Ashley Underhill

One New Brunswicker on the power of pipelines

If I met Prime Minister Trudeau, here’s what I’d tell him: want to see a local economy thrive? Then build the Energy East Pipeline.

I’ve spent my whole life in New Brunswick.

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Think about it: the pay is phenomenal. All those well-paid workers who would live and stay in NewBrunswick are investing in the local economy. Everyday, they would pour money into motels, into restaurants, into fuel and machinery. It will make a huge difference to the people who live here… a difference you can’t fully appreciate unless you’ve lived here as long as I have.

I was an equipment operator in a local pulp and paper mill for 19 years before becoming an operating engineer. The mill shut down in 2007, and it hit Miramichi hard. Thankfully in 2008 there was pipeline construction in NewBrunswick and that helped to ease the loss of the mill. It’s one of the reasons there is so much buzz and talk about the Energy East pipeline in the community. Everyone is looking forward to the project, like kids waiting for Christmas. Every other day someone asks me, “any word on the pipeline?”

There have been many open houses along the route where the company and its safety experts can tell the community about the project. These open houses are all about the many features put in place to make sure the pipeline is safe. I try to go to as many as I can so I can to talk to people and answer their questions.

I wish Prime Minister Trudeau would come to one of these open houses. I’d love to talk to him. Right now the Energy East Project is being delayed– a project that will be built by world-class workers. These delays are getting in the way of good jobs for small communities throughout NewBrunswick. I want to ask Mr. Trudeau: when is he going to finalize and approve this project? Surely he realizes the extraordinary economic benefits this pipeline will bring to Eastern Canada?

I don’t expect to see the Prime Minister in Miramichi anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get our message to him. Operating engineers need to stand with our union and each other – we’ve got to make our voices heard. We bring a hugely important perspective to the pipeline debate. We have to remind the government about our experience, our commitment to producing the best quality work, and how important good-paying jobs are when the Canadian economy is hurting. That’s especially true here in New Brunswick, where the unemployment rate is high.

I want the pipeline for NewBrunswick’s future. We’ll have more secure jobs and less people living paycheque-to-paycheque. So let me extend an invitation: Prime Minister Trudeau is welcome to come by anytime. I’d love for him to see firsthand why this pipeline is so important for NewBrunswick.

Ashley Underhill is an operating engineer and lifelong resident of Miramichi, New Brunswick. He is an active member of the local community, working with the Miramichi Valley Business Association, the Miramichi Partnership Forum, and the Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada.

Ashley Underhill