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Alberta to lead provincial growth, Conference Board says in spring outlook

OTTAWA - Alberta is expected to lead the provinces in Western Canada and the rest of the country in economic growth this year, according to a report by the Conference Board.

The board predicted Tuesday in its spring provincial outlook that Alberta's economy will grow by 3.5 per cent this year compared with 3.9 per cent last year, helped by an influx of migrants to the province and investment spending.

However, it also cautioned that while exports and consumer spending are forecast to remain strong heading into 2015, a second consecutive year of slower investment will see growth to slow to 3.1 per cent for Alberta next year.

"Economic prospects have brightened for several provinces, as the expected strengthening in the U.S. economy will help boost real GDP growth on this side of the border over the next two years," said Marie Christine Bernard, the report's author and an associate director at the board.

"Atlantic and Central Canada are expected to gather more momentum in 2015, and even stronger growth is expected in Western Canada."

In its outlook, the Ottawa-based think tank noted B.C. is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent, up from two per cent in 2013, while Manitoba is expected to grow by 2.1 per cent, helped by increased public infrastructure spending, but down slightly from the 2.2 per cent pace set last year.

Meanwhile, growth in Saskatchewan is expected to slow to 0.8 per cent from 4.8 per cent last year. However, the province is expected to have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the report said.

Overall, the Canadian economy is expected to grow by 2.1 per cent this year compared with two per cent in 2013.

Nova Scotia is expected to post the strongest growth outside Western Canada with a gain of 2.3 per cent compared with 0.8 per cent in 2013, helped by natural gas production from Deep Panuke and upgrades at Irving Shipbuilding.

The reported noted that both Ontario and Quebec are wrestling with large fiscal deficits that will limit the ability of the provincial governments to add to economic output.

Growth in Ontario is expected come in at 1.8 per cent as the U.S. recovery picks up speed, up from 1.2 per cent last year, while the Quebec economy is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent.

New Brunswick is forecast to grow by 1.1 per cent compared with no growth in 2013, while Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to cool to 1.3 per cent from 7.9 per cent last year.

Prince Edward Island's growth is expected to come in at 1.3 per cent, down from 1.4 per cent in 2013.

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