Last year, the provincial New Democrat-controlled special committee on sustainable aquaculture commissioned a first-of-its-kind economic analysis of the salmon farming industry in British Columbia. But, according to documentation exclusively obtained by Public Eye, a significant change was made to that report between February and March. A working draft, dated February 16, states salmon farmers employ 7,784 full-time equivalents - counting both direct, indirect and induced jobs. But that number drops to 2,945 full-time equivalents in a March copy of the report - which has not yet been released. So what's going on?
In an interview on Tuesday, committee chair Robin Austin said "mistakes were made" in the February draft submitted by MMK Consulting Inc. - the respected management and business consulting firm hired to write that report. "When they then went back to look at all of their figures to do further due diligence - to make sure when they come up with their final report that the figures actually standup to scrutiny - they realized that they had made an error" - which, he stressed, is allowable in a working draft report.
Specifically, the company had put "some numbers into incorrect columns" while separating the number of people "who are working (directly) in the salmon farming industry" from the indirect full-time equivalents.
"So then they went back to the salmon farming industry and said, 'Look, obviously we've made some mistakes here. We want to get again another snapshot of the actual people you have working on the processing side and on the farm side. Direct FTEs.'" And the end result was the March numbers.
Questioned whether the committee discussed those numbers - or how they were arrived at - during an in-camera meeting on February 16, Mr. Austin said, "No. We didn't bring this up. They presented their report to us." And, when later asked to confirm there was "no discussion whatsoever by the committee regarding what figures or what types of industries of what things should go into those employment numbers," he replied, "That's right. That's something MMK has come up with on their own recognizance." MMK president Stuart MacKay declined comment saying, "We've been asked by the committee to refer any media questions to them. So I'm really, unfortunately, not able to talk to you about" the matter. The following is a complete copy of the two number sets.
Salmon farming employment (full-time equivalents)
February 16 working draft