Are there really any jobs for Canadians coming down the Enbridge pipeline?

Enbridge ‘Jobs’ Argument Rings Hollow as US Vets Recruited to Work in Canadian Oil Industry


The argument we hear most frequently from the Harper Government in favour of bulldozing through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines is the major job benefits the project would carry for Canadians. But recent talk of importing foreign workers from the United States and China make a mockery of that boast.

The latest evidence to this effect – a job posting on the American website run by Veterans of Foreign Wars, which helps vets find employment – bears some claims that are so absurd as to beg the question whether it’s a hoax. Some of the figures cited are highly suspect; nevertheless, on the whole, it provides telling window into an alternative narrative emerging around the Tar Sands pipelines issue. The posting reads:

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce that its partly owned veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada, that could see thousands of U.S. veterans heading north to work on their oil pipeline.  

“This is a great opportunity for veterans, transitioning military, National Guard and reservists, and their family members,” said Ted Daywalt, founder and CEO of VetJobs (, a recognized industry leader in helping veterans find work.  

Though America’s Keystone Pipeline is delayed, the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border and have an immediate need for tens of thousands of workers,” said Daywalt, whose website averages more than 55,000 daily job postings by employers strictly interested in hiring veterans. He said the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation anticipates a shortage of 114,000 workers in the Alberta area, and they want to hire American veterans to fill that shortage. 

According to the development corporation, the positions being offered are long term, with many paying as much as 30 percent more than similar industry positions in the United States. Some positions will require a move to Canada, but many others will allow veterans to commute — working several weeks in Canada, then one week back home. (emphasis added)

The posting came my way via a BC-based environmental discussion listserv, Land Watch, and has provoked some interesting questions.

For starters – beyond the matter-of-fact assertion that “the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border” with our highly controversial proposed pipeline projects – there’s the eyebrow-raising jobs claim. Creating 114,000 jobs would essentially mean doubling the current employment of the entire Canadian oil and gas sector, and yet the ad only mentions pipeline construction jobs specifically.

Even Enbridge (whose new ad campaign touting myriad economic benefits sputtered recently over a spoof by Province cartoonist Dan Murphy that went viral) and the project’s looniest boosters acknowledge the pipeline would provide a few thousand temporary jobs at best. Once it’s built, BC would see only several dozen permanent jobs. A recent study by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada suggests the workforce of the Alberta Tar Sands – which altogether employs just 20,000 people, constituting 15% of Canada’s total oil and gas jobs – will rise by 73% by 2021, but that pales in comparison with the numbers being thrown around by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The posting rings true on another front, though – the fact that both BC and Alberta are approaching full employment territory, putting paid to the argument we need new jobs at the expense of our environment. BC and Alberta are both seeing strong job growth today – with unemployment in BC falling by .8% from May to 6.6% in June (though some of BC’s lower unemployment numbers derive from workers heading across the border to Alberta). Alberta lost a handful of jobs in June, but its unemployment rate remains at a paltry 4.6%.

We’re told ad nauseum that we need to accept the certain risk of pipeline leaks and tanker spills because we badly need the jobs that come with these projects, yet the plain fact is we don’t have the workforce to provide tens of thousands of new employees for Tar Sands-related development.

One line in particular stands out in the job ad, namely that “…[the] veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada…” Secured? With whom? The Alberta Government? The Government of Canada? Has an American company signed a deal with our government(s) to provide foreign labour to Canada, and if so, why have we heard nothing of it from our elected officials? It could be this is just exaggerated salesmanship on the part of this jobs site, but these are questions that need answering.

Another question the posting raises is why would we pay these workers 30% more in Canada than south of the border? This claim seems to conflict with the other major challenge to the jobs argument – the recent revelation that state-owned energy giant PetroChina wants to build the Enbridge pipeline. The advantage to Enbridge from this proposition is a significant discount on labour, as the Harper Government recently changed our laws to allow companies operating in Canada to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than the average wage for Canadians. This hardly seems like the policy of a government concerned about creating oil and gas jobs for its citizens.

And again, these direct job-related concerns are on top of the certain environmental and economic calamities of pipeline leaks and tanker spills – which would also be a huge blow to BC’s tourism and natural resource-dependent economy.

Perhaps a larger issue at hand is the matter of Canadian energy security and economic sovereignty.

The picture now emerging is of Chinese and American companies harvesting our bitumen, using Chinese and American labour to extract it, and building the pipelines to transport it back to their own countries to refine it (where the real jobs are), along with the profits from the whole operation. Moreover, we’re only a trade deal away from it being illegal to stop exporting oil to China once we’ve started. We’ve already sacrificed much of our resource and economic sovereignty under NAFTA and the privately controlled American corporation, NERC, which we’ve empowered to regulate our public energy system. Now we’re talking about recently retired American soldiers coming up here to build our oil infrastructure, which is more than a little unsettling.

Finally, in addition to the hollowing out of the “jobs” argument, the macro-economic impacts of expanded pipelines and Tar Sands development have been questioned by the likes of Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, economist and former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Thus, when Stephen Harper and his minions declare the Enbridge pipelines would be good for “the economy”, we must ask the key question: “Whose economy?” US veterans, Chinese migrant workers, China itself and the mostly-foreign shareholders of multinational corporations? Check.

The public of BC and Canada? Not so much.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

17 thoughts on “Enbridge ‘Jobs’ Argument Rings Hollow as US Vets Recruited to Work in Canadian Oil Industry

  1. Telling people what isn’t working requires a course correction; time to unite in a spirit of cooperation, and end serving few at the expense of many.

    Our voices are strongest when counted together, please rally around and support the Treaty, class action, or space technology.

    Dr. Carol Rosin Introduces the TRUTH to fraudulent space-based weapons program and to the importance of ‘disclosure’ in the TREATY that will transform the whole war industry and awakening mindset into one that will help provide for healings, solutions, benefits and opportunities for all. – class action against the Vatican, Crown of England, church and state for crimes against humanity and criminal conspiracy. – space age technology toward world peace, food, water for all, and an end to the energy crisis.

    For the big picture please read Be Well Informed and Prepared

  2. Damien, perhaps the most overlooked aspect of this pipeline even as devastating as Roger’s experience brings us is that this is not oil as we know it but bitumen.
    Conventional methods of cleanup don’t work here as bitumen unlike oil sinks. in a leak the condensate used to thin the bitumen evaporates leaving the bitumen to sink in water. This is apparently why the Kalamazoo spill has not been cleaned but simply covered over.
    Never is this mentioned. They simply can’t clean it up!

  3. Thank you for sharing your memory of the Oak Bay disaster, Roger – very instructive for the issues we’re facing today, not just with Enbridge but, closer to home, with Kinder Morgan, whose tankers would pass very near the same waters devastated 60 years ago.

  4. I spent today day in Victoria reminiscing over early family haunts. We lived at 1501 Beach Drive, Oak Bay: on the waterfront.

    That brought back memories relevant to Enbridge.

    Between Oak Bay and the Discovery/Chatham archipelago are small islands, a mass of exposed rocks: not unlike the route Chinese super tankers will ply from Kitimat if we are fool enough to let them.

    One morning the inevitable happened. A large ocean going freighter, the SS North Beacon, was stuck on the rocks.

    It was days before it was refloated but not before it had lightened its load by discharging much of its bunker fuel.

    Oak Bay was saturated. All sea life within a wide area was saturated. All of us neighbours took in whatever we could but it was a hopeless task. Birds, sea otter, seals were coated in black, slimy muck and it was only refined bunker oil.

    God know what would happen to the northern coast if one of the sludge carriers came to grief, and as Rafe says one or more surely will!

    Oak Bay is cleaned up today sixty years later! Would we be so lucky with Enbridge? Prime minister Harper would be very unwise to thinq so!

  5. I am flabbergasted at what Enbridge is trying to do ! It isn’t enough that they be caught out in one lie after another, they are also intent on NOT empolying Canadians to fill the positions shooould the pipeline go ahead !

    They say the leopard cannot change it’s spots – that hold equally for Enbridge – they have chosen to lie, misrepresent, hold back important information and above all, shown a severe lack of integrity and common sense. I can only hope that the US MOE throws the book at the pipeline company that waited 17 hours before shutting down the system.

    Yesterday there was a demonstration against Enbridge in Prince George where at least 50% maybe more, were FN people. This belies what Enbridge is saying publ;ically.

    Thank you

  6. I shutter to think of what is being put into place!
    When asked of the Edmonton Development spokeperson why qualified canadians aren’t considered the reply was they are all too busy across the country, what???
    What of all the highly skilled and recently laid off auto workers, welders, machinists, engineers etc?
    He went on to state that the american vets had unique skills that are very suited to the needs of the tarsands.
    I can only speculate on what those needs might be and only unemployed war vets might posess.
    They seem to be preparing for an expected confrontation the likes this country has never seen.
    Our own government is beyond caring if we see the writing on the wall, in fact I’m quite sure they hope we do!

  7. We know exactly how evil Harper is

    Read: Harper gives a speech in New York, at the Council of foreign Relations. This was Sept 25/2007. This is Harper’s evil agenda. However, no-one listens. The toughest problem is getting Canadian people, to wake the hell up.

    Harper is dividing Canada between the U.S. and Communist China. Canadians do not own our vast natural resources, all of them are foreign owned. Foreigners also own our jobs. Who really cashes in is, the greedy giant oil and gas corporations. They for sure will have the Americans fire on Canadians.

    Gordon Campbell shipped our BC mills to Communist China, along with our raw logs. China also owns BC mines. Communist China is bringing their own people, to work the mines too.

    I guess if the American Veterans open fire upon us, so be it. We have nothing left to lose anyway. They must have scrapped the idea of, the RCMP anti-terrorist squads to fire on us.

    I posted a hell of a long time ago. Communist China was buying up the tar sands, and bringing their own people to work there. China is bringing swarms over, to build the Enbride pipeline, for really cheap labor.

    I wasn’t fooled by the U.S. Can border talks either.

  8. The jobs links to Alberta from the US VetJobs website
    links to a site called Opportunity Awaits
    which is connected to the Edmonton Economic Development Corp. (same address and logo).
    This site appears to be set up to streamline entry of American workers into Canada.
    They’re announcing multiple recruitment info sessions at quite a few locations in Washington State for July 25 & 26

  9. No doubt they are targetting US military veterans as they foresee the need for a mercenary army to ensure there is no interference with the building of the pipeline. Canadian soldiers might have some reluctance to shoot at their neigbours and friends.
    This is where Harper is leading this country – US military personnel protecting Chinese labour building a pipeline we don’t want or need, all in the name of “financial independence”. Its OK to sell your soul as long as the price is right for you.

Comments are closed.