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Spring breeds confidence for Ontario contractors, North not so much

Civil, high-rise projects expected to lead construction sector

The economic outlook for Ontario's construction industry is positive and confidence is up across the province, according to a contractor survey from the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS).

With a score of 60 out of 100, the Construction Confidence Indicator reveals a majority of Ontario's construction firms expect to conduct more business in 2017 than the year before.

The Construction Confidence Indicator was released March 9 at the OCS's annual State of The Industry & Outlook Conference in Toronto.

However, that confidence is tempered by region. Northern Ontario contractors reported the lowest confidence with a score of 57, but that’s better than the way they felt last year, the report said.

Government investments in major projects at Sudbury’s Laurentian University, Canadore College in North Bay, and Confederation College in Thunder Bay has Northern contractors feeling somewhat better.

Central Ontario was the most optimistic with a score of 62, followed closely by the Greater Toronto Area with a score of 61.

Contractors expect to see the most growth in the engineering/civil category with 43 per cent of respondents anticipating "significant growth" in 2017.

Those expectations are the highest in Eastern Ontario at 57 per cent.

The high-rise residential sector is expected to be a stronger performer in 2017, with 45 per cent expecting to see “significant growth.”

Kitchener-Waterloo contractors lead the province in high-rise optimism at 63 per cent, probably as a result of the construction of new light rail transit.

"Increased construction activity is always a good sign for the overall economy and things are decidedly looking better for Ontario in 2017," said Sean Strickland, CEO of the OCS. "We're seeing a couple of possible explanations for the boost in optimism like investments in major infrastructure projects across the province and an improved economy south of the border."

Nearly half of the 500 contractors surveyed expect the Trump Presidency to be harmful to Ontario’s economy.

The OCS is a joint labour/management organization of unionized construction trades and their contractor partners in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) construction sector.