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When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, he said it â€œwill create 15,000 new, middle class jobs â€“ the majority of them in the trades.â€
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr repeatedly points to this figure to justify the federal governmentâ€™s approval. He says, â€œthe project is expected to create 15,000 new jobs during construction.â€
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley also relies on it: â€œInitially weâ€™re looking at about 15,000 jobs. â€¦â€ Former B.C. premier Christy Clark said, â€œAnd then thereâ€™s Kinder Morgan, 15,000 new jobs. â€¦â€
When the figure of 15,000 for new construction jobs emerged, I was confused. Kinder Morgan told the National Energy Board (NEB) that construction employment for the project would average 2,500 workers a year, for two years. It was laid out in detail in Volume 5B of the proponentâ€™s application.
Why would elected officials promote a construction jobs figure six times Kinder Morganâ€™s actual number?
I asked the prime ministerâ€™s staff to explain how the figure their boss relies on was developed. They didnâ€™t. I even wrote the prime minister directly. I received no reply. Natural Resources Canada said, â€œThe numbers are from the proponentâ€ and â€œbelievedâ€ they were based on Conference Board of Canada estimates, while Notleyâ€™s office said it came from the industry and directed me to Trans Mountainâ€™s website.
There it was: â€œDuring construction, the anticipated workforce will reach the equivalent of 15,000 jobs per year.â€ Kinder Morgan provided no insight on how that figure was derived. I inquired directly and was told, â€œthe figures come from two Conference Board of Canada reports.â€Â Links to those reports were provided.
I read both reports. Neither included reference to 15,000 construction jobs. What they did provide was a figure of 58,037 person years of project development employment, over seven years beginning in 2012.
I knew the 58,037 figure to be the same as that provided in a Conference Board of Canada report authored in 2013 and filed by Kinder Morgan as part of the discredited National Energy Board hearing. The conference board based its estimate on an input-output model that â€“ because of its many design flaws â€“ delivers highly exaggerated results.
I was still at a loss as to how the 15,000 construction workforce figure was derived. I wrote Kinder Morgan again. The company responded: â€œperson years of employment during Project development is 58,037. This figure has been divided by three years and 10 months resulting in an equivalent of 15,000 jobs.â€ I asked Kinder Morgan why almost four years was chosen as the time horizon for construction when the project will take two. This is when the company stopped answering my questions on construction employment.
The conference board didnâ€™t estimate construction jobs, Kinder Morgan did. Kinder Morgan divided 48 months into the board project development figure, then multiplied it by 12 months to arrive at 15,000 jobs a year. Inappropriately, the figure was renamed as construction workforce.
Thatâ€™s an unbelievable misuse of input-output model results and a deceptive relabelling.
Even if the conference boardâ€™s figure of 58,037 person years of development employment was reliable â€“ which itâ€™s not â€“ that number canâ€™t arbitrarily be divided by 48 months of a longer project timetable and then the result annualized so the proponent can claim there will be 15,000 construction jobs.
Kinder Morgan had no business altering the time horizon or renaming the nature of the employment to characterize it as something itâ€™s not. The companyâ€™s 15,000 construction workforce figure is meaningless.
The absurdity of Kinder Morganâ€™s 15,000 construction jobs claim is readily illustrated. The company says its schedule will begin in September 2017 with completion slated for December 2019 â€“ 28 months. Using Kinder Morganâ€™s formula and the conference board figure it abusedÂ (58,037 divided by 28, times 12), Trans Mountainâ€™s construction workforce catapults from 15,000 a year to 25,000 a year â€“ a figureÂ larger than the entire heavy and civil engineering construction workforce in B.C. Thatâ€™s how outrageous Kinder Morganâ€™s logic is.
Why would Kinder Morgan pay the Conference Board of Canada for an employment estimate derived from an expensive modelling approach and inappropriately turn it into a construction workforce estimate when it has its own more reliable one of an average of 2,500 workers over two years?
Trans Mountainâ€™s 15,000 construction jobs are a scam. The more realistic figure is less than 20 per cent that size. Itâ€™s a betrayal of the public trust that Trudeau, Carr and Notley so eagerly got behind Kinder Morganâ€™s manipulated jobs figure without checking to make sure it made any sense.
Robyn Allan is an independent economist and was a qualified expert intervenor at the Trans Mountain Expansion Project review.
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