Reality Check: How Many Jobs Will Northern Gateway Create?

Enbridge and their supporters in the Harper and Redford governments like to claim the Northern Gateway pipeline will create thousands of jobs for Canadians.

Those claims don’t stand up to the facts.

The real story on Northern Gateway jobs – 228 permanent jobs

The Northern Gateway pipeline will create only 228 permanent jobs.  For all the millions of dollars worth of oil sands resources flowing out of Canada, we will see just 228 jobs created, most of them in B.C.

Four reasons why Enbridge’s jobs claims don’t hold water (or oil)

1.       Enbridge’s own assessment of construction work is an average of 1,850 jobs per year for three years. Enbridge likes to claim there are 5,536 “person-years” of construction employment on the line with Northern Gateway. That sounds like a lot. But when translated into numbers ordinary people can understand, it’s an average of 1,850 actual jobs per year for just three years. Those jobs are short-lived. They’re only around for three years, and then those workers will be laid off.

2.       The steel pipe needed for the Northern Gateway pipeline won’t likely be made in Canada. Sinopec – China’s state oil company – has already said they would be happy to build the pipeline, and the pipe for Keystone XL was not built in North America. Enbridge’s claims that we’d gain thousands of jobs in steel manufacturing are shaky, at best.

3.       Enbridge likes to claim there will be 63,000 person-years of employment from the Northern Gateway project. If that sounds too good to be true, it likely is. These aren’t real, guaranteed jobs. They’re a guess based on what economists call “induced” effects estimated by trying to count spinoffs. Enbridge came up with these astounding figures, but didn’t release their math to the public.

The real story on jobs – layoffs and closures at Canadian refineries a virtual certainty

The only way the Northern Gateway pipeline makes economic sense for its foreign-owned backers is if the price of bitumen goes up by quite a bit. And this would make refining oil in Canada much more expensive. In fact, Enbridge predicts we will refine less oil in 2018 than we do now. Most of that reduction will be in Western Canada. Refineries will close, and people will lose good-paying, long-term jobs.

A single refinery can employs 2,000 people for a period of 30-40 years. In other words, we could have more employment, for much longer, with real economic benefits, if we refine our oil sands resources in Canada.

An independent assessment of the number of jobs Canada could have – if we upgraded and refined all the bitumen products going down the Northern Gateway pipeline – puts the total amount of employment at 26,000 good jobs going to China.

Enbridge wants Canadians to trade 26,000 good, long-term jobs, along with all the taxes and other spinoffs that come with upgraders and refineries, for 228 permanent pipeline jobs. It’s not a fair trade.

About the AFL Northern Gateway reality check series

 The Alberta Federation of Labour is a full intervener in the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings.

The debate around the Northern Gateway pipeline is heated, and we hear governments and industry saying all kinds of things to justify locking Canada in to being a raw resource producer, but never move up the value chain with our natural resource wealth.

“The Northern Gateway pipeline hollows out our value-added industries, imposes higher oil prices on consumers, and rewrites the rules of Canada’s oil industry. Gateway will reduce the amount of oil refined in Canada and ship thousands of jobs to China.”

- Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour.

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