East-West Tie build will need workers: Two-year project will create many business spinoffs.

Author:Ross, Ian

There'll be a plethora of employment and business opportunities once ground is broken sometime this year to start construction on the East-West Tie.

With the provincial government finally settling on a constructor for the critical transmission line project in northwestern Ontario, one of the project recruiters and trainers expects they'll have to do a gap analysis to rebuild the workforce that departed for other jobs when the overdue project was delayed in 2017.

"We know if the construction schedule ramped right up, there's going to be a larger demand for manpower," said Matt Dupuis, chairman of Supercom Industries and chief of the Red Rock Indian Band.

Dupuis expects a construction start date announced toward the fall of this year, but the timing depends on the outcome of negotiations between NextBridge and their former bidding competitor, Hydro One.

Not only does the line have to be constructed, but Hydro One's transformer stations around the horn of Lake Superior have to be upgraded as well.

"Once we have a set in-service date then everything will be announced about the construction schedule," said Dupuis. "It just needs a lot more people."

That means conducting a gap analysis to determine what skills will be in demand.

Construction was to have started in late 2018, but the previous government reopened the bid process to allow Hydro One to compete against NextBridge. It caused an exodus of the skilled workforce that was trained specifically for the East-West Tie.

Supercom Industries is the contracting and training joint venture run by six First Nation communities on the north shore of Lake Superior across whose traditional land the power line project crosses.

Its mandate is to maximize First Nation involvement in the $737-million infrastructure project by supplying skilled labour, negotiating service and supply contracts, and cultivating business partnerships.

At the end of January, the province selected NextBridge Infrastructure LR over Hydro One, to be the constructor project.

Energy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Greg Rickford grew impatient with the Ontario Energy Board's (OEB) lengthy review process of the oft-delayed power line twining project.

The East-West Tie is a 450-kilometre, double-circuit transmission line between the Lakehead Transformer Station, outside Thunder Bay in Shuniah, to the transformer station near Wawa.

It's long been considered a top government infrastructure project, but has been fraught with delays...

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