Canadian construction projects to more than double within four years

From 2010 to 2015, Canadian infrastructure will grow at over two and a half times the growth rate seen over the previous five years, a new PwC-sponsored report by Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics found. By 2020, Canada is expected to be the fifth largest construction market behind India and Japan-a jump from its current position in seventh place.

“Over the next decade, we expect infrastructure to be the fastest growing end market in Canada and housing to be the slowest,” says Sal Bianco, National Engineering and Construction Leader, PwC. “Responsible for this huge growth are a number of oil sands projects starting in Alberta, the major hydro projects planned in Ontario and Quebec, expanding transportation needs in urban centres and the construction demands the Pan Am Games is placing on the country.”

Canada’s hosting of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto carries a $2.4 billion price tag as new sports venues and other facilities have to be constructed. This includes a $1 billion athlete’s village, aquatics centre, indoor gymnasium and running track, and the Canadian Sport Institute complex.

A new Airport Rail Link (ARL)-a 3km rail line between Union Station and Toronto Pearson International Airport-will be completed prior to the Games. Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx issued an RFP last month and a preferred bidder among the four already shortlisted will be announced in early 2012.

New transportation projects come at a high cost…

Over 80 per cent of Canadians live in urban areas with an expected average growth rate of about 1 per cent per annum over the next 10 years. “The steady growth of Canadians living in urban cities is placing more pressure for more transportation,” says Bianco. “This, in turn, is spurring the increase in transportation infrastructure projects that typically carry high costs.”

For instance, there are several transport projects that are either underway or planned in Toronto and Ottawa:

  • The $4.6 billion Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Toronto is the largest transit investment in Canada’s history. It includes a 20km tunnel in mid-town Toronto, plus a 12km tunnel to the east.
  • An extension of the Toronto subway to York Region, costing almost $2.7 billion, is in construction. This will link Toronto with York Region via an 8.6km extension and six new stations.
  • The$2.1 billion Ottawa LRT project is its first phase of a larger LRT network the City of Ottawa plans to build. The first phase includes 13 new stations as well as a 3.2km tunnel in downtown Ottawa.

…But oil, gas and hydro projects carry the largest price tags

Many large hydro power projects are either currently in construction or planned, including the country’s largest-a $6.5 billion hydro complex in Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec, which is expected to be completed by 2020. Other notable projects include:

  • A $5 billion hydro project in James Bay Territory, Quebec, is under construction and is a part of Hydro Quebec’s plans to increase hydro output by 15.8TW over the period 2006-14.
  • A $6.2 billion 2,250MW hydro complex in central Labrador is planned, funded by Hydro Quebec. It will supply electricity to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

In Alberta, twenty potential new oil sands projects starting over the next five years will increase non-residential construction in Alberta by 21% in 2011. Indeed, spending on capital construction and machinery and equipment in the province is projected to rise by 4.3 per cent this year, to $73.5 billion.

The story is no different over the longer term. Alberta’s Capital Plan calls for a $17.6 billion spend on infrastructure to support oil sands development over the next three years, while major industry players like Suncor will spend in excess of $15 billion within the next 5 years and Imperial Oil and CNRL with $8 billion and $4 billion in spend respectively by 2012.

“New builds will continue to attract private investment and Canada has already established a very successful pipeline of privately financed infrastructure investments,” says Bianco. Public Private Partnerships Canada (P3), round three funding opens this year and will attract applications for infrastructure projects across the country.”

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