MONTREAL — A coalition of business groups and large unions came out together in defence of TransCanada's Energy East pipeline project Friday and said it will spur economic development and job creation.
Representatives from several business federations and two construction unions made their announcement just days before the National Energy Board holds hearings on the pipeline on Monday in Montreal.
Union head Michel Trepanier said workers stand to benefit for five years from construction projects tied to the pipeline.
"We need projects like this," he told reporters. "We need to be able to attract projects to be able to support our families. One person out of 20 in Quebec works in the construction sector. We welcome with open arms projects like this."
Energy East is a 4,500-kilometre pipeline that would see crude oil transported from Alberta to Eastern Canada.
It has become controversial in Quebec with many politicians and activists coming out against it due to environmental concerns.
On Thursday evening, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre demanded the hearings be suspended.
Coderre said he was alarmed by a news report that two National Energy Board commissioners had met with Jean Charest to discuss the pipeline while the former Quebec premier was a lobbyist for TransCanada (TSX:TRP).
Brian Jean, leader of Alberta's Wildrose party, accused Coderre of meddling in the process.
"Like many Canadians, I'm growing tired of Mr. Coderre's continued attempts to interfere with the world-class independent review process currently assessing the Energy East pipeline project," Jean said in a statement.
Michel Leblanc, president of the Montreal Board of Trade, told reporters the coalition, while favourable to Energy East, recognizes there is a long regulatory process the project needs to follow before getting the green light.
After the hearings, TransCanada's proposal will have to be subject to a separate evaluation by Quebec's environmental review agency.
"We're not giving (TransCanada) a free pass today," Leblanc said. "We're just telling them that we support the project — but there is going to be a (review) process."
Hearings take place in Montreal all next week and in Quebec City the week of Oct. 3.