotted line on the chart.

The April 2014 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X) will soon be available.

The May building permits data will be released on July 7.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Mariane Bien-Aimé (613-951-7520), Investment, Science and Technology Division.

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