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Updated: September 8, 2021
The provinces’ long-term economic outlooks depend a great deal on demographics—and international migration. Natural resources will still be important, but a transition away from hydrocarbons will call on industrial investment to step up in transforming the economy. Aging populations will challenge provincial public finances in two major ways: Greater healthcare expenditures and shrinking employment-driven tax revenues.
All provinces will see lower annual GDP growth in the next two decades relative to historical norms. Alberta, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island will see the strongest output gains. Growth in the other Atlantic provinces will be slowest and, in Newfoundland and Labrador, will become negative near the end of the forecast horizon.
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Population aging is bad news for the Ontario government, which was running huge deficits and a massive debt even before the pandemic. Both exploded during COVID-19 and will linger well into the long term.
Saskatchewan’s high fertility rate and comparatively young population is good news for the province. It implies that labour force participation will remain in good shape over the long term—something we can’t say for most other regions.
Demographics are an essential component in shaping the long-term economic prospects of a province. It is here that Prince Edward Island has a distinct advantage over its Atlantic neighbours, as the province is a top destination for international immigrants.
Alberta will record the strongest real GDP growth in Canada over the near term, partly because its economy was due for a stronger bounce-back following the steep decline in real GDP during the pandemic.
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