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Oil Sands Will Create 880,000 Construction Jobs: Report

oil sands in Alberta

The economic impact of investment in construction projects relating to oil sands in Canada over the next 25 years will be enormous, with no less than 880,000 person-years of construction jobs generated in areas such as maintenance, in-situ construction, mining, pipelines and upgraders in provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia and Prairies and an even greater impact spreading through to broader sectors of the economy.

A report from the Conference Board of Canada released on October 24 says the overall economic impact of the oilfields will be enormous.

It says that as a result of the $364 billion worth of investment expected to flow into Canada’s oil fields:

  • 880,000 person-years of employment will be created directly in the construction industry
  • a further 1.45 million person-years of employment will be created in a range of other industries, such as oilfield services, professional services, manufacturing, wholesale trade, financial services, and transportation
  • flow on income effects (through employed workers spending their wages, salaries and business earnings) will add $172 billion to the economy and create a further 880,000 person years of employment.

oil sands in Alberta

More impressively, those figures only take into account investment relating to construction and infrastructure. The Conference Board says probably as much economic value again will be created through subsequent production and operation of facilities.

“The development of Canada’s oil sands deposits constitutes one of the largest development projects in the country’s history,” said Conference Board director of industrial relations Michael Burt. “It is so large that it will rival massive public works projects in scale, such as the building of the Interstate Highway System in the United States.”

oil sands investmentThe Conference Board cautions, however, that there are a number of risks associated with such bullish forecasts, including capacity constraints, global market forces and risks associated with the environmental impact of tar sands.

Even if the impact turns out to be less than anticipated, however, it is still expected to be huge.

In terms of regions, though almost all of the construction effects and roughly 70 per cent of the supply-chain impacts will be felt in Alberta, around 30 per cent of the supply-chain effects will be felt in other provinces.

By share of national total, this will include:


  • Ontario (14.8 per cent) through services and also in manufacturing inputs for the oil sands.
  • British Columbia (6.7 per cent) through goods such as miscellaneous plastic products, paper products, and wood products as well as through services such as accounting, information technology, transport and travel.
  • Quebec (3.9 per cent) through large businesses that are headquartered in the province, such as CGI for computer services and CN for rail transportation.
  • The prairies (3.7 per cent), thorough its role as a transportation hub between Eastern and Western Canada as well as through manufacturing areas such as steel mills, metal tanks, steel pipes and tubes, printing, and medical equipment and supplies.
  • Atlantic Canada (0.8 per cent), through manufacturing related industries such as ornamental and architectural metal products; construction machinery; navigational, measuring, medical, and control instruments; and tire manufacturing.

The report, which was presented on October 24 at the National Buyer Seller Forum in Edmonton, also says that including income tax, corporate profit tax and indirect tax, oil sands related investment will bring in $79.4 billion worth of revenue over the forecast period.

By Andrew Heaton
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