Building permits

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November 2010  (Previous release)

Contractors took out $5.5 billion worth of building permits in November, down 11.2% from October and the second consecutive monthly decline. Lower construction intentions, particularly for multi-family dwellings in British Columbia and commercial buildings in Ontario, were behind the decline.

Total value of permits

Following two consecutive monthly gains, permits in the non-residential sector fell 16.1% to $2.3 billion in November. The decline came mainly from lower construction intentions in the commercial and institutional components.

The value of residential permits fell 7.2% to $3.2 billion, also the second monthly decline in a row. Most of the decrease came from British Columbia, where municipalities reported drops in both single- and multi-family dwellings following three consecutive monthly gains in the residential sector.

The total value of permits decreased in seven provinces, led by British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. Quebec experienced the largest increase by far.

Non-residential sector: Declines in commercial and institutional components

In the commercial component, the value of permits fell 23.4% to $1.3 billion in November, after two consecutive monthly increases. The lower construction intentions came mostly from laboratories in Ontario, which had posted a large gain in October. A decrease in construction intentions for recreational buildings in many provinces also contributed to the decline.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which eases comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations.

The Building Permits Survey covers 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the population. It provides an early indication of building activity.

The communities representing the other 5% of the population are very small, and their levels of building activity have little impact on the total.

The value of planned construction activities shown in this release excludes engineering projects (e.g., 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.


Preliminary data are provided for the current reference month. Revised data, based on late responses, are updated for the previous month.

The value of permits in the institutional component declined for a second consecutive month, falling 7.8% to $647 million in November. The decline was largely a result of lower construction intentions for educational institutions in all provinces except New Brunswick.

In the industrial component, the value of permits edged down 0.9% to $406 million in November. Decreases were widespread among many types of buildings and among most provinces. These decreases were almost offset by combined gains in transportation buildings in Ontario and utilities' buildings in Alberta.

Residential sector: Intentions down for multi-family permits

The value of building permits for multi-family dwellings fell 22.4% to $1.1 billion in November, reaching its lowest level since February 2010.

The decrease occurred mainly in British Columbia, where there was a substantial decline in the value of multi-family permits from October, which was their highest level since May 2007. Alberta, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island also registered decreases.

Intentions for single-family dwellings increased 3.4% to $2.1 billion, following a 9.3% decrease in October. Gains were posted in six provinces, led by Quebec. In contrast, British Columbia reported the largest drop in the value of single-family permits, continuing a downward trend since the beginning of 2010.

Nationally, municipalities approved 14,136 new dwellings in November, down 13.4% from October. The decline came from multi-family dwellings, which fell 24.1% to 7,428 units, while single-family dwellings rose 2.6% to 6,708 units.

Residential and non-residential sectors

Permits down in most provinces

The value of building permits was down in seven provinces in November.

The largest declines occurred in British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. After six months of consecutive gains, the total value of permits fell 43.4% in British Columbia, mainly due to multi-family dwellings.

Ontario experienced a large decline in commercial buildings, which more than offset increases in the other components. The decrease in Newfoundland and Labrador was mainly due to institutional buildings.

Quebec posted the largest gain, with an increase in every component except industrial buildings.

Value of permits down in more than half of the census metropolitan areas

The total value of permits fell in 19 out of the 34 census metropolitan areas. The largest decreases were in Vancouver, Toronto and St. John's.

In Vancouver, building permits fell in both the residential and non-residential sectors, with the multi-family dwellings accounting for 70% of the drop. In Toronto, the decline came mostly from lower intentions for commercial buildings. In St. John's, the decrease was attributable to fewer permits for institutional buildings.

In contrast, gains occurred in Montréal, Victoria and Gatineau. Building permits in Montréal increased in every component except for commercial buildings. The increase in Victoria and Gatineau came from the non-residential sector, led by commercial buildings.

Available on CANSIM: tables 026-0001 to 026-0008 and 026-0010.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 2802.

The November 2010 issue of Building Permits (64-001-X, free) will be available soon.

The December 2010 building permit data will be released on February 7, 2011.

To order data, contact Jasmine Gaudreault (toll-free 1-800-579-8533; 613-951-6321; For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Nicole Charron (613-951-0087), Investment and Capital Stock Division.