Building permits

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April 2011 (Previous release)

The value of building permits fell 21.1% to $5.3 billion in April, after increasing 16.8% in March and 9.8% in February. The non-residential and residential sectors both declined in April, with Ontario posting the largest decrease.

 Total value of permits

In the non-residential sector, the value of permits fell 33.2% to $1.9 billion, after reaching high levels in the previous two months. The decline was due primarily to lower construction intentions for institutional buildings in Ontario. Decreases were also posted in six other provinces.

In the residential sector, municipalities issued $3.5 billion worth of permits, down 12.6% from March. The decrease was mainly the result of declines in the multi-family component in Ontario.

The total value of permits decreased in seven provinces, with Ontario posting by far the largest decline. Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick registered gains.

Non-residential sector: Decreases in the institutional and commercial components

Following a record high in March, construction intentions in the institutional component recorded the largest decline, down 62.8% to $479 million in April. The decrease was largely due to lower construction intentions for educational institutions and medical facilities primarily in Ontario and Alberta.

Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates 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 (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.


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

In the commercial component, the value of permits fell 10.7% to $1.1 billion. In British Columbia, office buildings had the largest decreases. Ontario followed with declines in a wide variety of commercial buildings, including hotels, warehouses and retail stores.

After declining in March, the value of industrial building permits rose 3.1% to $317 million in April. Quebec and Alberta had the largest gains in construction intentions for utilities buildings. Ontario followed with an increase in construction intentions for primary sector buildings.

 Residential and non-residential sectors

Residential sector: Lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings

Municipalities issued $1.3 billion worth of building permits for multi-family dwellings in April, down 31.3% from March, when the value of multi-family permits more than doubled. Ontario and Quebec accounted for much of the decline. In contrast, seven provinces posted increases, led by Alberta and British Columbia.

The value of building permits for single-family dwellings rose 3.7% to $2.2 billion in April, a second consecutive monthly increase. The advance was attributable to gains in six provinces, led by Alberta and British Columbia.

Municipalities approved the construction of 15,417 new dwellings in April, down 10.4% from March. The decline was the result of a 20.3% decrease in multi-family dwellings to 8,342 units. Single-family dwellings rose 5.1% to 7,075 units.

Provinces: Ontario posts the biggest decline

The value of building permits fell in seven provinces. The largest drop was in Ontario, following a strong increase in March. The decrease was attributable in particular to lower construction intentions for institutional buildings and multi-family dwellings.

In British Columbia, the decline originated in the non-residential sector, with a larger drop in permits for commercial buildings. In Quebec, a strong decline in the residential sector more than offset increases in the three non-residential components. In Manitoba, all components except multi-family dwellings contributed to the decline.

In contrast, Alberta posted the largest increase, as a result of higher intentions for commercial buildings and for single- and multi-family dwellings. Newfoundland and Labrador registered gains because of higher construction intentions for commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings. This advance came after two consecutive monthly decreases. In New Brunswick, higher construction intentions for the commercial and industrial components and for multi-family dwellings were behind April's increase.

Lower permit values in more than half of census metropolitan areas

In April, the total value of permits fell in 18 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

The largest declines were in Toronto, Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo and Montréal. In Toronto, the decrease was attributable in particular to permits for multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings. In Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, the decline came from lower construction intentions for institutional buildings. In Montréal, the drop was mainly due to multi-family dwellings.

In contrast, the largest increases were in Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary. In Ottawa, the advance was primarily attributable to permits for single-family dwellings and non-residential buildings. In Edmonton, the gain originated from higher construction intentions in the residential sector and commercial buildings. In Calgary, the increase was largely the result of higher intentions for commercial buildings and single-family dwellings.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 2802.

The April 2011 issue of Building Permits (64-001-X, free) will soon be available.

The building permit data for May will be released on July 6.

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 Mariane Bien-Aimé (613-951-7520), Investment and Capital Stock Division.