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Building permits, March 2020

Released: 2020-05-08

Building permits — Canada

$7.4 billion

March 2020

-13.2% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — N.L.

$17.4 million

March 2020

-51.8% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — P.E.I.

$31.2 million

March 2020

24.2% increase

(monthly change)

Building permits — N.S.

$171.9 million

March 2020

47.8% increase

(monthly change)

Building permits — N.B.

$75.6 million

March 2020

-0.9% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — Que.

$1,350.3 million

March 2020

-18.1% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — Ont.

$3,384.8 million

March 2020

-12.9% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — Man.

$297.1 million

March 2020

19.1% increase

(monthly change)

Building permits — Sask.

$140.3 million

March 2020

-6.7% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — Alta.

$920.0 million

March 2020

-14.4% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — B.C.

$1,003.0 million

March 2020

-19.4% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — Y.T.

$3.5 million

March 2020

-21.0% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — N.W.T.

$2.0 million

March 2020

-84.6% decrease

(monthly change)

Building permits — Nvt.

$2.8 million

March 2020


(monthly change)

The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased 13.2% to $7.4 billion in March, with declines reported in seven provinces and two territories. The $1.1 billion national decrease was the largest since August 2014. This reflected notable drops in Ontario (-12.9%), Quebec (-18.1%) and British Columbia (-19.4%), which coincided with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

For more information on housing, please visit the Housing Statistics Portal.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total value of building permits
Total value of building permits

Chart 2  Chart 2: Value of building permits for the residential and non-residential sectors
Value of building permits for the residential and non-residential sectors

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Building permits, March 2020
Building permits, March 2020

Value of residential permits down

The total value of residential permits decreased 13.1% to $4.6 billion in March.

The value of permits issued for single-family dwellings fell 15.3% to $2.2 billion, with the largest percentage declines observed in Prince Edward Island (-31.8%) and Quebec (-27.0%). The province of Quebec shut down all non-essential business activities, such as construction, on March 24. Conversely, the only gains posted nationally in March were in New Brunswick (+2.3%) and the Northwest Territories (+3.0%).

The value of permits issued for multi-family dwellings was down 11.1% to $2.5 billion, with the largest declines seen in Ontario (-13.0% to $1.1 billion) and British Columbia (-24.4% to $389 million).

Chart 3  Chart 3: Month-to-month change in the value of residential building permits
Month-to-month change in the value of residential building permits

Chart 4  Chart 4: Month-to-month change in the value of non-residential building permits
Month-to-month change in the value of non-residential building permits

Non-residential permits decrease for third consecutive month

Seven provinces reported declines in the value of commercial permits issued, bringing the national total down 19.7% to $1.6 billion. The largest decline in commercial permits was in Quebec (-36.6%), which recorded its third consecutive monthly decrease.

The value of institutional permits (-15.7% to $602.2 million) was down in eight provinces, with Quebec (-37.0%) posting the largest decline.

Industrial permits (+14.9% to $583 million) were the only component to show an increase at the national level in March. This was driven by strong gains in Manitoba (+185.9%), reflecting several large permits issued in the Winnipeg metropolitan area.

First quarter 2020: Largest recorded quarter-over-quarter decrease in Quebec

In the first quarter of 2020, the value of building permits declined 1.0% compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. This was the third consecutive quarter-to-quarter decline, yet the value of permits remained 2.1% higher than in the same period a year earlier.

The first quarter started with gains in the value of permits in January that were mainly attributable to British Columbia, where an increase in development fees in Vancouver likely pulled some permits forward as builders submitted their applications before the January 15 deadline. After returning to more normal levels nationally in February, construction intentions dropped in much of Canada as governments and businesses implemented measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in mid- to late March.

First quarter losses were reported in six provinces, with the most notable decrease in Quebec (-$1.1 billion). However, quarterly increases in British Columbia (+$472 million) and Ontario (+$463 million) offset much of the decline in Quebec. Residential permits issued in the first quarter were valued at $15.8 billion, representing a 5.8% increase (+$867 million) compared with the previous quarter, mainly driven by permits issued for multi-family dwellings.

The value of non-residential permits was down 10.7% to $9.4 billion. Declines in institutional (-$703 million), commercial (-$216 million) and industrial (-$206 million) permits all pushed down the national total.

  Note to readers

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitate month-to-month comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For 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 permit data are used as a leading indicator of activity in the construction industry.

The value of planned construction activities presented in this release excludes engineering projects (such as waterworks, sewers or culverts) and land.

For the purposes of this release, the census metropolitan area of Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario and Quebec) is divided into two areas: the Ottawa part and the Gatineau part.

Unless otherwise specified, the highlights refer to seasonally adjusted current dollars and are ranked in terms of dollar change rather than percentage change.

Building components

Single-family dwellings: Residential buildings containing only one dwelling unit (for example, single-detached house, bungalow, linked home [linked at the foundation]).

Multi-family dwellings: Residential buildings containing multiple dwelling units (for example, apartment, apartment condominium, row house, semi-detached house).

Industrial buildings: Buildings used in the processing or production of goods, or related to transportation and communication.

Commercial buildings: Buildings used in the trade or distribution of goods and services.

Institutional and government buildings: Buildings used to house public and semi-public services, such as those related to health and welfare, education, or public administration, as well as buildings used for religious services.


Unadjusted data for the current reference month are subject to revision based on late responses. Data for the previous month have been revised. Seasonally adjusted data for the previous two months have also been revised.

Trend-cycle estimates have been added to the charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. Both seasonally adjusted data and trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and could even lead to a reversal of movement, especially at the end of the series. The higher variability associated with trend-cycle estimates is indicated with a dotted line on the chart.

For information on trend-cycle data, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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