Pre-Election Manitoba Government Ad Touts Erroneous Job Numbers

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WINNIPEG — A pre-election Manitoba government advertising campaign touting the province's environmental job numbers is erroneous, it turns out — an apparent victim of a mathematical error.

The ad, which ran on television for months and remains on a government web site, says "Manitoba is succeeding in the global green economy" and states "over 92,000 Manitobans are working in green jobs."

The number was based on a report from a Calgary-based research group called Eco Canada, which also said Manitoba's percentage of green jobs was higher than the national average.

greg selinger
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger speaks at a recent press conference. (Photo: CP)

The number was corrected this week following inquiries from The Canadian Press, and is now pegged at 62,300, which puts Manitoba below the national average.

"Due to a human error, Eco Canada provided the government of Manitoba with mistaken figures. In particular, in that publication Eco Canada mistakenly mentioned that there were 92,623 environmental employees," the group said in a report posted online Thursday.

"The government of Manitoba acted in good faith quoting those numbers. On February 9, 2016, the government of Manitoba was informed of the mistake."

The ad campaign was launched last fall — one of nine campaigns launched in the lead-up to the provincial election slated for April 19. The ad, along with the others, stopped airing Jan. 19, under a provincial law that bans government advertising and promotions 90 days before an election.

The government said Thursday it would no longer promote the erroneous number. It had spent $304,000 on the ad campaign.

"We have been informed that Eco Canada made an error in providing data to Manitoba concerning the number of existing 'green jobs' in the province. They have since corrected that error and moving forward, we will be using the corrected information," Zach Fleisher, press secretary to Conservation Minister Tom Nevakshonoff, wrote in an email.

Partisan promotion, Tories say

Even the corrected number is an estimate. Eco Canada says its numbers are based on survey responses from employers. In Manitoba, 270 employers filled out the survey and 63 said they had at least one employee who spent part of their time doing environmental work - activities that can range from designing a water treatment plant to implementing a recycling program in the workplace.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said the ad campaign amounted to partisan promotion of the NDP government paid for by taxpayers.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said the ad campaign amounted to partisan promotion of the NDP government paid for by taxpayers.

The government was "trying to tout its green agenda in the lead-up to an election" without providing any information as to where people might apply for a green job, Tory conservation critic Shannon Martin said.

It's not the first time the government has had number problems in touting its job-creation plans.

In 2014, the government predicted a new five-year infrastructure program would create 58,900 jobs, and pointed to a report from the Conference Board of Canada. The report said the spending would create 58,900 person-years of employment over five years. One job held for all five years would equal five person-years of employment.

The Conference Board later clarified that the number of jobs would vary from year-to-year, but would be, on average, about 11,000.

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