READERS WRITE: Dodgy numbers from Enbridge advertising

A reader shares her thoughts about the claims of employment from the Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

Dear Sir,

Employment and economic benefits seem to be prominent selling points for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines project, at least as far as the proponent is concerned.  The benefit numbers presented to the public by Enbridge Northern Gateway in their advertisements and through face-to-face engagement meetings in an effort to gain support of the project are being portrayed as though they are fact.  However, their witnesses’ replies to the Joint Review Panel and intervener questions about the benefits proved them to be anything but!

In their 2012 newspaper advertisements Enbridge Northern Gateway stated “New jobs will be created – Many people will be employed to build this project.  Here in BC, over 3,000 high-paying construction jobs will be created during the building phase.  And over 500 new long-term jobs will open up when it is completed-jobs to monitor and maintain the pipeline, jobs at the Kitimat Marine Terminal, and indirect jobs in areas such as food and hospitality, accommodations, and transportation.  And all right here is BC.”

When I questioned the Enbridge Northern Gateway witnesses on the factuality of the employment and economic benefit numbers in November 2012, they replied:

There are assumptions made around direct employment, purchasing patterns and total project costs.

In their benefits calculations they assumed the pipe will come from Canadian mills and they tweaked the model to reflect that, despite the fact the pipe they are proposing to use is not manufactured in Canada.  They have spoken with the Korean company Daewoo about pipe provision.

The employment and economic benefit numbers have never been revised to reflect the effect foreign procurement of the pipe will have; but the witnesses said they would go down.

There’s some element of inaccuracy in the numbers because the model they used has some degree of uncertainty in it.

The numbers are approximations.

The numbers are based on a presumption.

Indirect and induced jobs are not necessarily new jobs, some may be new, some may simply be people working harder.

Northern Gateway does not have control over indirect and induced effects, indirect effects are not managed by what Enbridge Northern Gateway does other than the arrangement for procurement itself.

Even though 74 per cent of the project is in B.C., B.C. regional residents could see only approximately 28 per cent of the employment during construction, the balance of the jobs will likely be given to workers from Alberta or Saskatchewan, possibly even temporary foreign workers. They acknowledged that according to a news article PetroChina, a Chinese government owned company, spoke with them about their interest in building the pipelines.

The estimated number of new direct employment by Enbridge Northern Gateway in B.C. during operation is 234.

Clearly, by the witnesses’ sworn testimony to the Joint Review Panel and interveners, the employment and economic benefits are anything but fact, so why are they being presented to the public as fact by Enbridge Northern Gateway?  I asked that question of the Public Consultation Program Panel witnesses in March 2013.

The Public Consultation Panel witnesses were asked why the public wasn’t being told that the employment and economic benefit numbers are at best estimations, even by way of something as simple as a disclaimer or footnote in their advertisements.  Witness Janet Holder, Executive Vice President, replied:

“Well, I think if you talk about the ads, the ads are… if you think about it, we have to provide so much information in a limited amount of space and a limited amount of time. So to put all the information in that ad and how this – how these numbers were created would be – it couldn’t be done.”

She went on to say:

“I don’t think we’re hiding behind anything because we’ve presented that evidence before the JRP,” and “So we have no reason to have to explain to anybody that we believe in these numbers.”

This certainly struck me as going against the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, the body that sets criteria for acceptable advertising that is truthful, fair and accurate.

This October Enbridge Northern Gateway embarked on a new advertising campaign which included a pamphlet distributed through the mail, it read:  “The pipeline will create over 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs, and all here in B.C.”  For that multi-page pamphlet they certainly had ample room and plenty of time to include even a basic disclaimer or footnote stating the numbers in that pamphlet to be estimations, or any of the other descriptors the witnesses used, but they chose not to.

What could the reason be for Enbridge Northern Gateway not telling the public the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the employment and economic benefits, like their witnesses did in their sworn testimony?

The only answer that I can think of is that the truth would not gain public support of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines.

Brenda Gouglas

Fort St. James