July 14, 2016 2:36 pm
Updated: July 14, 2016 6:22 pm

Trade unions back Energy East oil pipeline

The controversial Energy East Pipeline may be one step closer to reality.

Alex Panetta / The Canadian Press

Four major trade unions have joined forces with TransCanada Corp. to push the proposed Energy East oil pipeline as a “nation-building” exercise.

The alliance, symbolized by a memorandum of understanding signed Thursday, gives the 4,600-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick a rare public relations boost after months of public protests and publicized rejections.

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TransCanada CEO Russ Girling says there’s a “silent majority” in Canada that understands the need for energy and the need for a way to move it responsibly across the country.

READ MORE: Alberta municipalities tout benefits of Energy East pipeline

Union and company representatives say construction and conversion of the oil line — two thirds of which already exists as a gas pipeline — will support 14,000 jobs annually for almost a decade.

Girling says he expects the pipeline to be operational by late 2019 or early 2020.

The National Energy Board is about to begin a two-year environmental assessment, after which the Liberal cabinet in Ottawa will decide the fate of the $15.7-billion project.

READ MORE: TransCanada files first part of Energy East impact study with Quebec

The Conference Board of Canada issued a report estimating the 14,000 direct and spin-off job numbers from Energy East, but environmental groups dispute the long-term employment impact.

The advocacy group Environmental Defence issued a press release Thursday saying TransCanada’s own projections suggest 132 permanent, direct jobs from the pipeline in New Brunswick, 114 in Ontario and 33 in Quebec.

For tradespeople in the pipeline building industry, that’s an argument for another day.

READ MORE: Energy East pipeline: National Energy Board has 21 months for review

Joe Mancinelli, the international vice-president for the Labourers International Union of North America, which hosted the new conference, gave a full-throated endorsement of the pipeline project.

Mancinelli cited arguments that ranged from skilled trades training and job creation to safety, avoiding another Lac Megantic-like deadly train derailment and displacing imports of foreign oil.

“We are not going to eliminate these fossil fuels from coming out of the ground,” said Mancinelli.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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