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Building permits, March 2015

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Released: 2015-05-07

The total value of building permits rose 11.6% from a month earlier to $6.9 billion in March. This was the first increase in three months. Higher construction intentions for non-residential buildings in British Columbia and Alberta and for multi-family dwellings in Ontario and British Columbia were responsible for much of the advance at the national level.

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 non-residential building permits rose 22.1% to $2.4 billion in March, following two consecutive monthly declines. Increases were posted in eight provinces, led by British Columbia and Alberta. Quebec and Saskatchewan also registered noticeable advances in the non-residential sector in March. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador were the two provinces to register declines in the sector.

In the residential sector, the value of permits rose 6.6% from February to $4.4 billion in March. Gains in Ontario and British Columbia offset decreases in five provinces, with Quebec and Alberta registering the largest declines.

Non-residential sector: Strong increases in construction intentions for institutional and commercial buildings

The value of institutional building permits increased 73.9% to $661 million in March, partly offsetting the declines of the two previous months. Advances were posted in a variety of institutional buildings, including educational institutions, medical facilities as well as nursing and retirement homes. Gains were posted in seven provinces, led by Alberta, followed by British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

In the commercial component, the value of permits was up 11.4% to $1.4 billion in March, after two straight monthly declines. Higher construction intentions for warehouses, hotels and restaurants, retail and wholesale outlets, as well as retail complexes, were responsible for the advance in the component at the national level. British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador recorded increases, while Ontario registered the largest decline of the remaining seven provinces.

Municipalities issued industrial building permits worth $428 million in March, up 5.5% from the previous month. This was the second consecutive monthly advance. The increase was attributable to higher construction intentions for manufacturing plants and, to a lesser degree, utilities buildings. Advances were posted in seven provinces, led by British Columbia, followed by Quebec and Saskatchewan.

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

Residential sector: Notable increase in construction intentions for multi-family dwellings

The value of permits issued for multi-family dwellings rose 19.6% to $2.1 billion in March, marking the second consecutive monthly gain. The increase was attributable to higher construction intentions in four provinces, led by Ontario and British Columbia. The largest declines were recorded in Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The value of single-family dwelling permits fell for a second consecutive month, down 3.4% to $2.3 billion in March. Gains in five provinces, led by Ontario and Quebec, were not sufficiently large to offset the declines in the remaining provinces, with Alberta registering the largest drop.

Canadian municipalities authorized the construction of 18,586 new dwellings in March, up 24.9% from the previous month. The increase stemmed from a 43.7% advance in the number of multi-family dwellings to 13,126 units. In contrast, the number of single-family dwellings declined 5.0% to 5,460 units.

Provinces: British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta post large increases

The total value of permits was up in six provinces in March, led by British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.

Every building construction component increased in British Columbia, with multi-family dwellings, commercial and institutional buildings accounting for most of the gain. In Ontario, the increase was attributable to higher construction intentions for residential structures, mostly multi-family dwellings. In Alberta, the gain was the result of increased intentions for institutional and commercial buildings, as well as multi-family dwellings.

In contrast, Quebec posted the largest decrease, mainly as a result of lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings, which rose 67.1% in February. In Nova Scotia, the decline was attributable to lower construction intentions for residential buildings, which posted a large increase the previous month.

Higher construction intentions in most census metropolitan areas

The total value of permits rose in 19 of the 34 census metropolitan areas, led by Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary.

The gain in Vancouver occurred mostly as a result of higher construction intentions for multiple dwellings and commercial buildings. In Toronto, which posted the largest decline a month earlier, the increase originated from residential structures, mainly multi-family dwellings. In Calgary, higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and institutional buildings explained the advance.

The largest decline was in Montréal, largely as a result of lower construction intentions for multi-family dwellings. This was the second decrease in three months.

Edmonton and Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo posted the next largest declines. In Edmonton, the decrease came from the residential sector, following three consecutive monthly increases. In Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, every component contributed to the drop, with residential structures accounting for much of the decline.

  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 over 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the Canadian 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 for the previous month have been revised.

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 March 2015 issue of Building Permits (Catalogue number64-001-X) will soon be available.

The April building permits data will be released on June 8.

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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