Predictions of relatively flat construction labour demand into the next decade in three of Atlantic Canada’s four provinces could be blown out of the water with a possible project green light by a single potential investor later this year.
BuildForce Canada executive director Bill Ferreira explained recently the organization produces its annual construction employment forecasts based on verifiable trends and confirmed projects and so it has not included in its predictions the possibility that Pieridae Energy might go ahead with its $10-billion Goldboro LNG project planned for Guysborough County in Nova Scotia.
The investor has said the project would give work to 3,500 construction workers, out of the province’s total unionized trades labour force of 11,000, over four years.
If Pieridae gives the word, everything changes, Ferreira said.
“If Goldboro goes forward, that will have a significant impact on the labour force, not only in Nova Scotia but the regional labour force,” he said, noting there have been discussions about two other possible LNG projects in the province as well.
“If any of the three gets a positive FID (final investment decision), our forecast numbers will go totally out of whack. We can’t build in that positive FID and the impact on employment until we know that the project is going forward.”
The Goldboro LNG project would consist of a natural gas liquefaction plant, storage tanks and marine works.
The facility is anticipated to produce approximately 10-million metric tonnes of LNG per year.
A project of this scope and size will be very attractive to the trades
— Brad Smith
Mainland Building Trades
The target markets are Europe, South America and Asia.
Pieridae said last year it had locked up the German firm Uniper to a 20-year contract worth $45 billion.
There’s a chance Pieridae could move forward on the project this year.
Mark Brown, the firm’s vice-president of business development, said last year an FID could come in the first quarter of 2019 but when contacted recently he said the target date for a decision is now the fourth quarter of this year.
“We are currently looking to complete both debt and equity financing which takes a significant amount of time,” he said.
The project is so large it would both transform the local labour market and have significant social implications, with Brad Smith, executive director of the Mainland Building Trades, suggesting the numerous trades workers who have left the province to seek work elsewhere might return home.
At any given time, 15 per cent of the province’s trades are working out of province.
Smith’s organization has eight training centres where workers are currently prepping for the Goldboro job.
“A project of this scope and size will be very attractive to the trades who will likely choose to stay home than travel to the projects out west as they have traditionally done in the past,” said Smith.
Asked about the new Goldboro timeline, Smith commented, “We remain optimistic that there will be a positive investment decision and are confident that we have the workforce available in Nova Scotia and regionally to supply the labour demand estimates.”
BuildForce Canada’s 2019–2028 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward national report, released Jan. 31, identified Prince Edward Island as the outlier among the four Atlantic provinces in predicted growth.
The province is expected to have its busiest construction season ever in 2019, driven by growth in housing starts and peak levels of investment in engineering projects and ICI building construction.
The strength builds on a 27 per cent increase in construction spending in the past two years which has stressed P.E.I.’s construction labour supply.
BuildForce foresees unevenness in construction employment in New Brunswick, with a significant reduction in road, highway and bridge investment tending to dampen demand between 2019 and 2021, in opposition to stability in the maintenance market and hikes in residential renovation work, industrial expansion and infrastructure investment.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s ICI sector will be whipsawed in coming years with the completion of the Muskrat Falls project countered by work on the West White Rose wellhead platform and the Voisey’s Bay mine projects. But overall the picture is less than positive, with non-residential employment projected to drop 47 per cent over the next decade, BuildForce says, and especially low numbers between 2020 and 2023.
Meanwhile, BuildForce expects Quebec to experience an extended spike in construction labour demand spurred by steady growth in every sector except for housing.
The mid to late part of the next decade will see significant growth, with a net gain of 5,200 jobs expected by 2028.
Given the retirement of 44,700 workers, stakeholders will need to boost recruitment and focus on retention to attract 47,600 new workers over the coming decade, the report argued.