Halifax Index 2022

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BUSINESS CONFIDENCE HITS RECORD HIGH

Even through the pandemic, businesses continue to express their confidence in Halifax as a place to do business. The Business Confidence Index (BCI) reached a record high in 2020 just before the pandemic began. It topped that record in spring 2021 and continued to improve in 2022.

The Halifax Gateway saw a big improvement in 2021 over 2020, with Halifax Port Authority cargo throughput hitting 595,751 20-foot equivalent containers (TEUs) – a new record. Unfortunately, cruise ships and passengers remained at 0 until April 2022 when the first cruise ship arrived since the pandemic began.

Total overnight room stays grew by 30.5% in 2021, a significant recovery from 2020 but well below the record set in 2019.

Another record for 2021 was the $307.5 million raised in equity investment across Halifax startups. Further positive news comes in the growing levels of capital investment anticipated for Nova Scotia in 2021 and 2022, but this is countered by the province’s low ranking in productivity measures like capital investment per capita and dollar of output per hour worked.

Also, it is worth noting that there are rising municipal and provincial debt levels.

Halifax Index 2022
Economic Growth

Halifax’s real GDP increased by 6.0% in 2021 to $21.9 billion. This was the seventh-largest economic recovery across all 41 Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs)1and the second largest across benchmark cities. The Conference Board of Canada expects Halifax’s GDP to grow by 2.6% in 2022 and then at an average annual rate of 1.6% from 2023 to 2026. Growth and recovery were propelled by Halifax’s success in managing the pandemic in 2021. This put a spotlight on the city and helped attract businesses and people from across the country and around the world.

Halifax’s 15.2% growth in retail sales was also an important factor in the city's recovery. This growth was the third largest across the major cities covered by The Conference Board and an example of how pent-up demand from 2020 fuelled increased economic activity in 2021. However, the exceptional growth of 2021 will give way to an estimated 1.8% drop in retail sales in 2022. Growth in this sector is forecasted to hit 1.8% in 2023 and then rise to 3.0% each year through to 2026 .

The total number of active businesses2increased year over year across all benchmark cities. Halifax saw the second-smallest increase in 2021 but also had the smallest decline in 2020. The number of active businesses in Halifax was 2.3% above the pre-pandemic high as of December 2021.

With the onset of the pandemic, consumer confidence in Halifax, as measured by Narrative Research’s Consumer Confidence Index, plunged in the first three quarters of 2020 to a low of 83.6 in Q3 2020. Gradual recovery occurred until Q3 of 2021, with the Index bouncing back to a value of 94.6. Since that time, Halifax experienced the arrival of the Omicron variant and the reinstatement of many public health restrictions. Furthermore, inflation has accelerated rapidly, and geopolitical tensions have risen sharply with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a result, consumer confidence dropped again, ending 2021 at 87.9 and then hitting an all-time low of 81.5 in Q1 2022.

Source: Conference Board of Canada, Major City Insights (Winter 2022)

Real GDP and Annual Growth Rate

  • After a 2.1% decline in 2020, Halifax’s GDP grew 6.0% in 2021. This was the second-highest growth rate across all benchmark cities behind only Victoria’s 6.1%.
  • Halifax’s real GDP of $21.9 billion was the third highest across benchmark cities behind Quebec City ($39.7 billion) and KCW ($32.1 billion).
  • The Conference Board of Canada forecasts GDP growth for Halifax of 2.6% in 2022 followed by annual growth in the 1.6% to 1.7% range for each year from 2023 through 2026.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: REAL-GDP.XLSX

Source: Conference Board of Canada, Major City Insights (Winter 2022)

Retail Sales and Annual Growth Rate

  • After a decline of 4.7% in 2020, retail sales bounced back with a growth of 15.2% in 2021. This was not only the highest growth rate across benchmark cities but also the third highest across 24 major cities.
  • The $9.0 billion in retail sales recorded in Halifax was the second highest in value across benchmark cities behind only Quebec City ($16.8 billion).
  • Following an exceptional increase in 2021, Halifax is expected to see a decline in retail sales of 1.8% in 2022 before returning to positive growth in 2023 and beyond.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: SALES-BY-CITY.XLSX

Source: Statistics Canada, Retail Trade Survey, Table 20-10-0008-01

Retail Sales By Category

  • Halifax accounted for 48.3% of Nova Scotia’s retail sales in 2021, 0.5 percentage points lower than 2020.
  • All categories saw increases in retail sales between 2020 and 2021, but those that saw the largest growth in dollar values were gasoline stations (+33.6%), motor vehicle and parts dealers (+25.0%), and miscellaneous store retailers (+21.4%).
  • Since 2010, only clothing and clothing accessories stores have seen a decline in retail sales value (-1.8%).

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: RETAIL-SALES.XLSX

Source Statistics Canada, Longitudinal Employment Analysis Program, Table 33-10-0270-01

Average Annual Active Businesses

  • After a decline in 2020 (-0.6%), the number of active businesses increased by 2.9% (+279 active businesses) in 2021. Halifax’s decline in 2020 was the lowest across benchmark cities, and its recovery in 2021 was the second lowest.
  • St. John’s experienced the largest decline in 2020 (-4.7%) and has not been able to reach its pre-pandemic number of active businesses.
  • Halifax was fourth on the list with 9,993 active businesses in December 2021. Quebec City had the most with 19,030 and St. John’s the fewest with 5,623.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: ACTIVE-BUSINESSES.XLSX

The Consumer Confidence Index is a composite of 5 questions on household economic well-being and expectations around the economy.

Source: Narrative Research, Consumer Confidence Index (Various)

Consumer Confidence Index

  • After consumer confidence plummeted at the start of the pandemic to a low of 83.6 in Q3 2020, it regained ground in 2021. The Q4 2021 confidence level was 94.6, the highest since the pandemic began.
  • Since Q4 2021, with discoveries of new variants and subsequent public health restrictions, consumer confidence dropped again. The latest value, Q1 2022, is at an all-time low of 81.5.
  • Concerns related to factors such as supply chain issues and shortages, accelerating inflation and interest rate hikes, and international conflicts, as well as continued anxiety about the pandemic, may erode consumer confidence further. However, lifting the state of emergency in Nova Scotia and the removal of most public health restrictions may boost business activity and consumer confidence in turn.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: CONSUMER-CONFIDENCE.XLSX

Halifax Index 2022
Business Confidence

Halifax Partnership's Business Confidence Survey, carried out by Narrative Research, gathers views on Halifax’s economy from business owners. The Business Confidence Index (BCI) is calculated on a scale of -100 to +100 and is based on 5 questions that cover the past, current, and future performance of Halifax’s economy.

Halifax’s spring 2022 BCI stands at 42.0, which is a new record high. Despite the pandemic, successive record highs for the BCI were reached in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Meanwhile, the share of respondents rating Halifax as an above-average place to do business also remained in record territory with 2022’s 39.4% keeping pace with the 39.5% recorded in 2021.

Halifax’s workplace safety culture received the highest net advantage score3at +70.4%. Quality of life for residents (+68.4%) came second followed by connections to universities and colleges (+66.6%). On the other end of the scale, energy costs received a net disadvantage score4of -44.3% followed by cost of living for residents (-43.1%) and the tax environment (-38.2%).

RATINGS OF BUSINESS CONFIDENCE
Index (-100 to +100) and Share of Business-Owner Respondents, Halifax, 2013 to 2022

Year

BCI

Rating Halifax as a Place to Do Business

Above Average

Just Average

Below Average

Don’t Know/No Answer

Spring 2013

24.6

19.0%

59.0%

18.0%

4.0%

Spring 2014

20.2

14.0%

66.0%

17.0%

4.0%

Spring 2015

21.1

15.0%

61.0%

19.9%

4.1%

Spring 2016

28.1

25.7%

55.3%

13.9%

5.2%

Spring 2017

29.1

23.1%

60.2%

12.3%

4.4%

Spring 2018

32.9

27.0%

57.3%

12.4%

3.3%

Spring 2019

32.8

26.3%

60.8%

9.7%

3.2%

Spring 2020

34.9

31.5%

55.0%

9.8%

3.7%

Spring 2021

37.5

39.5%

52.3%

6.5%

1.6%

Spring 2022

42.0

39.4%

50.2%

6.6%

3.7%


Source: Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (Various)

Business Confidence

  • Despite the pandemic, the BCI has grown over the last three years to a score of 42.0 as of spring 2022. This is the highest BCI score Halifax has seen.
  • The share of survey respondents rating Halifax as an above-average place to do business was 39.4% in 2022, which is statistically indistinguishable from the record 39.5% recorded in 2021.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: BUSINESS-CONFIDENCE.XLSX

Survey Question: Would you say the following aspects of Halifax present a [listed responses] for your business?

Source: Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (Various)

Ratings of Factors Affecting Businesses

  • Workplace safety culture had the highest net advantage score3(+70.4%) in 2022, the first time an attribute other than quality of life (second in 2022 at +68.4%) has taken top spot. However, quality of life is still the attribute considered a major advantage by the largest share of businesses (33.7%).
  • Although energy costs (-44.3%) received the worst net disadvantage score followed by cost of living for residents (-43.1%), the latter was considered a major disadvantage by the highest share of respondents at 29.5%. This was followed by cost of real estate or office rent at 27.0%.
  • Availability of labour has a net disadvantage4(-15.8%), but both cost of labour and quality of labour are considered net advantages at +3.8% and +22.3%, respectively.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: KEY-FACTORS.XLSX

Halifax Index 2022
Halifax Gateway

The Halifax Gateway includes the Port of Halifax, Halifax Stanfield International Airport, the Halifax Logistics Park, the Port of Sheet Harbour, and CN’s transportation infrastructure, all of which, as expected, saw massive declines in traffic in 2020.

However, there were strong rebounds in multiple aspects of the Gateway in 2021, including 17.0% growth in the number of 20-foot equivalent containers (TEUs) shipped through the HPA.5The 595,751 units shipped were the most on record.

Port-wide cargo throughput also increased by 8.3%, above the pre-pandemic level. 2021 saw air cargo and air passengers grow by 5.4% and 8.1%, respectively, but still well below 2019 levels.

Although the number of air passengers increased, plane movement at Halifax Airport fell by 5.7% in 2021. Most of the suspended routes are, however, expected to resume in 2022, including flights to and from various locations in the U.S. and Europe.

Two Gateway statistics that saw no change were cruise ships and passengers, both remaining at 0 for the second straight year. This will change in 2022 as the federal ban on cruise travel ended in November 2021. The Port of Halifax has scheduled 152 ships to call in 2022. The first ships are scheduled to arrive in April and will have an estimated 4,819 passengers onboard.

HALIFAX GATEWAY ACTIVITIES
Units Indicated in Table, Halifax, 2015 to 2021

Year

Air Passengers (En/Deplaned)

Cruise Passengers

Plane Movements

Cruise Ships

Port Cargo (Metric Tonnes)

HPA Port Cargo (TEUs)

Air Cargo (Metric Tonnes)

2015

3,702,705

222,309

78,295

141

7,569,286

418,359

32,000

2016

3,908,799

238,217

80,332

136

8,272,345

480,722

33,329

2017

4,083,188

292,722

78,972

173

8,902,348

559,242

34,051

2018

4,316,079

316,869

78,264

198

8,990,289

547,445

36,938

2019

4,188,443

323,709

74,708

179

8,622,250

546,691

41,129

2020

995,426

0

31,057

0

8,273,457

507,185

32,984

2021

1,076,458029,30108,962,430595,75134,769

Source: Various including Statistics Canada, Port of Halifax, Halifax Stanfield International Airport

Halifax Gateway

  • Containers shipped through the HPA bounced back in 2021 growing 17.0% over 2020 and totaling 595,751 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the highest on record.
  • Port-wide cargo also increased 8.3% to 8,962,430 metric tonnes, 3.9% above pre-pandemic levels.
  • After a drop of 76.2% in 2020, air passengers increased 8.1% in 2021 for an annual total of 1,076,458 passengers. This is, however, only a quarter of the air passengers seen in 2019.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: HALIFAX-GATEWAY.XLSX

Halifax Index 2022
Tourism

After a big decline in 2020, overnight hotel stays in Halifax picked up steam in 2021. Total overnight stays grew by 266,703 room nights (+30.5%) but were still unable to reach the record high seen in 2019. Overnight stays at traditional hotels grew by 42.5%, but room share stays fell 1.7%.

Hotel room supply grew by 187 in 2021, an increase of 3.0%. This brings the total hotel room supply in the city to 6,336. With plans for more hotels to be developed in 2022 – like The Moxy Halifax scheduled for Q4 2022 – supply growth is expected to remain strong.

Halifax’s tourism industry is showing signs of recovery, but still has not fully reached pre-pandemic levels. However, with the ending of the state of emergency and the lifting of public health restrictions, Halifax may be poised for solid tourism growth in 2022.

The total number of businesses in Nova Scotia’s tourism industry is already at its highest level ever, including a record number of active businesses in accommodation as well as food and beverages services, at 278 and 1,238, respectively. 14,700 of the 27,440 people employed in the accommodation and food services industry across Nova Scotia are employed in Halifax.

Source: Discover Halifax, Year-End Key Performance Indicators

Overnight Stays in Hotels and Room Shares

  • After declining 53.4% in 2020, total overnight stays in Halifax grew by 30.5% in 2021 to 1,142,289 room nights. This is, however, still only 60.8% of the level reached in 2019.
  • Room nights at traditional hotels grew by 42.5% in 2021, but nights at room shares declined by 1.7%. Of the total room stays in 2021, close to 80% were at traditional hotels.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: OVERNIGHT-STAYS.XLSX

Source: Discover Halifax, Year-End Key Performance Indicators

Hotel Room Supply

  • Hotel room supply increased by 187 rooms (+3.0%) in 2021. 109 of these rooms were in the Muir Hotel, which opened in December 2021.
  • Room supply is expected to grow again in 2022, with plans for the 160-room Moxy Hotel to be opened in Q4.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: HOTEL-SUPPLY.XLSX

Source: Statistics Canada, Longitudinal Employment Analysis Program, Table 33-10-0270-01

Tourism Industry Business Counts

  • After falling in May 2020 to 1,438, the number of active businesses in Nova Scotia’s tourism industry rebounded by 37.8% to 1,981 by December 2021.
  • Businesses in food and beverages services made up the bulk of the sector, representing 62.5% of the total, followed by recreation and entertainment at 16.3% and accommodation at 14.0%. Businesses in tourism transportation like car, plane, and rail services made up 5.7% of the sector; the smallest share was accounted for by travel agencies/organizers (1.5%).

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: TOURISM-BUSINESSES.XLSX

Halifax Index 2022
Productivity

A growing population and labour force is critical to maintaining economic growth. In a future marked by demographic changes and tightening labour markets, increasing productivity may be an even more important ingredient in driving economic expansion and improving living standards. Productivity can be increased by improving the skills of workers through education and training, by innovating what is produced and how it is produced, and by investing in equipment and technologies used in production processes.

Businesses in Halifax seem more optimistic about the economy than they ever have been, with 91.0% of businesses moderately or extremely optimistic about current economic prospects, 71.5% saying economic conditions are better now than 5 years ago, and 88.8% moderately or extremely optimistic about economic conditions over the next 5 years.

In 2022, 88.0% of businesses expect to increase sales, and 73.2% intend to hire additional staff, the highest values ever recorded. Intentions to engage in a variety of productivity-enhancing activities, such as investing in new equipment and introducing new products, softened during the pandemic but remain above longer-term averages.

As Halifax-level data were not available, provincial productivity figures were used in this analysis. Strong growth in capital expenditures in 2021 and 2022 were a welcome sign, but Nova Scotia’s relative performance is worrying. Nova Scotia ranked dead last among provinces in 2021 for per capita capital expenditures and second to last in 2019 in output per labour hour.

INTENDED BUSINESS ACTIVITIES OVER THE NEXT YEAR
Share of Business-Owner Respondents, Halifax, 2015 to 2022
Business Activity
20152016201720182019202020212022
Increases sales72.4%80.2%82.4%85.6%85.2%86.3%79.1%88.0%
Hire additional staff51.5%59.3%60.4%66.9%67.5%65.4%59.0%73.2%
Increase employee training-----71.6%62.0%66.0%
Introduce a new product or service47.0%48.5%51.0%54.4%55.8%61.9%50.7%58.0%
Make a major investment in facilities or equipment*32.8%28.9%34.8%46.7%44.8%48.0%47.0%42.8%
Diversify supply chain-------41.1%
Enter a new market outside Atlantic Canada31.3%24.1%27.6%29.0%28.3%29.4%25.1%24.2%
Make a major investment in R&D*12.3%13.6%11.0%22.7%21.3%22.7%21.0%21.6%
Utilize cutting-edge technology**----24.4%28.2%24.2%21.2%
Downsize or reduce staff11.1%9.7%7.4%8.0%6.6%8.8%7.6%9.1%

*An investment greater than 2% of annual revenues.
**Examples provided to respondent: artificial intelligence, big data, 3d printing, and smart sensors.

Source: Narrative Research, Business Confidence Survey (Various)

Business Intentions

  • 88.0% of business owners expect to increase sales in 2022 and 73.2% intend to hire additional staff. These 2 record-high figures suggest that Halifax businesses are poised for growth coming out of the pandemic.
  • Intentions around innovative and productivity-enhancing activities, such as introducing new products and services, investing in facilities and equipment, entering new markets, and ramping up R&D, are down from pre-pandemic highs but generally remain above the longer-term average.
  • While the share of businesses expecting to downsize or reduce staff has risen to 9.1%, the net figure of businesses expecting to add staff minus businesses expecting to reduce staff has never been greater than the 64.1 figure recorded this year.
  • Over 40% of respondents said they intended to work on diversifying their supply chains. (This was the first year this question was asked.)

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: BUSINESS-INTENTIONS.XLSX

*Data for 2021 and 2022 capital expenditures are preliminary actuals and intentions, respectively. These data do not include the repairs expenditures.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Capital and Repair Expenditures Survey, Table 34-10-0035-01

Capital and Repair Expenditures

  • New capital expenditures in Nova Scotia (Halifax-level data are not available) were trending upward for several years but fell as COVID-19 arrived in 2020. Solid growth has resumed, however, in 2021 and 2022.
  • Repair expenditures have followed a similar pattern with steady increases from 2013 through 2019 before backsliding somewhat as the pandemic hit in 2020. Repair-expenditure data for 2021 and 2022 are not yet available.
  • The highest levels of new capital investment in 2021 occurred in public administration (23.4%) followed by utilities (13.2%).

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: CAPITAL-SPEND.XLSX

*Capital expenditures are calculated using preliminary data for 2021.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Capital and Repair Expenditures Survey, Table 34-10-0035-01 and Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

Capital Expenditures per Capita

  • Capital investment per capita in Nova Scotia was the lowest across all provinces in 2021. Nova Scotia’s $4,374 per capita was less than 90% of the figure for ninth-ranked New Brunswick and just over 60% of the national figure.
  • Per capita figures have declined 5.2% in Nova Scotia since 2011, although in 2021 there was an increase of 10.9% over 2020.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: SPEND-PER-CAPITA.XLSX

*Data for 2021 and 2022 capital expenditures are preliminary actuals and intentions, respectively.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Capital and Repair Expenditures Survey, Table 34-10-0035-01

Capital Expenditures by Type

  • Prior to 2008, capital expenditures on machinery and equipment outweighed spending on construction. However, since then, spending on construction has been higher.
  • In 2021, spending on construction increased by 21.6% (+$485.9 million) over 2020 while spending on machinery and equipment decreased by 1.1% (-$17.8 million).
  • Capital spending intentions for 2022, if met, will set a new record high for construction at $3.1 billion.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: SPEND-BY-TYPE.XLSX

Source: Statistics Canada, Productivity Measures, Table 36-10-0480-01

Labour Productivity by Province

  • Nova Scotia posted the third-lowest productivity level across all provinces in 2020 as measured by the dollar value of output per labour hour.
  • Nova Scotia’s figure was a little over three-quarters of the national average.
  • On a more positive note, compared to other provinces, Nova Scotia’s productivity growth (+8.7%) in 2020 was the third highest, behind Newfoundland and Labrador (+10.5%) and British Columbia (+9.6%).

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: PRODUCTIVITY.XLSX

Halifax Index 2022
Startups

Halifax’s burgeoning startup community experienced a strong flow of direct investment and higher revenues in 2021, which financed a hiring binge by scaleups and larger companies. However, the increasing cost of tech talent and complications presented by the pandemic have created problems felt most acutely by early-stage companies.

The metric that really shows the strength of the city’s science-driven enterprises is the record $307.5 million they raised in equity investment in 2021, more than doubling the $121.7 million raised the year before. Though one company accounted for two-thirds of the funding in 2021, it is important to highlight that 21 companies raised more than $1 million each. The overall metrics showed robust growth: venture capital investment in Halifax companies hit a record $84.5 million while the city’s startups increased staffing by about 34% to more than 3,600 employees. Revenues increased 42% (suppressed somewhat by slower growth by maturing companies.)

Fewer companies were launched in Halifax in 2021 than in any of the previous 5 years. With 34 new companies and a similar number of failures this year, the number of startups in total was unchanged at 290. (Some older companies moved to Halifax or emerged from “stealth mode” during 2021.) The lack of growth in companies was caused partly by COVID, which closed university campuses for the 2020-21 academic year.

This year, Entrevestor produced diversity metrics for the Atlantic Canadian startup community. In Halifax, immigrants are founders, co-founders, or CEOs of 24% of startups. Women-led companies account for one-fifth of the startups, an improvement over previous years. Entrevestor found groups that remain under-represented in forming innovation-driven startups. Companies with Black founders/CEOs comprised 1.7% of the total, 0.7% of the companies had Indigenous leadership, and 0.7% had 2SLGBTQ+ leadership.

Halifax Innovation Sector Highlights
Units Indicated in Table, Halifax, 2021
Number of Startups
(Enterprises)
New Companies
(Enterprises)
Revenue Growth
(% Change)
Total Funding
($ Millions)
Stock Market Funding
($ Millions)
290
34
42.0%
$307.5M
$198.1M


Source: Entrevestor, Custom Request

Innovation Highlights

  • Halifax had a total of 290 startups operating in 2021 with a combined annual revenue growth of 42.0%. 34 of these startups were launched in 2021.
  • Halifax startups generated total funding of $307.5 million, of which $198.1 million was raised through the stock market.

Source: Entrevestor, Custom Request

Employment At Startups

  • Halifax startups employed a total of 3,651 people in 2020, up 155.9% since 2016.
  • Employment growth from the startup sector is accelerating, growing by 26% in 2021, up from 18% growth in 2020.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: STARTUP-EMPLOYMENT.XLSX

Source: Entrevestor, Custom Request

New Startup Companies

  • 34 new companies started operations in 2021, down from 40 in 2020 and from a high of 62 in 2019. Stricter gathering restrictions and public health mandates in 2021 limited collaboration and influenced the number of new startups.
  • The number of new startups was the lowest since recordkeeping began in 2017.
  • Although the number of new startups declined, the total number of startups in Halifax remained constant at 290.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: NEW-STARTUPS.XLSX

Source: Entrevestor, Custom Request

Annual Equity Funding Levels

  • A record $308 million was raised in funding by Halifax startups in 2021, an increase of 152.5% from what was raised in 2020.
  • Halifax-based META (formerly Metamaterial Inc.) alone raised $198 million on the stock market.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: FUNDING.XLSX

*An enterprise was included if it had one or more of its leadership team (e.g. Founder, Co-Founder, CEO) who identified as a member of these group(s).

Source: Entrevestor, Custom Request

Leadership Diversity at Halifax Startups

  • 24.1% of Halifax startups have immigrant CEOs/founders/co-founders, and 20.0% were women-led companies, both increasing over previous years.
  • 1.7% of companies had Black leaders, while companies with Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ leaders each represented 0.7% of the total.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: DIVERSITY.XLSX

Halifax Index 2022
Government

As a provincial capital, a federal regional centre, and home to a major military base, the public sector is one of the largest employers in Halifax and a major driver of the economy. The role of government expanded over the past 2 years as health-care spending jumped and programs were introduced to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic on businesses and individuals.

Although debt levels increased, Nova Scotia currently has the third lowest net debt per capita across all provinces. According to the 2022-23 Nova Scotia budget, the net debt of the province is expected to be $16.8 billion for 2021-22 and increase to $18.4 billion by 2022-23. The 2021-22 figure equates to $16,756 per capita and 33.5% of GDP. The net-debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to rise to 40.0% by 2025-26.

The largest share of municipal spending in 2022-23 is budgeted for corporate services (fiscal) with an increase of 29.1%. This category incudes the maintenance and operation of municipal facilities and capital investments. Expenses budgeted for environmental and climate change items total $3.92 million, a 75.0% increase over the previous year. Across departments, the only reduction in municipal spending is budgeted for Library Services (-0.3%).

Overall, the municipal spending budget increased 9.8% over 2021-22 to $1,105.9 million. Municipal revenue in 2021-22 was driven by property taxes (excluding deed-transfer taxes) of close to $830 million, followed by “other revenues,” which include transfers from other governments, generating about $141 million. The introduction of the climate action tax led to the biggest annual increase in property taxes in recent years.

The largest percentage increase across revenue sources for the year came from deed-transfer taxes (+29.2%) while the largest decline was seen for “other revenue” due to the wrapping up of pandemic-related transfers from the federal and provincial governments. Revenue through payments in lieu of taxes and tax agreements also declined. Following an increase of 4.6% in the previous fiscal year, total municipal revenue increased by only 0.7% in 2021-22, However, it is forecast to increase by 6.0% in 2022-23.

(f): Forecast data

Source: Province of Nova Scotia, Provincial Budget (Various)

Provincial Net Debt-to-GDP Ratio

  • The net-debt-to-GDP ratio for Nova Scotia in 2021-22 was 33.5%, a decline of 1.5 percentage points over 2020-21.
  • Nova Scotia had a steadily declining net-debt-to-GDP ratio from 2013-14 until 2020-21 when shutdowns caused the province’s GDP to contract and provincial spending jumped to respond to the pandemic.
  • Consistent increases in the net-debt-to-GDP ratio are forecasted for the next four years, rising to 40.0% by 2025-26. This would be the highest level since 2003-04 (41.4%).

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: DEBT-TO-GDP.XLSX

Source: RBC Economics, Canadian and Provincial Fiscal Tables

Provincial Net Debt Comparisons

  • According to 2021-22 provincial budgets, Nova Scotia had the third lowest net debt per capita ($16,756) across all provinces, just above Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
  • In terms of net-debt-to-GDP ratio, Nova Scotia was in the middle of the pack at 33.5%. British Columbia had the lowest ratio at 17.8%; the highest was in Newfoundland and Labrador at 42.8%.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: DEBT-PER-CAPITA.XLSX

(f): Forecast data

Source: Halifax Regional Municipality, Financial Policy and Planning

Municipal Revenue by Source

  • After a 4.6% increase in 2020-21, municipal revenue is expected to increase again in 2021-22 by 0.7% (+$7.1 million) followed by another increase of 6.0% (+$63.1 million) in 2022-23.
  • Property taxes (excluding deed-transfer taxes) remain by far the largest source of revenue for the municipality (73.3% in 2020-21). Property tax is expected to contribute an extra $26.1 million to HRM’s total revenue in 2021-22.
  • Beginning in 2022-23, property tax revenue will include the new climate action tax that will fund projects such as electric buses, public electric vehicle chargers, and retrofitting municipal buildings as well as taking action to improve resiliency against the impact of climate change. This new tax will contribute to property tax revenues increasing substantially (+5.5%) between 2021-22 and 2022-23.
  • Funds from “other revenues,” which include such items as transfers from other governments and interest revenue, are expected to make up 12.4% of total revenue. This category is expected to experience a decline of 3.5 percentage points (-$35.1 million).
  • Revenue from deed-transfer taxes is expected to increase 29.2% (+$17.4 million) in 2021-22, making up 7.4% of total revenue, its highest share ever.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: MUNICIPAL-REVENUE.XLSX

(f): Forecast data

Source: Halifax Regional Municipality, Financial Policy and Planning

Tax-Supported Municipal Debt

  • After increasing to $241.2 million in 2021-22, tax-supported municipal debt is expected to increase again in 2022-23, growing 2.0% to $246.0 million.
  • The increases in municipal debt in 2021-22 and 2022-23 follow 6 consecutive years of decreases.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: MUNICIPAL-DEBT.XLSX

Budget data reflect a forecast for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Source: Halifax Regional Municipality, Financial Policy and Planning

Municipal Spending by Department

  • Total municipal spending in 2022-23 is expected to be $1,105.9 million, an increase of 9.8% (+$99.1 million) over 2021-22.
  • The ranking of spending by department remains unchanged from 2021-22, with Corporate Services (Fiscal) having the highest expected spending ($229.8 million). Corporate Services also has the largest increase over 2021-22 at 28.1%, which includes all expenses incurred for climate action plans, corporate real estate, and facility design and construction, along with their maintenance and operations.
  • Across all departments, only Library Services (-0.3%) is expected to see a decline in spending.

DOWNLOAD THE DATA: MUNICIPAL-SPENDING.XLSX

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