OTTAWA – Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline development project will start next month, just in time for the official kick-off of the federal election.
Trans Mountain Corp., the federal crown agency that owns and operates the pipeline, said Wednesday that work on the terminals in Burnaby, B.C. is set to start immediately while work on laying the pipe on the route in parts of Alberta is about to start within the next month. Construction contractors were told that they have 30 days to hire workers, prepare detailed construction plans and mobilize equipment.
"This is an important milestone," said Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
Building on the run allows many liberals to breathe relief, including Sohi, whose riding is just a few miles from the Edmonton terminal where the pipeline begins. His already shaky choices would be even tougher if the pipeline remained stuck.
The federal campaign must start by September 15 for an October 21 vote, but Sohi said getting shovel in the ground on Trans Mountain has nothing to do with politics.
"I know people want to link this to elections," he said. "I've never linked it to elections. I always say that we owe it to Albertans, we owe it to Canadians, workers in the energy sector and communities that rely on middle-class jobs to get the process right."
Sohi won 2015 with less than 100 votes, one of only four Liberals elected in Alberta in the last election. All four places are considered in the game in this election, and anger in Alberta about the struggling oil industry is one of the reasons for it.
Sohi visited with pipeline workers on site in Sherwood Park, Alta., On Wednesday. He told them that 4,200 people should work on the project before the end of the year and the new end date is 2022. When the pipeline was originally approved in 2016, the construction would be completed by the end of this year.
Sohi also said the construction will continue "despite the fear of some conservative politicians telling Canadians minutes after we approved the Trans Mountain pipeline that construction will never happen."
Edmonton Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux was not impressed by the news.
"Canadians have heard over and over that Justin Trudeau wants to build pipelines, but in four years he has done just the opposite," Jeneroux said in a statement via email.
The Conservatives say the Liberals have killed other pipelines and now have a new environmental assessment process that will ensure that no more pipelines are ever approved in the future.
"These decisions are all part of Justin Trudeau's plan to wind down Canada's oil and gas sector," Jeneroux said.
Federal Liberals approved Trans Mountain expansion in 2016, but the pressure to get the project implemented increased in May 2018 when the government decided to buy the $ 4.5 billion pipeline when Kinder Morgan Canada was supported by the uncertainty of many legal challenges and political struggles. The Liberals said the government would buy the pipeline, build the expansion and sell it back to a private investor.
The court's decision three months later to revoke the approval cast all these plans in jeopardy.
After another round of initial consultations and a re-examination of the project's impact on marine life off the Vancouver coast, the Cabinet reviewed the expansion for the second time in June.
Six First Nations in British Columbia and at least two environmental groups have submitted new court challenges to the approval.