National construction industry leaders are applauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the Line 3 replacement project.
"It is positive in a number of ways," said Canadian Construction Association (CCA) chair Gilbert Brulotte. "The government has shown its vision in terms of looking ahead and trying to balance what’s right for the economy and what is best for the environment. I think they looked at the projects on their own merit."
He noted that some criticism of oil development isn’t always fair as oil is used for much more than just fuel.
"It is a raw material critical to our standard of living," he said. "We will need to have the capacity, and if Canada doesn’t support it, someone else will, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t conscious and don’t do the best we can to reduce the fuel side of the capacity."
He said pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, as rail transport has far more interfaces with people.
"I think this reinforces that this government is serious about enhancing our trade enabling infrastructure," he said. "I think they are looking at the holistic picture of Canada."
Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) welcomed the announcement saying skilled tradespeople and Canada’s economy depend on major resource projects for sustained prosperity. In a statement they added that the projects mean increased certainty for employment prospects for members in the coming years in Alberta and beyond.
The union noted that the pipelines don’t mean temporary construction jobs, they mean generational jobs at both ends of the line.
"Our membership, half a million strong across the country, are looking forward to these projects and getting to work," said CBTU Canadian operating officer Robert Blakely. "Canada’s economy is founded on major industrial projects like pipelines. Middle class Canada needs foundational support in order to assist in the energy transition process. These two pipelines will create more certainty for apprentices and journeypersons alike"
CBTU added that both projects require certain binding conditions in order to proceed.
"CBTU members live and work in the communities where these pipelines will operate. The workforce shares responsibility for long-term environmental progress in Canada – we will do the right thing by our fellow citizens in this regard," said Blakely.
John Gamble, president of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada, said he appreciated how difficult the decision was.
"No matter where you draw a line, there will always be someone on the other side of it," he said. "You have to be pragmatic and balanced. On one hand, if you believe we can simply turn off the tap and get off carbon, that’s just not realistic. But it you don’t believe that climate change is real, you are wrong. You have to balance environmental and economic concerns."
Gamble added as these and other projects move forward or are considered, the role of consulting engineers to provide dispassionate, third-party advice remains important.
"What is often forgotten is that hydrocarbons are not just fuel and to say it has to stay in the ground is not realistic," he said. "You find it in bike tires and solar panels and windmills. The challenge is to ensure there is less carbon in the atmosphere and to transport carbon products in a safe, cost effective manner."
Gamble added that the issue is complex and the solution is not "who chants slogans the loudest." He said while the country continues to transport oil through pipelines in the short term, it must look ahead and continue to diversify sources of energy and methods to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) celebrated the approvals and highlighted the economic benefits.
"These pipelines are critical to our national economy, our members and our communities, especially in Western Canada where there’s now the promise of thousands of new construction, maintenance, and operations jobs for skilled workers," said Paul de Jong, PCA president.
Earlier this year, PCA launched the Let’s Build It campaign aimed at raising awareness about the importance of getting some of Canada’s largest and most important infrastructure projects built.
"Canada’s economy and global competitiveness depends on these projects," added de Jong. "They’ll allow us to export crude oil beyond the U.S. to overseas markets. The potential for investment is huge and so is the benefit to Canadians."
Trudeau said the $6.8-billion Kinder Morgan project is expected to create 15,000 new jobs during construction by twinning the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C. It will also provide access to global markets and generate $4.5 billion in federal and provincial government revenues, he added. The approval is subject to 157 binding conditions.
Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project is subject to 37 binding conditions. This $4.8-billion project will replace 1,067 kilometres of existing pipeline from Hardisty, Alta., to Gretna, Man. The project will generate $514.7 million in federal and provincial government revenues and 7,000 new jobs during construction.