Building Permits: Flash Estimates, March 2020

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April 9, 2020

In the context of the rapidly-evolving situation around the novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19), Statistics Canada remains committed to providing timely information to all Canadians. As such, the agency is releasing March 2020 preliminary flash estimates of building permits for select regions. The following estimates are based on open-source building permit reports for 23 large municipalities, as well as municipal building permit reports submitted to Statistics Canada by April 2, 2020. Combined, these municipalities comprised approximately 29% of total building permits by value in 2019.

All figures in this report are not adjusted for seasonality, and are compared with the same municipalities on a year-over-year basis for the month of March.

On a year-over-year basis, the value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities fell 23.2% to $1.4 billion when compared with March 2019. Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec had the strongest declines, likely reflecting provincial measures put in place mid-month to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Municipalities in central Canada showed the largest declines, as both Ontario and Quebec declared emergencies in mid-March to combat the threat posed by the novel coronavirus. In Montréal, the number of permits filed declined 37.6% in March compared with the same period a year earlier. In Ontario, the value of building permits issued fell by 50.5% compared with March 2019.

Outside of central Canada, investment intentions in the Maritime provinces showed resilience with building permits in Halifax surging 153.1%, as both the residential (+$31 million) and non-residential (+$28 million) sectors increased compared with March 2019. Additionally, the number of permits in Charlottetown increased by 31.6% (+12 permits) from a year ago.

In Western Canada the value of building permits declined 3.2% to $861 million as the fall in investment intentions for British Columbia (-26.8%) offset gains made in Alberta (+11.7%). As British Columbia reported many of the earliest Canadian cases of COVID-19, construction intentions likely slowed earlier than in the rest of Western Canada. A change in development fee costs in January for Vancouver may also have pulled some permits forward as builders avoided cost increases by submitting permit applications earlier than usual.

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