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West at a Glance – October 2016 Issue

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Inside this issue

Provincial Government Developments

British Columbia




News and Opinions Highlights

Key Economic Indicators

Key Economic Indicators - September
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Canada Last Update
Gross Domestic Product
Real GDPFootnote 1  (2007 $billions, forecast) $214 $292 $58 $55 $1,673 2016 (f)
% ch. from year earlier 3.0% -2.0% 0.2% 2.1% 1.5%  
Labour Market
Employment (SA, thousands) 2,386 2,251 569 634 18,050 Aug-16
Change from previous month -6.6 2.7 -0.4 -2.4 26.2  
% ch. from previous month -0.3% 0.1% -0.1% -0.4% 0.1%  
% ch. from year earlier 3.1% -2.3% -0.8% -0.3% 0.4%  
Unemployment Rate (SA,%) 5.5% 8.4% 6.3% 5.9% 7.0% Aug-16
percentage points from previous month -0.1 -0.2 0.0 -0.3 0.1  
percentage points from previous year -0.7 2.3 1.5 0.2 0  
Regular EI beneficiaries (SA) 55,860 99,320 19,980 15,190 575,160 Jul-16
Change from previous month 4580 18,980 3590 100 24,420  
% ch. from previous month 8.9% 23.6% 21.9% 0.7% 4.4%  
% ch. from year earlier 1.0% 86.5% 40.3% 7.4% 4.9%  
Average weekly earnings $915.49 $1,119.24 $974.44 $888.13 $954.61 Jul-16
Change from previous year $1.36 -$18.07 $10.08 $2.26 $1.04  
CPI (y/y) 2.0% 0.7% 0.7% 1.1% 1.1% Aug-16
CPI (y/y) previous month 2.1% 0.7% 1.1% 1.5% 1.3% Jul-16
Consumers and Business
Retail Sales (SA, $millions) $6,256 $6,059 $1,550 $1,574 $44,139 Jul-16
% ch. from previous month 0.9% -0.8% -3.3% -0.9% -0.1%  
% ch. from previous year 6.3% -5.0% 0.0% 2.0% 1.8%  
Manufacturing Sales (SA, $millions) $3,791 $5,140 $1,120 $1,335 $50,672 Jul-16
% ch. from previous month 2.2% -1.5% -3.6% -3.1% 0.1%  
% ch. from previous year 4.0% -11.3% -4.3% -5.2% -2.6%  
Building Permits (SA, $millions) $981 $951 $158 $230 $6,470 Jul-16
% ch. from previous month -4.8% 7.4% -44.3% 17.6% 0.8%  
% ch. from previous year -14.9% -31.7% -44.5% 25.5% -10.0%  
Housing Starts (SAAR, thousands) 35 20 7 5 182 Aug-16
% ch. from previous month -10.4% -22.3% 11.9% -38.5% -6.3%  
% ch. from previous year 29.3% -42.2% 51.7% 0.5% -14.7%  
International Trade
Merchandise Exports ($millions) $3,282 $6,080 $2,166 $1,059 $35,653 Jul-16
% ch. from previous month 6.0% -1.2% 7.8% -5.0% -7.4%  
% ch. from previous year 4.8% -28.0% -18.3% 3.1% -11.3%  
Merchandise Imports ($millions) $4,256 $1,882 $797 $1,468 $41,847 Jul-16
% ch. from previous month 2.3% -5.4% -2.1% -15.8% -9.3%  
% ch. from previous year -2.8% -22.3% -5.0% -19.4% -7.2%  
Population (estimate) 4,720,932 4,249,842 1,146,655 1,308,912 36,155,487 Q2 2016
% ch. from previous year 1.0% 1.8% 1.4% 1.5% 1.1%  
Largest Cities (CMAs) Vancouver (2,504,340) Calgary (1,439,756) Saskatoon (304,975) Winnipeg* (793,428)   2015
  Victoria* (365,291) Edmonton* (1,363,277) Regina* (241,422)      

Upcoming Events

Event Description Location Date
British Columbia
Moving TransLink Forward: 6 Months of Progress The Vancouver Board of Trade will host Kevin Desmond, President and CEO of TransLink, for a keynote address. Vancouver, BC Moving TransLink Forward:October 13, 2016
WE FOR SHE: Championing the Next Generation The Vancouver Board of Trade will host one of North America's largest gatherings of women's organizations, companies, experts, business leaders, advocates, and young women to focus on the economic impact of women in the province of BC. Vancouver, BC WE FOR SHE:October 14,2016
Tackling Canada's productivity gap: It starts with entrepreneurs The Vancouver Board of Trade will host Michael Denham, President and CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada, for a keynote address. Vancouver, BC Tackling Canada's productivity gap:October 17, 2016
Not easy being green: How BC is reducing emissions and growing the economy The Vancouver Board of Trade will host BC Minister of Environment Mary Polak for a keynote address on her Ministry's top priorities and the new Climate Leadership Plan. Vancouver, BC Not easy being green:October 20, 2016
2016 Vancouver Island Economic Summit The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance will host its annual Economic Summit. Nanaimo, BC 2016 Vancouver Island Economic Summit:October 26-27, 2016
BC Business Summit 2016 The Business Council of BC will host its annual BC Business Summit. This year's event is entitled, BC 2035: A Vision for Economic Growth and Prosperity. Vancouver, BC BC Business Summit 2016:November 1, 2016
Western Innovation Forum 2016 The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) will host a conference aimed at connecting Western Canada's aerospace, marine, defence and security industries to investment, partnership and business opportunities. Vancouver, BC Western Innovation Forum 2016:November 8-9, 2016
Growing the Future Together: BC Agrifood and Seafood Conference The Province of BC will host an agrifood, seafood, and food processing sector conference, including producers, processors, retailers, institutional purchasers, transporters and agritech suppliers. Kelowna, BC Growing the Future Together:November 14-15, 2016
The New U.S. President: What it means for Canada The Vancouver Board of Trade will host this event featuring Gary Doer, Former Ambassador of Canada to the United States, and Gordon Giffin, Former United States Ambassador to Canada. Vancouver, BC The New U.S. President:November 18, 2016
Housing in Canada and the Imaginary City: Addressing Vulnerabilities, Data Gaps and Affordability The Vancouver Board of Trade will host Evan Siddall, President and CEO of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, for a keynote address. Vancouver, BC Housing in Canada and the Imaginary City:November 30, 2016
The Pipeline Gridlock Conference The Indian Resource Council is hosting a forum for industry, government, and Indigenous leaders to discuss challenges facing the pipeline industry and opportunities for Indigenous involvement in determining solutions. Calgary, AB The Pipeline Gridlock ConferenceOctober 3-4, 2016
CERI 2016 Electricity Conference, The Canadian Electricity Sector at a Crossroads: Exploring Alternative Paths The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI)'s 2016 Electricity Conference will focus on challenges and opportunities faced by Canada's electricity sector over the next three decades, including greenhouse gases, technological developments, and uncertain fuel prices and environmental regulations. Calgary, AB The Canadian Electricity Sector at a Crossroads:October 3-4, 2016
Economic Society of Northern Alberta (ESNA) ESNA's monthly lunch hour speaker's series, featuring the Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. Edmonton, AB Economic Society of Northern Alberta:October 11, 2016
Calgary Energy Roundtable A private sector forum founded by the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business that discusses Canada's energy sector in the context of domestic and international oil and gas markets. Calgary, AB Calgary Energy Roundtable:October 12, 2016
FDI Canada Forum A conference exploring foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities and policies in the context of the Canadian marketplace. Calgary, AB FDI Canada Forum:October 18-19, 2016
Startup Edmonton Launch Party Startup Edmonton will hold its third annual Edmonton Startup Week, featuring five days and more than 20 events dedicated to Edmonton's startup community. Edmonton, AB Startup Edmonton Launch Party:October 20, 2016
ACAMP Seminar Series Presents: Autonomous Systems for Transportation This seminar series aimed at Alberta's innovation community will provide information on Autonomous Systems for Transportation, new developments in the industry, and enable networking opportunities. Calgary, AB ACAMP Seminar Series Presents:October 25, 2016
Clean Tech – What does the future hold? A breakfast discussion held by the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Association on opportunities in clean technology and how companies can get involved to provide services, support and manufacturing in this industry. Leduc, AB Clean Tech:October 26, 2016
Women Building Extraordinary Futures Hosted by Women Building Futures (WBF), this event will feature the launch of WBF's new Strategic Plan, acknowledge WBF supporters, and celebrate the impacts of the outgoing President and CEO, JudyLynn Archer. Edmonton, AB Women Building Extraordinary Futures:October 27, 2016
ASTech Awards The 2016 ASTech Awards, held in conjunction with the Next Gen Innovators Showcase, highlight innovative projects in science and technology, as well as start-ups and science fair students. Edmonton, AB ASTech Awards:October 28, 2016
Petrochem Canada 2016 Conference A conference providing insights into Canada's competitive advantage on the global petrochemical stage. Edmonton, AB Petrochem Canada 2016 Conference:November 1-2, 2016
Unmanned Systems Canada 2016 Annual Conference A conference bringing together industry, government, military and academia to promote the education and innovation of unmanned systems for use in air, land, and sea. Edmonton, AB Unmanned Systems Canada 2016 Annual Conference:November 1-3, 2016
Indigenous Innovation Summit A summit bringing together Canada's social innovators, entrepreneurs and Indigenous leaders to share ideas and build new fields of innovation. Edmonton, AB Indigenous Innovation Summit:November 7-9, 2016
Calgary Economic Development's 2017 Economic Outlook A presentation by the Chief Economist of ATB Financial, Todd Hirsch, and the Chief Economist of the Conference Board of Canada, Glen Hodgson, on the global, national, regional, and local economic forecasts for 2017. Calgary, AB Calgary Economic Development's 2017 Economic Outlook:November 8, 2016
Startup Calgary Launch Party Startup Calgary's annual Launch Party will introduce technology startups that have demonstrated product market fit and an ability to attract users or generate revenue. Calgary, AB Startup Calgary Launch Party:November 17, 2016
Aboriginal Connections Hosted by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Alberta Enterprise Group, this keynote address will provide an opportunity for business leaders across western Canada to learn from the experiences of Fort McKay First Nations Chief, Jim Boucher. Calgary, AB Aboriginal Connections:November 23, 2016
Creating the New Alberta Vision & Leadership Convention A convention featuring panelists from 18 Alberta industries and professions, including agriculture and food processing, transportation and logistics, health and biotech, tourism, manufacturing and export, and environment and cleantech, sharing innovative business ideas. Red Deer, AB Creating the New Alberta Vision:November 26, 2016
Pulse a Palooza – A celebration of the International Year of the Pulses 2016 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has designated 2016 as the International Year of the Pulses. Saskatchewan has been playing an ever-larger role in feeding pulses to the world, currently providing 30 to 40% of global pulses. Saskatoon, SK Pulse a Palooza:October 5, 2016
Community Futures 10th Annual Women's Workshop The theme of this year's workshop is "Volunteering in your community – making your community a better place to live." La Ronge, SK Community Futures 10:October 6, 2016
First Nations Land Governance and Economic Development Conference A national land governance and economic development conference hosted by Saskatchewan First Nations Groups. Discussions will revolve around land use planning, successful joint ventures, and sustainable community development by First Nations. WD Saskatchewan Region A/ADM is a guest speaker. Saskatoon, SK First Nations Land Governance and Economic Development Conference:October 11-13, 2016
9th Women in Leadership Conference Features well known speakers from Saskatchewan who will talk about a host of topics ranging from adapting to transformation, striving for goals and knowing when to listen. The keynote speaker will be the Saskatchewan Minister of Central Services, the Hon. Christine Tell. Regina, SK 9th Women in Leadership Conference:October 13, 2016
Premier Brad Wall Address to the Regina Chamber of Commerce Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, will deliver a talk on a Saskatchewan plan to fight climate change as part of this Luncheon series. Regina, SK Premier Brad Wall Address:October 18, 2016
STEP 2016 Trade Conference and 20th Anniversary This conference is an opportunity for Saskatchewan exporters to network and learn about current trade activity and discuss the challenges and strengths facing them in today's global marketplace. Regina, SK STEP 2016 Trade Conference:October 18-19, 2016
ABEX Awards 2016 This year, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is celebrating the 33rd anniversary of the Achievement in Business Excellence (ABEX) Awards. The event celebrates the brightest and best in Saskatchewan's business community. Saskatoon, SK ABEX Awards 2016:October 22, 2016
Economic Developers Association of Canada 48th Annual Conference This event is titled "Change Agents". The main topic is Economic Diversification: Strategies for Revitalizing Local Economies. Saskatoon, SK Economic Developers Association of Canada:October 22-25, 2016
Science, Technology, Innovation and Collaboration Awards (STIC) The STIC Awards celebrate the brightest minds in the Saskatoon Region and honours the people, projects, and products that contribute to Saskatoon's world-class science and technology cluster. Saskatoon, SK Science, Technology, Innovation and Collaboration Awards:November 16, 2016
Canola Industry Meeting and Canola Innovation Day The event is for delegates to hear researchers and industry experts discuss the latest developments in the growing canola industry and recent developments in canola genomics. Saskatoon, SK Canola Industry Meeting:November 30-
December 1, 2016
23rd Annual Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando) National Conference The conference includes Cando's annual meeting and will focus on partnerships for prosperity: Change, Collaboration and Opportunity. Whitehorse, Yukon Cando:October 3-6, 2016
Manitoba Association of Business Economics (MABE) Economic Outlook Conference The conference includes an overview of national, provincial and local economic conditions combined with focused sessions on Indigenous Economic Growth, downtown development and consolidation in the agricultural sector. Winnipeg, MB MABENovember 3, 2016
Canadian Space Society Annual Summit Summit 2016 brings together academia, industry, and the public. The theme "At the Centre of It All" will focus on the unifying factors that bring Canada, and the rest of the world, together within the space industry. Winnipeg, MB Canadian Space Society Annual Summit:November 14-15, 2016
Western Business Outlook The Conference Board of Canada hosts the Western Business Outlook – Manitoba. Winnipeg, MB Western Business Outlook:November 24, 2016

Spotlight: Life Sciences in Western Canada

Did you know...?

Life science revenue, 2015 ($M)
Life science revenue, 2015 ($M)
Province Life science revenue, 2015 ($M)
BC 1900.2
AB 1451.7
SK 310.4
MB 534.4
Life Science Exports ($M)
Life Science Exports ($M)
Province 2014 2015
MB 316 778
BC 244 310
AB 66 70
SK 9 7

* Statistics Canada, custom calculations.

† ISED, Trade Data Online.

Life sciences is a broad sector that includes everything from hospitals and health clinics to pharmaceutical makers and agricultural biotechnology companies. The highest-growth areas include the development of new drugs advanced medical devices, particularly biopharmaceuticals,Footnote 1 and agriculture and agri-food research, such as developing new crop varieties and improving livestock health.

Like other high-tech industries, the innovative life sciences sector is dominated by small, high-growth firms and faces challenges in obtaining access to capital and talent.Footnote 2 Many firms look to the larger American market for funding and customers. For pharmaceutical startups, the multi-stage testing process makes it easier to secure investments according to their level of product development, but also means investors face longer timelines before they start seeing returns. Since these small companies lack the sophisticated apparatus needed to commercialize a new pharmaceutical; licensing deals and strategic partnerships are especially important for them.

DNA molecules

Western Canada

Western Canadian firms brought in 22 percent of Canada's life science revenue in 2016, totaling $4.2 billion. Every western province has its own unique capacities and specializations, defined by their particular array of research activities, flagship companies, and innovation ecosystems. Western life science clusters are active in a wide variety of fields, developing and commercializing innovative drugs, medical devices, crop varieties and agronomic technologies.

British Columbia

BC's life sciences sector earned $1.9 billion in 2015. The province is the largest exporter of medical devices in Western Canada. Its biggest life science company is Stemcell Technologies, a manufacturer of specialized cell culturing products that started in 1993 with a loan from Western Economic Diversification (WD) and now employs more than 800 people. Eighteen public life sciences companies in BC have over $1 million in annual revenues, and of those, three earn more than $200 million: Novelion Therapeutics (formerly QLT), specializing in developing vitamin A analogues to treat inherited retinal diseases; Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, which combines medical devices with pharmaceuticals to make drug-device combinations; and Medical Imaging Group, a medical imaging company.Footnote 3

BC also hosts non-profits serving the life sciences sector. The Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, at the BC Cancer Agency, is the highest-capacity gene sequencing facility in Canada, contributing to genetics research in health, agriculture, and the environment. The University of British Columbia has commercialized over 80 life sciences technologies through partnerships and licensing with corporate partners, and fostered 94 spinoff companies, including QLT.Footnote 4


Open field with yellow flowers

Alberta is home to a growing life sciences sector, specializing in medical technology, health biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. Edmonton-based Fedora Pharmaceuticals conducted the largest biotechnology licensing deal in Canadian history in 2015, when it licensed a new antibiotic to be produced by Roche and Meiji Seika Pharma. Medical devices is a key area of growth, represented by firms like Innovative Trauma Care, a WD Western Innovation (WINN) Initiative recipient that markets a surgical clamp developed for field use, and NanoSpeed Diagnostics, another WINN recipient which developed a fingerprick test for vitamin D levels.

Genome Alberta is a publicly-funded not-for-profit that conducts genomics research, including proteomics and bioinformatics. Several companies have spun off from the University of Alberta, particularly in the emerging field of metabolomics, and the university also hosts research centres focused on biorefining, human nutrition, dairy, poultry, and swine. Research at the University of Calgary has given rise to companies like Calgary Scientific, a medical-imaging company and WINN recipient, and Lubris BioPharma, which develops synthetic lubricants to treat eye disorders.


Saskatchewan has leveraged its traditional strength in agriculture into expertise in new crop development and livestock science. For example, Prairie Plant Systems is a mature biopharmaceutical and biotechnology company, and Agrisoma Biosciences develops and exports a proprietary oilseed variant for use in biofuel feedstock.

The University of Saskatchewan hosts the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, which together make medical isotopes and enable research on nuclear medicine; the Centre was funded through WD's Western Diversification Program. Also on campus are the Canadian Wheat Improvement program, which develops new wheat varieties, and the International Vaccine Centre, one of North America's largest BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories. Illustrating the way technology clusters reinforce one another, the CLS is also conducting research into agricultural applications for its isotopes, and the Vaccine Centre is the only facility in Canada with BSL-3 capability to study large-animal infectious diseases. In addition, the University of Saskatchewan has given rise to a number of innovative small businesses, such as Metabolix Oilseeds and Quantum Genetix.


Manitoba exported nearly $800 million of medicine in 2015, the most of any western province and the third-most in Canada.Footnote 5 The province's most prominent drug company is Valeant Pharmaceuticals, whose principal North American manufacturing plant is located in Steinbach. Other health companies include Novadaq, which sells innovative medical imaging products, and Kane Biotech, which develops anti-infection technologies. A significant portion of the province's life science activity takes place in the agriculture and agri-food sector, where the market has grown rapidly for advanced information systems based on geomatics and sensor networks. Farmer's Edge, for example, sells data-driven agronomy solutions to farmers; founded in Manitoba in 2005, today it employs nearly 300 people.

Winnipeg hosts the National Microbiology Laboratory, Canada's only Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) containment facility, suitable for handling the most dangerous infectious diseases. Winnipeg is also home to the Institute for Biodiagnostics, which develops non-invasive diagnostic tools like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies, and Genesys Venture, a biotechnology accelerator which has helped a number of health-related startups achieve success, like the above-mentioned Kane Biotech.

Western Economic Diversification Canada

The role of Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is to improve the long-term economic competitiveness of Western Canada by supporting programs and services that enhance innovation, business development, and community economic development. In addition, the department undertakes policy, advocacy and coordination activities in order to advance the interests of Western Canada in national economic decision-making.

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