Economics - ICBA Alberta

ICBA Economics


ICBA Chief Economist Jock Finlayson researches and analyzes the vital economic data you need to know to grow your construction business.

Jock's Top Story

Earlier this year, the Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada took the unusual step of
publicly referring to Canada’s stagnant productivity as an “emergency.” And recently, Bank of
Canada Governor Tiff Macklem reinforced that sobering message by describing lagging
productivity as the country’s “Achilles’ heel”.

Boosting productivity is the only way to deliver durable increases in incomes and improvements
in overall living standards. It is therefore alarming that Canada has been failing make gains on
this core indicator of prosperity. Indeed, from 2019 through the end of 2023, the level of overall
productivity in Canada diminished slightly, while advancing by a hefty 6% in the United States
over the same period.

What Mike and Jock are reading:

Screenshot 2024-02-06 at 2.54.32 PM
CIBC Economics says the housing shortage issue is largely a planning issue with official planning targets falling notably short of actual population growth. You cannot build an adequate supply of housing for population growth that you fail to forecast.
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Desjardins Economics says they do not foresee overall homeownership affordability returning to pre‑pandemic levels within the next two years. That result holds up even in the event of a more severe recession than we assume in our base case forecast, where interest rates come down more quickly.
Screenshot 2024-04-08 at 9.22.53 AM

RBC’s Thought Leadership Group offers seven ways to fix Canada’s housing shortage. Lots of great ideas in here, including getting government out of the way by cutting taxes and expensive red tape.

ICBA Alberta's Construction Monitor

June 2024

We pride ourselves in Alberta on our capacity to create businesses and industries, and to provide much of the foundation of our national economy. Certainly we see that drive and delivery in our construction sector.


But the hard fact remains that Canada as a whole is experiencing a long, slow decline. On productivity growth and other key measures of well-being and competitiveness, we are increasingly coming up short among our global peers and competitors. The alarm bells are ringing louder, with many commentators calling on government and industry to re-double efforts to generate productivity growth. It’s in all our interests since, as a Bank of Canada official recently put it: “Ultimately, higher productivity helps the economy generate more wealth for


So what’s behind our dismal growth performance? According to the OECD, business investment in Canada from 2015 to 2023 ranked 44 out of the 47 most advanced economies. And last year the C.D. Howe Institute reported that for every dollar an American business spends on training, technology and
capital – essential ingredients of innovation – a Canadian company invests 58 cents.


Investment capital is also being taxed and regulated away, and opportunities missed. Canada has a huge competitive advantage in highly in-demand natural resources, as we well know in Alberta. But visiting leaders from Germany, Greece, Japan and Poland have recently received a cold shoulder from Ottawa at the suggestion that Canada supply them with much-needed energy.


Small wonder that private sector job creation in Canada has often been weak
while the size of government has ballooned.


We need governments at all levels willing to harness our talent, ambition and resources to grow our economy. And with about 20 per cent of construction workers expected to retire over the next five years, innovation and labour productivity need to be especially front and centre for contractors.


Fortunately, technology and innovation are changing and improving the way we
design and build buildings. That will help meet the need to get more housing and infrastructure in place fast and efficiently. What we also need, however, is an economy-wide focus on enabling and driving productivity growth.

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About Jock Finlayson

Jock Finlayson is Chief Economist for the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), Canada’s largest construction association. He is the first Chief Economist in ICBA’s 50-year history. Analyzing industry trends, market conditions, and economic factors to provide insights and forecasts relevant to the construction sector, he advises ICBA and its members on developments in the business and policy environment affecting the construction sector and the broader economy and assists in strategic planning and public policy advocacy.


Previously, Mr. Finlayson served as Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the Business Council of British Columbia. In that capacity, he directed the Business Council’s work on economic, fiscal, tax, environmental, regulatory, and human capital issues of interest to the largest employers in the province and the wider business community.


Prior to returning to B.C. in 1994, Mr. Finlayson was Vice President of Research at the Business Council of Canada, a leading business association in Ottawa.


Mr. Finlayson holds a master’s degree in business from Yale University, undergraduate and M.A. degrees from UBC, and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Royal Roads University.


He is the author/coauthor of two books and more than 50 published articles, book chapters and monographs. A frequent commentator on economic, business, and public policy issues, Mr. Finlayson writes regularly for Business in Vancouver, the Globe and Mail, The Orca, Black Press, Troy Media, and Postmedia.


From 2007 to 2013, Mr. Finlayson was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Canada, where he chaired the Corporate Governance Committee and the Fellowship Committee and served on both the Pension Committee and the Human Resources Committee. He is a past member of the National Statistics Council, the principal advisory body to the Chief Statistician of Canada, and previously sat on the Boards of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Canada West Foundation, and Genome BC. From 2019 to 2021, he was a member of the Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability jointly appointed by the B.C. and federal governments.


Mr. Finlayson is a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute, a Fellow of Royal Roads University, and past president of both the Association of Professional Economists of B.C. and the Ottawa Economics Association. He resides in West Vancouver with his wife Marlene.