Canada continues to show the world why the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked it the best country in the G-7 in which to do business over the next five years. According to the Royal Bank of Canada's (RBC) economic forecasting division, Canada's GDP will record a 2.6 percent gain in 2012 and 2013 - down slightly from the higher 3.1 percent growth rate earlier in the year (due largely to European debt issues, which also slowed the growth of emerging markets). Even so, Canada was ranked as the best country in the world for business in Forbes' October 2011 study of 134 countries. Also, for the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the world's most stable.
Canada has posted the fastest employment growth in the G-7 over the last two years, recovering all the jobs that were lost during the recession. The RBC expects that job growth will continue at a steady pace over the next two years, dropping the unemployment rate to 6.9 percent by the end of 2013.
Economists and investors are optimistic about Canada's strong fundamentals: "We're relatively bullish," says Craig Wright, RBC's chief economist. "Overall, conditions for growth are positive, supported by a continuation of a low interest rate environment and a Canadian financial sector that is healthy and ready to provide credit."
One of Canada's greatest strengths is the diversity of its key economic regions. Each one has its core resource-based industries that are still vitally important to its economic performance, as well as robust clusters of innovation-based industries like aerospace, information and communications technology (ICT), life sciences, alternative energy, electronics, and advanced manufacturing that continue to expand and provide high-paying jobs.
The provinces of western Canada - British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba - are rich in oil, gas, and metals, which are driving economic growth at record rates. By most reports, Alberta is leading the country in economic performance indicators.
"With mega capital spending in its energy sector continuing to be a catalyst for activity across industrial sectors, Alberta should lead all other provinces in real GDP growth this year with a rate of 4 percent," states RBC. "Massive investment in the energy sector - slated to reach new heights in 2012 - will make it another banner year for Alberta's oil production."
Saskatchewan is another strong energy player with a similar growth rate. Key resources are oil, mining, and agriculture. In fact, 2011 was Saskatchewan's second-best year for drilling oil wells. It also set a record for horizontal oil wells - 1,992 wells were drilled in 2011, a 30 percent increase over 2010.
"Our oil industry continues to be one of Saskatchewan's economic drivers," says Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd. Saskatchewan's oil and gas industry recorded an estimated $11.7 billion in sales last year and invested roughly $4.2 billion in exploration and development activity.
To further enhance production, the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan are investing $800,000 in the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) at the University of Regina to develop innovative recovery methods for oil and gas production, including reclamation of drilling fluids.
British Columbia continues to be a leader in innovative technology and manufacturing. A federal investment of about $10 million will establish a Composites Research Network (CRN) to provide western Canadian manufacturers with the resources they need to stay competitive in the global marketplace. Led by the University of British Columbia (UBC), CRN branches will be established in each western province.
"The Composites Research Network advances important collaborative research between researchers and businesses," indicates John Hepburn, vice president of Research & International at UBC. "These partnerships drive innovation faster and more efficiently than would otherwise be possible," he notes.
The CRN plans to develop strong relationships with Manitoba's thriving aerospace cluster, which continues to promote aerospace R&D initiatives. For example, Western Economic Diversification recently provided $5 million to help West Canitest R&D (WestCaRD), a nonprofit organization established by GE Canada and StandardAero, undertake advanced aircraft engine research and testing at facilities at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
Real GDP growth in Ontario will be about 2.5 percent in 2012, up from 1.9 percent in 2011. This stronger pace is largely the result of an improved automotive industry, which contributes about $20 billion annually to the provincial economy.
Ontario is home to 11 assembly plants operated by five of the world's top automakers, as well as more than 300 parts manufacturers, which together produced over 2.1 million vehicles in 2011 - more than any other region in North America. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology includes the Automotive Centre of Excellence, the first commercial automotive research, development, and innovation center of its kind in the world.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) has a three-million-square-foot facility in Cambridge - a strategic location at the gateway to Canada's Technology Triangle in southwestern Ontario. This is the first manufacturing operation outside Japan where the company produces the Lexus model and its location selection was based on the significant access to the skilled work force and proximity to U.S. borders. There's also a new Boxwood Business Park, adjacent to highway 401 (Canada's busiest highway) and right across from the Cambridge Business Park where TMMC is located. Infrastructure for the new park is expected to be completed by the end of 2012, and the design and amenities will be "green-friendly" within a park-like setting to attract and retain knowledge workers.
General Motors of Canada is on track in its commitment to invest $850 million in research and development activities in Canada between 2009 and 2016. "GM has long been an innovation leader and these additional investments will build our expertise in strategic technologies even further," says Kevin W. Williams, managing director for GM Canada. Since 2009 the company's Canadian Engineering Center has generated nearly 100 records of invention.
Ontario's information and communications technology (ICT) industry is recognized globally for its expertise in software and systems, wireless and telecommunications, mobile applications, microelectronics, photonics, digital media, and green IT. The industry generated about $28.4 billion to the provincial economy last year. There were approximately 18,000 ICT firms in Ontario in 2011, up 3.1 percent from 2010. Major players include Siemens, Intel, Google, IBM, and Cisco.
Texas-based GENBAND, a developer of IP infrastructure and application solutions, recently announced plans for an R&D Center of Excellence in Ottawa, Ontario. The new facility, which includes more than 70,000 square feet of lab, office, and customer support, will be home to some of GENBAND's core IP (Internet Protocol) switching and multimedia development teams.
"The Ottawa R&D Centre of Excellence is focused on our GENiUS platform, which is the heart and soul of GENBAND's value proposition," says Charlie Vogt, GENBAND's president and CEO. "Our industry is quickly evolving from a hardware-based infrastructure environment to one that is software-centric - our platform combines multiple software solutions on a common, flexible IP platform."
Next: Economic Outlook for Quebec and Atlantic Canada