[:en]BY CHRISTOPHER SMILLIE Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs Canadian Building Trades
Pipelines deliver energy directly to consumers or to industry and have operated safely in Canada for a generation. Pipelines contain the raw goods people and industry demand to heat homes, fill our stores with strawberries in the winter season and ultimately, run our economy. There has been very public condemnation of pipelines recently, essentially wherever they are planned or currently run. Pipelines don’t just deliver goods and heat our homes — pipelines connect jobs.
They connect extraction jobs in Fort McMurray to financing jobs in Calgary, they link upgrading jobs in New Brunswick to truck drivers in Halifax and they link skilled trades workers across North America to high paying careers. Pipelines connect learners with journey people, they link engineers with heavy equipment operators and they connect construction jobs to the meter readers in your neighbourhood.
Apprenticeships in the skilled trades are based upon the assumption the job opportunities exist. More than 40 per cent of our national membership of 500,000 depend on energy projects for employment every day. If our economy is going to attract young people to the skilled trades we have to have job opportunities for them. Pipelines ensure employment opportunities at both ends — and even some temporary construction work in the middle. In North Eastern Ontario economic region, including North Bay, there are more than 18,000 households who rely on construction as a source of household income — more than half of those skilled trades workers have travelled to other parts of Canada to obtain employment. The reach of energy projects and pipelines is enormous. By our analysis an estimated 12 per cent of Alberta’s 25,000 skilled trades apprentices in construction are from Ontario.
There are three major pipeline projects being reviewed (or proposed) in Canada right now — Energy East, Northern Gateway, and the Trans Mountain expansion. This doesn’t include a major overhaul of Canada’s smaller natural gas lines that service hundreds of thousands of retail consumers in Ontario and Quebec wanting to heat their homes in the winter.
These pipeline projects essentially guarantee generational jobs at all ends of the pipe. A perfect example of community (and country) building at the end of a resource pipeline (outside of the usual stories of Alberta or Texas) is Sarnia, ON. Sarnia isn’t your typical oil town. It is more. The breadth of industry that has developed since the late 1880s is impressive. It is a hub for Great Lakes shipping, salt production and during WWII, rubber manufacturing.
Essentially, all of the economic activity in Sarnia stemmed from being at the end of the Oil Springs pipeline. The recession of late has been tough on Southern Ontario — Windsor and London both have suffered at the hand of the Canadian manufacturing crisis. Sarnia had a natural advantage during the recession by continuing to export energy products to other markets. The natural question when thinking of the benefits of pipeline development for Canada is: Where is the next Sarnia?
Pipeline safety is a top priority for the members of Canada’s Building Trades Unions. Our members are as concerned with community safety and environmental performance as the people who live next to existing and planned pipelines. We advocate for clean communities where we work. Our members are expertly trained to install and maintain these essential components of our energy system.
To advocate against such important and essential components of our daily lives (and economic growth) is a confusing endeavour — to advocate for safe operations and continued community economic benefits from these projects is much more realistic in a country like Canada. Pipeline opponents should ask the people of Sarnia how much is riding on a decision to build.