13 Sep 2016

Oil and gas downturns in B.C. and Alberta ease Site C labour force concerns

VICTORIA — Alberta’s loss is British Columbia’s gain as fears of labour shortages for the construction of the massive Site C dam evaporate amid a slump in the oil and gas industry, says a new report released Tuesday.

The slowdown is providing a steady supply of skilled workers for the Peace River project, the report says, easing previous concerns from experts who had warned of potential labour shortages.

The downturn and low interest rates have also resulted in a lower bottom line for the project, now pegged at $8.3 billion, about $500 million less than expected.

B.C. Hydro, which is building the dam, hired Ernst and Young and BTY Consultancy Group Inc. to review the project’s risks and management of costs. The 43-page report concluded the project is on time and on budget.

Site C is slated to become the third hydro electric dam on northeast B.C.’s Peace River. It will provide enough energy power 410,000 homes.

Ernst and Young said the availability of workers in the Peace River region has increased since 2014 due to decreasing investments in the oil and gas sector and Alberta’s jobless rate of 8.6 per cent.

The project is expected to create 7,650 construction jobs. Last July, there were more than 1,700 workers on site.

Dave Conway, Site C’s community relations manager, said economic woes in the nearby oil patch are paying dividends for the dam.

“One of the factors is the present downturn in the economy has been a plus for the project,” he said. “Certainly, interest rates are one, cost of materials is a second, but the third is labour, and it certainly is the availability of a larger labour pool to draw on at this time.”