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Digging for The Truth on Site C Dam Job Numbers

Site C jobs are often cited as a main reason to proceed with the $9 billion dam on B.C.’s Peace River. But how many jobs would Site C actually create? Are there really 2,375 people currently employed on the project, as widely reported this month?

DeSmog Canada dove into Site C jobs numbers. We found dubious claims, political spin, and far too much secrecy.

    • Number of direct construction jobs BC Hydro said Site C would create in March 1991: 2,182  [1]
    • Number of Site C direct construction jobs promised by Premier Gordon Campbell in April 2010: 7,650  [2]
    • Number of Site C direct construction jobs promised by Premier Christy Clark in December 2014: 10,000  [3]
    • Workforce at peak employment at the W.A.C. Bennett dam, B.C.’s largest dam, in the 1960s:  3,500  [4]
    • Workforce at peak employment at the Peace Canyon Dam in the 1970s: 1,100  [5]
    • Number of pages redacted from the B.C. Liberal government’s response to a 2016 Freedom of Information request asking for documents related to Site C’s job creation figures: 880  [6]
    • Time it took to receive the request: 11.5 months
    • Number of pages with redactions in BC Hydro’s 692-page response to a 2017 Freedom of Information request asking for daily worker headcounts at Site C: 692[7]
    • Date BC Hydro said it did not have daily and weekly headcounts for Site C workers on the project site or staying at the workers’ lodge: October 12, 2017  [8]
    • Number of people BC Hydro’s Site C main website page says were employed on the project in September 2017: 2,375  [9]
    • Number of Full Time Employees (FTEs) among them: unknown
    • Minimum number of days a contract worker must be employed to be included in BC Hydro’s monthly Site C jobs tally: unknown
    • Approximate number of direct construction contract workers included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 1,164  [10]
    • Approximate number of other contract workers included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 750  [11]
    • Number of engineers and project team staff, including at BC Hydro’s head office in Vancouver, included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 461  [12]
    • Number of workers laid off at the Site C construction site in August 2017: 120  [13]
    • Number of workers laid off at the Site C construction site in September 2017: approximately 200  [14]
    • Number of workers laid off over Thanksgiving weekend, 2017: approximately 60[  15]
    • Number of workers laid off in early November 2017: approximately 30  [16]
    • Mentions of the layoffs on BC Hydro’s website: 0
    • Current number of Site C workers according to Liberal MLA Mike Bernier: 2,400  [17]
    • Cost of Site C in 2010: $6.6 billion
    • Cost of Site C in 2012: $7.9 billion
    • Cost of Site C in December 2014: $8.8 billion
    • Cost of Site C in November 2017: potentially more than $10 billion  [18]
    • Date BC Hydro filed a quarterly report with the B.C. Utilities Commission saying Site C was on budget and on track to meet its 2024 completion date: September 29, 2017  [19]

  • Date the BCUC released a report saying it is not persuaded Site C will be finished on time and that the project is over-budget with completion costs that could exceed $10 billion: November 1, 2017
  • Date the B.C. government will make a final decision about Site C: before December 31, 2017


[1] B.C. Hydro and Power Authority, “Peace Site C Summary Status Report,” March 1991. Calculated from information on page 6-31.

[2] https://archive.news.gov.bc.ca/releases/news_releases_2009-2013/2010PREM0083-000436.htm

[3] https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/site-c-to-provide-more-than-100-years-of-affordable-reliable-clean-power

[4] Meg Stanley for the BC Hydro Power Pioneers. Voices from Two Rivers: Harnessing the Power of the Peace and Columbia. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2010, page 80.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The August 2016 FOI request asked for all e-mails and documents exchanged between the ministry and BC Hydro regarding Site C’s job creation figures. It also asked for all e-mails, attachments and documents exchanged between the ministry and BC Hydro regarding Site C and project planning, including Site C’s most recent budget and timeline.

[7] The FOI request asked for daily or weekly headcounts for Site C workers in 2017, as per the work site’s Emergency Response Plan, and for weekly headcounts of workers staying overnight at the Site C workers’ accommodation facility in 2017.

[8] BC Hydro’s FOI response did not contain daily or weekly headcounts for on-site workers. Nor did it contain weekly headcounts of workers staying overnight at the Site C workers’ accommodation facility in 2017. DeSmog Canada subsequently sent an email to BC Hydro asking again for that information to be released and was told that BC Hydro “does not have daily or weekly headcounts for workers on-site or at the workers’ accommodations.”

[9] Accessed November 7, 2017.

[10] https://www.sitecproject.com/sites/default/files/Site-C-Employment-Statistics-August-2017.pdf. For this calculation, direct construction jobs were considered to be the following categories: carpenters and scaffolders; cement masons, construction and environmental inspector; construction managers/supervisors, crane operators, electricians, heavy equipment operators, ironworkers, labourers, mechanics, millwrights, “others — construction trades”, pipefitters and plumbers, security guards, truck drivers, underground mining, and; welders.

[11] Ibid. Jobs included in the calculation were the following categories: biologists and laboratory; engineers; foresters; health care workers; housing staff; kitchen staff; “professional and office managers”; “professionals, technicians and office staff”; “social science,” and; surveyors.

[12] Ibid. In September 2017 BC Hydro reported 461 people employed as engineers and on BC Hydro’s Site C project team. The engineers included in this figure are in addition to the approximate 160 engineers included in BC Hydro’s job category of “construction and non-construction contractors.”

[13] Email from Amber Harding, communications manager for the Peace River Hydro Partners, August 9, 2017.

[14] https://globalnews.ca/news/3771186/200-workers-laid-off-from-site-c-dam-project-reasons-unclear/

[15] https://www.biv.com/article/2017/10/sixty-workers-laid-site-c/

[16] November 10 email from Megan Adams, Communications Manager for the Peace River Hydro Partners.

[17] Tweeted by Bernier on November 9, 2017.

[18] British Columbia Utilities Commission Inquiry Respecting Site C, “Executive Summary of the Final Report to the Government of British Columbia,” November 1, 2017.

[19] https://www.sitecproject.com/sites/default/files/quarterly-progess-report-no8-f2018-q1-april-june.pdf. See page 3.

Image: Little visible work activity in this November 5, 2017 photo of the Site C dam construction site. Photo: Supplied by Arlene Boon

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We hear it time and time again:
“These are the stories that need to be told and you are some of the only ones telling them,” John, a new member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say.

Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

But here’s the thing: just two per cent of The Narwhal’s readers step up to keep our stories free for all to read. Will you join the two per cent and become a member of The Narwhal today?

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