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Newfoundland leads major project investment in Atlantic Canada: think-tank

HALIFAX – A think-tank says Newfoundland and Labrador leads the pack in major project investment in Atlantic Canada as the estimated value of energy and mining developments continues to rise.

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council has released its annual inventory of major projects in various stages of development in the region.

It says the 388 projects in Atlantic Canada account for a record $115 billion worth of investment, an increase of 15 per cent over 2012.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, investment in major projects is up 12 per cent over the previous year, with 113 developments totalling $54 billion.

Nova Scotia trails behind in investment with 156 projects worth $40 billion, an increase of 23 per cent over last year mostly due to a proposed $5-billion liquefied natural gas export facility at Goldboro.

The council says the potential for a west-east oil pipeline in New Brunswick and new housing projects in P.E.I. have also contributed to the increase.

It says current-year spending on major projects in Atlantic Canada has grown by five per cent to a record $14.3 billion.

“It’s catching national attention,” Patrick Brannon, the council’s major projects director, said in an interview. “Certainly people are looking now to Atlantic Canada for opportunities.”

Regional companies are looking outside their provinces for investments while international interest continues to build, he said.

“There’s a growing investment from foreign companies in Atlantic Canada. They see the opportunities of our commodities and our resources as a future growth area for them, and they’re focusing their funding in this region now.”

One potential cloud on the horizon is economic uncertainty in Europe and China and its effect on global demand for commodities, Brannon said.

“Certainly there’s a lot of volatility around mining and commodity prices,” he said. “So several of the projects planned for Labrador are still moving forward and still progressing but if prices were to drop off significantly, that could have an impact.”

Newfoundland dominates investment growth, up by 10 per cent this year to $9.4 billion because of an increase in spending on the Hebron offshore oilfield and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity development in Labrador.

The cost of developing Hebron has risen to $14 billion from $8.3 billion, Brannon said, and is expected to draw first oil in 2017.

Both Nova Scotia and P.E.I. recorded investment increases of 10 per cent to $3 billion and $287 million, respectively. Spending is down 22 per cent to $1.6 billion in New Brunswick, mostly because of shrinking investment in highway construction and the Sussex potash project.