TransCanada Corp. is going on the offensive in its efforts to win over wary Quebeckers to its controversial Energy East oil pipeline project.
Company officials on Wednesday announced a deal with a power equipment manufacturer to supply electrical equipment for the pipeline in the Montreal region that will create up to 120 jobs in Quebec.
TransCanada said it has an agreement with the Canadian arm of Zurich-based ABB Group for the manufacture of at least 22 electrical stations in the Montreal area. The deal is valued at "several million dollars."
Another 90 indirect jobs besides the 120 direct construction jobs will be created, said the head of ABB's Canadian operations, Nathalie Pilon. The deal with ABB is just one step in a series of other anticipated job-creating partnerships with companies in Quebec, Louis Bergeron, vice-president for Energy East in Quebec and New Brunswick, said. "We have the intention of continuing with other partners in Quebec," he told a news conference.
John Soini, president of the Energy East Pipeline Project, said Calgary-based TransCanada is receptive to the safety, environmental and economic concerns of Quebeckers regarding the $15.7-billion pipeline, which would move 1.1 million barrels of Western crude through Quebec and on to a refinery in Saint John.
"I would hope that [Wednesday's announcement] would be seen as an expression of our intent to develop economic benefits in Quebec," he said.
Added Mr. Bergeron: "It's one step in this direction. There's much more that will be needed."
The project faces stiff opposition from Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and mayors in the surrounding area, who argue that the environmental and safety risks outweigh the economic benefits and modest job-creation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Mr. Coderre last week as part of his efforts to act as a self-appointed referee in the politically charged debate over the impact of oil and gas pipeline projects across the country.
Mr. Coderre said he and his fellow area mayors require assurances that the pipeline project is indeed low-risk, particularly when it comes to potential contamination of local waterways.
Mr. Coderre was not immediately available to comment on the TransCanada-ABB deal.
A spokesman for the Union of Quebec Municipalities said the group will study the agreement but remains opposed to the Energy East project.
"For the time being, our position hasn't changed," Patrick Lemieux said. "As long as more details about public safety and environmental issues are not forthcoming we remain opposed."
Meanwhile, the National Energy Board on Wednesday agency delayed the formal review of Energy East. In a letter to TransCanada, the NEB said the file will be not judged complete until the company rewrites and simplifies its application so that ordinary citizens can comprehend it.
"The Board is concerned about the impact of this [complexity] on the fairness and efficiency of the hearing process and the potential burdens on all parties," board secretary Sheri Young said in a letter.
Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose criticized the Liberal government for refusing to support an resolution in the House of Commons which urged support for the Energy East pipeline.
Ms. Ambrose said the pipeline is supported by provincial Liberal governments in New Brunswick and Ontario, by a conservative premier in Saskatchewan and by an NDP government in Alberta.
"Why this all-party support? Because this is about jobs for people who are suffering," Ms. Ambrose said. She urged the federal Liberal government demonstrate its support for the west-to-east pipeline.
With files from Shawn McCarthy in Ottawa