Building permits

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May 2011  (Previous release)

The value of building permits rose 20.9% to $6.4 billion in May, following a 21.5% decline in April. Higher construction intentions, particularly for commercial buildings in Quebec and Alberta and multi-family dwellings in Ontario, were behind the advance.

Total value of permits

Description: Total value of permits

Following two consecutive monthly declines, permits in the non-residential sector rose 50.9% to $2.7 billion. This gain came mainly from higher construction intentions in the commercial component in Quebec, Alberta and Ontario.

The value of permits in the residential sector increased 5.3% to $3.7 billion in May, following a 12.1% decline in April. The increase occurred largely as a result of advances in the value of multi-family dwellings in Quebec and Ontario.

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.

The total value of building permits increased in every province except Nova Scotia.

Non-residential sector: Gains in all three components

Building construction intentions increased in every component of the non-residential sector in May.

The value of commercial building permits increased 81.0% to $1.9 billion, the highest level since May 2008. The increase followed two consecutive monthly declines, and was the result of higher construction intentions among many types of buildings in many provinces, including retail outlets, office buildings, laboratories, hotels and restaurants.

The industrial component increased 22.5% to $343 million, following two consecutive monthly declines. Alberta and Ontario registered the largest gains with higher construction intentions in manufacturing plants. The largest decreases occurred in Quebec for utility buildings, where intentions had recorded large gains in April.

The value of institutional building permits rose 3.0% to $506 million, following a 61.9% decline in April. The advance was largely attributable to construction intentions for educational institutions in six provinces, led by Ontario.

Residential and non-residential sectors

Description: Residential and non-residential sectors

Residential sector: Intentions up for multi-family permits

Intentions for multi-family dwellings increased 23.1% to $1.6 billion, following a 31.0% decrease in April. Gains were posted in six provinces, led by Ontario and Quebec. In contrast, British Columbia recorded the largest decrease in May.

The value of building permits for single-family dwellings decreased 4.9% to $2.1 billion, following two consecutive monthly gains. In May, seven provinces reported declines, led by Ontario and Alberta. The three provinces posting increases were Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba.

Municipalities across Canada approved 17,022 new dwellings, up 10.8% from April. The gain was the result of a 24.9% increase in multi-family dwellings to 10,393 units. The number of single-family dwellings declined 5.8% to 6,629 units.

Highest gains in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta

The total value of building permits increased in nine provinces in May, led by Quebec.

Quebec posted the largest advance, up 45.8% to a record high $1.7 billion, following a decline in April. The increase was attributable largely to higher intentions for commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings.

Ontario and Alberta also recorded significant gains. Ontario's advance was the result of higher intentions for multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings. Alberta's gain was attributable to commercial and industrial buildings, which more than offset declines in the residential sector.

Nova Scotia posted declines as a result of lower intentions for multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings, which more than offset gains in the institutional and industrial components.

Permits up in over half of the census metropolitan areas

The total value of permits rose in 19 of the 34 census metropolitan areas.

Montréal posted by far the biggest gains, followed by Toronto and Edmonton. The increase in Montréal came mostly from commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings. In Toronto, the advance was largely the result of higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings, commercial and industrial buildings. In Edmonton, the increase was principally the result of higher intentions for office buildings.

The largest declines occurred in Vancouver and Calgary. They originated from lower intentions, particularly for the residential sector and commercial buildings.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 2802.

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

Building permit data for June will be released on August 5.

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.