May 18, 2021: ICI Investment (Mar 2021)

May 18, 2021

Q1 2020 ICI Investment Matches Q1 2019

Statistics Canada’s latest Investment in Building Construction data shows that first quarter ICI investment in Ontario matched the first quarter total of 2020. Overall, Q1 ICI investment was about $6.7 million higher than last year, equivalent to about a tenth of a percent. Looking at investment data month-over-month, ICI investment in Ontario increased every month between September and March. These increases have been modest, with investment up by 5.1% over this period.

While total ICI data appears to indicate a degree of consistency in the industry, the data at the sector and metro-area levels tell a different story. At the sector level, industrial and institutional investment fell in Q1 compared to last year, while commercial investment rose. Industrial investment declined by 8.4%, compared to a drop of 5.4% in the institutional sector. Commercial investment increased by 5.1% year-over-year in the first quarter in Ontario, although as will be discussed shortly, this is mostly due to activity in a single metro area.

ICI Investment Falls in Most of Ontario’s Metro Areas

While Ontario’s ICI investment was essentially at the same level in the first quarters of 2020 and 2021, investment at the metro level fell in twelve of Ontario’s sixteen metro areas, with investment increasing in the remaining four. First quarter ICI investment fell by more than half in Thunder Bay (-52.3%), followed by Belleville (-37.8%), Barrie (-37.0%) and Peterborough (-31.8%) where investment fell by more than thirty percent. ICI investment declined by between ten and twenty-five percent in the first quarter in Oshawa (-23.1%), London (-18.8%), Windsor (-18.0%), Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (-15.2%) and Hamilton (-14.5%). Single-digit year-over-year declines were observed in Toronto (-4.1%), Kingston (-2.5%) and Brantford (-1.8%). First quarter ICI investment increased in Greater Sudbury (+0.5%), St. Catharines-Niagara (+8.7%), Guelph (+12.0%), and Ottawa (+114.4%).

Significant Growth in ICI Investment in Ottawa Over Past 3 Quarters

Ottawa should be examined more closely as ICI investment more than doubled in Q1 2021 compared to last year. Ottawa has seen dramatic increases in investment in the commercial sector over the past three quarters. Prior to this, ICI investment in Ottawa had been quite steady. In every quarter between Q1 2017 and Q2 2020, ICI investment in Ottawa ranged between $300-400 million. Since then, investment has increased significantly every quarter, up to $555 million in Q3 2020, $700 million in Q4, and $765 million in Q1 2021. These gains are almost entirely due to the commercial sector, which saw investment of $668 million in Q1 2021. Ottawa’s first quarter commercial investment total represents an increase of nearly 150% over Q1 2020. Commercial investment in Ottawa is being driven by major projects including Amazon’s $474 million distribution centre, new office construction such as the Giant Tiger headquarters, and the $176 million rehabilitation of the Western Memorial Building.

Ottawa’s commercial investment growth is behind the positive first quarter commercial numbers for Ontario as a whole. First quarter commercial investment is down year-over-year in thirteen of Ontario’s sixteen metro areas. Only Hamilton (+12%) and St-Catharines-Niagara (+3%) joined Ottawa in experiencing commercial investment growth. Toronto’s year-over-year commercial investment was down by 3.5% in the first quarter. Brantford also had a decline in the single-digits, while the remaining eleven metro areas saw double-digit declines in commercial investment.



Katherine Jacobs
Director of Research

Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222
F 416.620.5310