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Manitoba economy expected to keep on chugging

Paul Soubry, president and CEO of New Flyer, which has seen a surge in new bus orders this year, stands in front of a bendy-bus.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Paul Soubry, president and CEO of New Flyer, which has seen a surge in new bus orders this year, stands in front of a bendy-bus.

ONE of the country's leading economic forecasters sees better times ahead for the Manitoba economy as the province's manufacturing sector revs up production activity and a wave of new mining developments come on-stream.

In its latest quarterly forecast released Monday, the Conference Board of Canada predicts the Manitoba economy will grow by two per cent next year and by a robust 2.9 per cent in 2015.

That's up from this year's anticipated GDP growth rate of 1.7 per cent, the board adds.

"After tepid growth in 2013, Manitoba's economic prospects are improving," the Ottawa-based think-tank said in its Provincial Outlook report. "The goods and service industries will both perform well over the next two years.

Employment growth is expected to pick up and household disposable income will advance strongly -- to the benefit of the province's retailers."

The board said metal mining production, in particular, should see accelerated growth over the next two years.

It notes several new mining developments will be ramping up production over the next two years. They include San Gold's Rice Lake gold mine, Carlisle's Farley gold mine, HudBay Minerals' Lalor zinc, copper and gold mine, and the Reed copper mine, which is a joint venture between HudBay and VMS Ventures.

"Although metal mining (output) will grow by only 0.4 per cent in 2014, production is expected to jump 19.5 per cent in 2015," the report adds.

Things are also looking up for the province's manufacturing sector, according to Natalie Ward, a board economist who worked on the Provincial Outlook report.

Ward said New Flyer Industries has seen a surge in new bus orders this year, which will help keep its Winnipeg production plant humming over the next two years. And General Electric's new jet-engine testing facility in Winnipeg also received $7 million in additional funding to provide an enhanced suite of maintenance, repair and overhaul services for the most popular line of GE jet engines, she said.

"Aside from everything else, that's very good news, because that's a substantial amount of money to be injected into this sector."

Ward said construction is one industry that isn't expected to do as well in 2014.

She said fiscal constraints are expected to lead to a decline in public-sector investment in new construction projects, and new-home construction activity is also expected to level off.

"However, 2015 will bring brisk growth in construction as business non-residential investment picks up and housing starts bounce back," the report adds. The board said Manitoba isn't the only province that should see an increase in economic output next year. In fact, six of them are expected to do even better than Manitoba, with Alberta likely to lead the charge with 3.4 per cent GDP growth.

However, 2015 will be a much different story, the board adds, with Manitoba expected to post the second-strongest growth after British Columbia's anticipated 3.1 per cent.

Nationally, the Conference Board predicts the Canadian economy will expand by 2.3 per cent in 2014, followed by 2.6 per cent growth in 2015.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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