Red Deer and Medicine Hat are forecast to post economic growth on par with Prairie counterparts – Calgary, Regina, Edmonton and Saskatoon – Canada’s leaders, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s Mid-Sized Cities Outlook 2014 released on Friday.

“Alberta’s mid-sized cities are benefiting from strong provincial energy sector activity. Their pace of growth is similar to and in some cases above, that of the larger centres in the province,” said Alan Arcand, associate director for the Centre for Municipal Studies for the conference board.

The report said Red Deer’s economic growth averaged 5.2 per cent each year from 2010 to 2012, and rose another 4.5 per cent in 2013.

“This year, economic growth is expected to be somewhat slower, but still strong, coming in at 3.5 per cent,” said the conference board. “Red Deer’s economy will moderate further in 2015, as the primary and utilities sector and the services-producing industries continue to slow. The slower economic activity will lead to lower job growth over the next two years. Red Deer’s economy is expected to create an average of 625 jobs per year over 2014 and 2015, about half the average pace of the 2010-2013 period.”

The report said economic growth in Medicine Hat is expected to reach 2.8 per cent for the second year in a row in 2014.

“Improving activity in the city’s services sector will offset slower – but still strong – growth on the goods side of the economy,” said the conference board. “Despite the continued solid economic growth, employment is expected to fall by nearly 10 per cent this year, as the job market gives back some of the surprisingly big gains in 2013.”

The report said Lethbridge’s economy grew by 1.8 per cent in 2013, thanks to a banner year for crops.

“Output in the primary and utilities sector, which includes agriculture, surged by seven per cent last year,” it said. “While output growth in the primary and utilities sector is expected to slow this year, this will be offset by stronger growth in construction, manufacturing, and the services sector.”

Economic growth is forecast to increase by 1.3 per cent in 2014 and by a further 1.5 per cent in 2015. As a result, the economy is expected to create about 3,000 jobs over the next two years in Lethbridge, said the conference board.

The report said Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, has averaged annual economic growth of 8.4 per cent between 2010 and 2013. It did not give an economic forecast for the area.

The conference board has reported that Prairie census metropolitan areas will have the country’s fastest growing economies in 2014 Calgary (3.4 per cent), Regina (3.3 per cent), Edmonton (3.1 per cent) and Saskatoon (2.9 per cent).

Mario Toneguzzi, The Calgary Herald