Go fish

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

Direct 3,045
Indirect 3,647
Induced 1,902
Total 7,784

March copy

Direct 1,500
Indirect 1,032
Induced 413
Total 2,945


The Auditor General called it 900 low paying jobs .

It's not just the overall scale of these numbers that has changed, the underlying proportions have switched. In the earlier draft, Indirect employment in other industries who are related to fish farms through producer channels, supplying inputs and distributing outputs, outnumbered direct employment in the aquaculture industry itself by a margin of roughly 1.2 to 1. But by the time of the March figures, direct employment was greater than indirect, which now stood at just 0.69 jobs for every 1 job directly involved in fish farming.

Also, the consumer spending multiplier, which gives rise to Induced employment is smaller, and was quite small to begin with. It's gone from 0.28 induced job for every direct and indirect job to just 0.16 multiplier jobs. Both estimates are rather low, the usual rule of thumb being more like 1:1.

Sounds like some MMK staff may have worked on Stats Can's employment figures prior to joining this firm.

The differences between the two sets of figures are simply amazing. Perhaps if a bit of the raw data used for both sets were shown here this might make some sense, but as it stands the variance defies credibility for a "respected management and business consulting firm".

Or maybe the employees simply escaped like some of the salmon.

Not to worry though. They, like the escaped salmon, won't do any harm to the environment.

But I won't rest until luminaries like John van Dongen reassure moi that it is really so.

And just how do you catch an escaped (farmed) van Dongen?

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