Site-C-Dam.jpg

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

New title

You’ve read all the way to the bottom of this article. That makes you some serious Narwhal material.

And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).

As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired five journalists over the past year.

Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 3,500 members

The truth is we wouldn’t be here without you. Every single one of you who reads and shares our articles is a crucial part of building a new model for Canadian journalism that puts people before profit.

We know that these days the world’s problems can feel a *touch* overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t make any difference, but becoming a member of The Narwhal is one small way you truly can make a difference.

If you believe news organizations should report to their readers, not advertisers or shareholders, please become a monthly member of The Narwhal today for any amount you can afford.

In search of Haida Gwaii’s forest-dwelling hawk, one of the most endangered species on the planet

A dense fog rolls in from the ocean on a cool, wet summer morning in Gaw Old Masset, a small village at the north end...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Help power our ad-free, non‑profit journalism
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!

People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism