Canada’s mid-sized cities still struggling after recession

Mid-sized cities are feeling the bumps of Canada’s rocky economic recovery, with nearly half yet to bounce back from the recent recession, a new report shows.

The Conference Board of Canada’s first Mid-Sized Cities Outlook 2013 says 21 of 46 mid-sized Canadian cities studied have not recovered all the jobs lost during the 2008-09 economic downturn.

“This is a troubling turn of events, given that these mid-sized cities play an important role as economic engines in their respective regions,” said Mario Lefebvre, director of the Centre for Municipal Studies.

The report says the economies of many of these smaller places, from Corner Brook, Nfld. to Vernon, B.C., were ticking along nicely before the recession. When the recession hit, two-thirds of them saw a drop in economic growth. Ontario was particularly hard hit with all 11 cities studied suffering economic setbacks, while 10 cities in Atlantic Canada were spared, the report says.

In 2010, all but six mid-sized cities across Canada saw their economic growth bounce back, but that recovery was short-lived. The report says 13 of those spots posted average annual negative economic growth between 2011 and 2012.

“This still left a very decent 33 cities with positive growth over the past two years, but it remains a testament of the weaker growth recorded of late,” said the report, which cited global market volatility as the culprit.

The report also looked at the economies of mid-sized cities between 2005 and 2012, and found eight from Ontario to western Canada that posted average job growth greater than or close to 3 per cent per year. In Ontario they include Brockville, Leamington and Timmins; Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo in Alberta, and Chilliwack and Duncan in B.C.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Charlottetown, PEI posted positive real GDP growth every year from 2005 to 2012 and created more than 4,000 new jobs since 2005.
  • Miramichi, N.B.’s economic output declined every year since 2005, both its 2012 real GDP and employment levels were less than half of what they were eight years ago.
  • Granby, Que. posted strong economic growth in five of the past six years, which led to the creation of more than 3,000 jobs during that period.
  • Shawinigan, Que.’s economy was smaller in 2012 than it was in 2005, and the region lost more than 5,000 jobs over this time frame.
  • Leamington, Ont. posted “explosive” economic growth in the last three years, averaging more than eight per cent annually, following a difficult period in 2005 to 2009
  • Belleville, Ont.’s economy grew by more than four per cent on average between 2010 and 2012.
  • Prince Albert, Sask has seen its economy grow by more than four per cent on an average annual basis since 2007.
  • Prince George B.C.’s economy has grown by about five per cent annually since 2010.
  • Chilliwack, B.C. was one of the fastest growing mid-sized economies in the country between 2005 and 2012, with average annual increases in GDP of 6.2 per cent.

Brenda Bouw

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Brenda Bouw is freelance writer based in Vancouver. She has more than 20 years of experience as a reporter, editor and manager at media organizations across Canada. She is also an author and ghostwriter.

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