Who's in control?

According to the latest data published by Statistics Canada, the total value of assets in the Canadian economy rose to $10.8 trillion in 2014, up 7% from 2013. This pace of growth was slightly below the average of 8% seen over the past 15 years.

Overall, Canadians controlled 82% of these assets in 2014, with the remaining 18% being foreign-controlled. The share of Canadian assets under foreign control was down from 20% 15 years ago, and from 22% as recently as 2007.

By a significant margin, the United States controls more Canadian assets than any other country, accounting for 9% of the total value of Canadian assets in 2014 (this is equivalent to the value of assets controlled by all other foreign countries combined). That being said, its share has been falling since peaking at 13% in 2002, while the "Other" category has seen its share double from 2% between 1999 and 2005 to 4% in 2014, reflecting a diversification in the control of Canadian assets and, more than likely, the rising influence of China.

You can check out this week's viz here.

Up, up, and away!

New data from Statistics Canada show that Canadian airports managed 2.34 million passenger flights in 2015. This was 3.7% higher than in 2010, but down from the recent high of 2.39 million flights in 2013.

Canada's five largest airports accounted for almost half (47.4%) of all passenger flights in 2015, up from 45.3% in 2010. Not surprisingly, Toronto Pearson International Airport managed the largest number of flights, at 399,783 (17.1% of the Canadian total), followed by Vancouver International Airport (241,401; 10.3%) and Calgary International Airport (188,321; 8.0%).

Between 2010 and 2015, the greatest relative increase in passenger flights was seen in Alberta, at Calgary International Airport (a 16.4% increase) and Edmonton International Airport (14.4%)--although you can bet their volumes will come down through 2016.

Check our this week's viz here.

Foreign Buyers...Be Where?

In an effort to better understand high and rising home prices in British Columbia generally, and in Metro Vancouver more specifically, the BC Government has just released residential property transaction data collected between 10-29 June 2016. Of particular interest is what the data say about the prevalence of foreign buyers in residential property transactions. (As of 10 June, all purchasers of residential property in the province must disclose their citizenship or country of residence if they are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.) Check out this week's viz here.

Perhaps surprisingly to some--but not so much to others--the data reveal a relatively low prevalence of foreign buyers. Of the 10,148 total residential sales in the province during the three-week period, only 337, or 3.3%, were to foreign nationals. In BC, the proportion was higher, at 5.1%, with 260 of the 5,118 sales being to foreign nationals.

It follows then that the City of Vancouver would see an even greater prevalence, right? Wrong. In Vancouver, only 47 of the the 1,139 sales were to foreign nationals, representing a 4.1% share.

It's worth noting these data span only three weeks, so we will keep a keen eye out for additional data as it rolls out over the coming months.

Q1 2016 Demographic Update

The latest round of quarterly demographic data have been released by Statistics Canada, showing how Canada and its provinces and territories changed during the first three months of 2016.

Among the highlights are that Alberta continues to defy (im)migration expectations, while the magnetism of BC is strengthening for people living throughout the country.

You can check our this week's viz here.

Residential Sales in the Lower Mainland (interactive map)

This week's viz is not only on everyone's favourite topic--real estate--but it has the added bonus of being interactive.

A special thanks to the guys at Landcor Data Corporation, who have constructed a detailed map that sheds light on residential sales numbers and prices throughout the Lower Mainland in 2015, and how this past year compared to the one previous.

We hope you enjoy it!

Coming & Going

One of the latest higher-profile additions to the list of causes and consequences of Metro Vancouver's rapidly-changing housing market--including, among other things, foreign investors, vacant homes, speculation, land availability, and the loss of older purpose-built rental product--is the notion that high and rising home prices are forcing millennials out of the region in search of more affordable accommodation.

While much ado continues to be made about this apparent phenomenon, the data do not support such a supposition. Both Andrew Ramlo and Ryan Berlin have previously spoken about this (here and here), and now David Baxter has penned a thorough report detailing the true story told by the data as it relates to the movement of young people to and from Metro Vancouver.

The full version of David's report can be found here; a summary of his report, and others, can be accessed here

Enjoy, and have a safe weekend!

Using, or Abusing, Your Head?

Despite growing awareness of the benefits of protecting one's noggin--not to mention provincial laws that mandate it in certain circumstances--almost 2 out of every 5 Canadians (39%) have never worn a helmet while riding their bike.

While there isn't much of a pattern in this proportion geographically within Canada, the rate does demonstrate significant variance, from a high of 81% in Nunavut to a low of 16% in British Columbia.

You can check out today's viz here.

Enjoy the weekend and be safe! 

In Debt, More or Less

As we wrap up budget season here in Canada, we thought it would be interesting to share the federal, provincial, and municipal debt burdens for each man, woman, and child in selected Canadian cities.

Pity the People from St John's, who carry the heaviest per capita debt burden in Canada, at $47,417. Pity, too, those Montrealers and les Quebecois, who have a total per capita public debt of $43,583 and $42,656, respectively.

While Vancouverites and Victorians may owe a lot to the bank to pay for those expensive homes, their governments have only saddled them with per capita debts of $34,013 and $33,261, both which are at the lower end of the spectrum of Canadian cities.

At the bottom of this list are Reginans ($24,317) and Saskatonians ($23,614), all of whom live in a province (Saskatchewan) with the lowest per capita provincial government debt in the country, at $4,878. 

Check out today's viz here.

Working hard...or hardly working?

With the increasing focus on managing our aging workforce, and the implications for economic growth as an unprecedented number of people enter retirement now and in the coming years, one might expect that Canadians have been working harder--or at least, longer--to help fill in the gap.

Interestingly, this isn't the case. As a starting point, Canadians worked an average of 1,740 hours in 2014 (this includes jobs of all types), ranging from a low of 1,686 in Quebec to a high of 1,887 in Newfoundland. BC brings up the rear with Quebec, logging an average of 1,695 hours in 2014.

Over the past decade, the average number of hours worked by Canadians has fallen by 3.4% (62 fewer hours per year). The Northwest Territories (-5.4%) and Quebec (-4.8%) have seen the biggest declines--BC registered a below-average 3.1% drop--while the only province or territory to bank an increase was Saskatchewan, at 0.2%.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this metric trends in the coming years, as those in the workforce will undoubtedly be incentivized to work longer--or otherwise, better.

Check our today's viz here.


You don't say? BC experiencing strong growth in residential investment

Since the Great Recession, monthly investment in new housing construction in Canada has grown by 32%--a solid, if not remarkable, recovery from the 38% decline seen nationally between September 2008 and March 2009.

In what could be filed under "Tell Me Something I Didn't Know", British Columbia has seen its monthly investment in new housing construction grow much faster, at 99% (between January 2010 and February 2016). This far outpaces the growth experienced in the rest of Canada (excluding BC), at 21%.

When considered by dwelling type, BC's growth in new detached and attached investment has been relatively modest, at 49% and 64%, respectively. In comparison, investment in new apartment construction has risen by a whopping 221% since January 2010! This is an incredible rate of increase, to be sure, but if you live in BC's Lower Mainland, this probably doesn't come as a great surprise.

Check out this week's viz here. Have a great weekend.

House prices: marching upwards in March

As this week's viz shows, Greater Vancouver's housing market showed no signs of slowing down in March 2016, with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) tallying the largest number of monthly sales ever, at 5,173. This was up by 27% compared to March 2015 and by 24% versus February 2016.

As the number of listings decline in the face of rising sales, year-over-year prices have responded by moving upwards by an average of 23% across the region*. The fastest increase in benchmark prices was in Tsawwassen, at 32%, followed by 29% in West Vancouver. The slowest growth was seen on Bowen Island, at 11%, behind Pitt Meadows at 15%.

West Vancouver continues to lead the way in average benchmark sales price, at $2.34 million in March 2016; this was more than double the average price in the Vancouver West area, at $1.12 million. New Westminster and Pitt Meadows sat at the other end of the price spectrum, with the average benchmark price in those two municipalities reaching $470,800. 

*The REBGV area includes all municipalities in Greater Vancouver except Delta, Surrey, White Rock, the City of Langley, and Langley Township.

Demographic Facts & Figures: Q4 2015

Statistics Canada has released the latest edition of its Quarterly Demographic Estimates publication, which covers the final thee months of 2015.

This week's viz consists of the highlights, as we see them, from the release, including Canada's population passing the 36 million-person mark, BC continuing to welcome residents from the rest of the country at a rate far in excess of other provinces, and other tidbits.


Non-Occupancy Non-Issue?

Most people reading this will, by now, be aware of the high-profile study commissioned by the City of Vancouver and undertaken by Ecotagious (a firm that specializes in smart meter data analysis) that looked at the issue of non-occupancy in the City.

The results surprised many, with the proportion of dwellings deemed to be non-occupied in 2014 sitting at 4.9%, equivalent to 10,800 dwellings. When considered on the basis of dwelling type, the highest proportion of non-occupancy is seen in apartments (7.2%), followed by rowhouses and single-family (at around one percent).

For us here at Urban Futures, the City-wide results generally confirmed our findings from 2013 (our report can be found here). Using Census data, we found that 6.3% of all dwellings in the City of Vancouver were classified as unoccupied in 2011, with the lowest proportion found in single-family dwellings (3.5%) and higher proportions in rowhouses (7.6%) and apartments (6.7%).

Within the City, Ecotagious found that the highest rates of non-occupancy were in Northwest Vancouver (7.4%) and Downtown (6.0%), in part due to the greater prevalence of apartments (and their associated higher rates of non-occupancy).

The discussion now seems to be shifting to what should be done with the 10,800 non-occupied dwellings City-wide. There is talk about how to make them available for rental occupancy; to this end, if all 10,800 non-occupied units in the City went into the rental pool, this would represent an eight percent increase to the 136,135 existing rental households across Vancouver (according to the latest Census data).

Have a look at today's viz here.



How much life can we expect?

Canadian life expectancies have been rising for as long as anyone alive today can remember. The most recent data show that a boy born today can expect to live for 78.3 years, while his female counterpart will live for an average of 83.6 years. Both of these are up dramatically from the earlier part of the 20th century, with male life expectancies having risen by 35%, and female life expectancies by 38%, between 1920 and 2011. Interestingly, the gap between male and female life expectancies actually rose over this nine-decade period; however, since 1980, males have been closing the gap.

Life expectancies at the age of 65 are, naturally, higher than those at birth--by reaching the age of 65, one has necessarily managed to dodge life's mortal dangers that serve  to shorten average life expectancies--with males aged 65 currently living to 83.8 years, while 65-year-old females can expect to reach 86.7 years.

With much of the low-hanging fruit having already been plucked when it comes to advances in health care and the implementation of workplace safety  measures, might we be approaching peak life expectancies? We don't yet know--but try to stick around as long as you can to find out.

Check out today's viz here.

Our Urban Future?

Cities are often talked about as "engines of economic growth"; for us here at Urban Futures, we view that statement as being more opinion than fact. What is indisputable, however, is that urban areas are--if not the engines--the primary recipients of population growth in Canada.

Today's viz summarizes total population change from 2010 to 2015 in each Canadian province, delineated by whether the change occurred within each province's Census Metropolitan Area(s) or outside of them.

Not surprisingly, the total population additions realized within each province's CMA(s) far outnumbered those realized outside these broad urban regions. Part of that is due to the fact that more people already live within CMAs (excluding the Territories, where there are no CMAs, 67 percent of Canadians currently live in CMAs). However, the rate of CMA population  growth also outpaced that of non-CMAs in every province over this 2010-2015 period. As a result, the big (CMAs) have been getting bigger.

Furthermore, outside of PEI (which doesn't have a CMA), each of the Atlantic provinces saw their non-CMA populations decline over the most recent five-year period--a distressing sign that locals are all too aware of.

Expect more of the same going forward--with Canada becoming increasing urban over time. 

Pop grows Alberta!

For all of the talk of doom, gloom, and lack of boom in what had been, for years, Canada's best-performing provincial economy, Alberta's two Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) surprised in the latest release of Statistics Canada's population estimates: at 2.4% apiece, the Calgary and Edmonton CMAs experienced the fastest population growth between 2014 and 2015 (July 1st estimates) of any of Canada's CMAs with a 2015 population of at least 200,000. (The only CMA in Canada to grow faster than these Alberta CMAs was Kelowna, which expanded by 3.2% over the past year, bringing its 2015 population to just past 197,000.)

The two Alberta CMAs were in a class of their own, followed by a second tier of growers from Saskatchewan: the Saskatoon CMA grew by 2.0%, while the Regina CMA grew by 1.9%, placing them third and fourth in the list of fastest-growers, respectively.

All other large CMAs in Canada grew by, at most 1.4% (this being Winnipeg's growth rate), with Windsor and St. Catharines-Niagara Falls bringing up the rear at 0.4%.

Of course, these growth rates mask differences in the underlying sizes of the CMAs and, accordingly, the number of population additions that the growth rates reflect. In this regard, the Toronto CMA added the largest number of people (76,500). Interestingly, with relatively modest base populations of 1.43 million and 1.36 million, respectively, the Calgary and Edmonton CMAs added the second- and fourth-most people, at 33,800 (Calgary) and 31,700 (Edmonton). 

It will be tough for the Alberta CMAs to carry on their most recent pace and magnitude of growth through 2016, to be sure, so expect this viz to look very different one year from now.

Next week, we'll use these recently-released demographic data to paint a picture of CMA and non-CMA growth by province across Canada. Stay tuned.


Trends in Canada's International Trade

With Canada's recent signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (it still needs to be ratified), and issues of economic growth--or the lack thereof--dominating news headlines, we thought we'd share the latest data from Statistics Canada on Canadian international trade flows. The viz can be found here.

Two things jump out at us when we look at this chart:

1. Since 1997 (as far back as this dataset goes), the values of Canada's imports and exports have generally risen each year, with the most notable exception being the drop-off experienced during the Great Recession of 2008-09. Since then, the values of our exports and imports have recovered to their long-run growth paths. 

2. After maintaining a trade surplus for the 12 years leading up to 2009, Canada's trade balance has oscillated around zero since then, with much of 2015 spent in trade deficit. 

Where will 2016 take us? A lot depends on how the Canadian domestic market fares given the economic headwinds we're facing (which could result in fewer imports), and also on how the American and Chinese economies plug along throughout the year, with conflicting news and data on how strong each of those countries' economic fundamentals currently are (which could affect exports).

The Stories We Told in 2015

Our continued aim here at Urban Futures is to deliver thought-provoking research and analysis on trends that influence how people, businesses, and government interact. This past year was no different for us, and we expect some exciting things for 2016.

Check our our year in review, a a preview of the hot topics for 2016, here.