Planned Enbridge Line 5 shut down causes job-loss worries for Sarnia, Ont.


Workers in Sarnia, Ont., are raising concerns about the job losses that could occur if a U.S. governor’s plan to shut down an Enbridge pipeline succeeds.

The Line 5 pipeline runs from Wisconsin to Sarnia, crossing parts of Michigan. It’s part of Enbridge’s Lakehead network that carries oil and liquids used in propane from western Canada to refineries in the U.S. and Ontario.

In November, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered a shutdown of Line 5 by May, saying Enbridge had repeatedly violated an easement that allowed part of Line 5 to be placed along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac that connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Pipeline opponents are now urging U.S. President Joe Biden to support Whitmer’s order. Enbridge, which insists the line is safe, is fighting the order in court and says it has no plans to shut down.

Workers in Sarnia say they’re increasingly worried about their jobs as the May shutdown deadline looms.

James Williamson, a steamfitter working for Nova Chemicals in Sarnia, said the pipeline’s potential closure could impact workplaces like his, which processes materials carried by Line 5.

“Each plant in this area feeds off of each other … All of them are tied in together and if we lose that feedstock, it would essentially shut down a lot of the work in town,” said Williamson.

Three of his brothers also work in the petrochemical industry and would be out of jobs if Line 5 is shut down, he said.

“It would require us to travel and move our families out of this area to maintain a good income and be able to provide for our kids,” he said.

“It makes you nervous knowing that the life that you provided for your family and those who are doing the same thing, it may have a direct negative impact on them.”

Scott Archer, a spokesman for the Sarnia-Lambton County branch of a union representing workers in the plumbing and pipefitting industry, said a shutdown of Line 5 would force workers to compete for fewer jobs that may only be available in other areas.

“People are either going to have to basically live out of a suitcase working in other jurisdictions or they’re going to have to make a career change, which nobody really wants to do mid-life,” he said.

The union has been urging the federal government to appeal to Biden to intervene against Whitmer’s plan.

“Everyone’s frustrated with it because it really doesn’t make any sense,” Archer said of how union members feel.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said at least 3,000 jobs at three refineries in his city, as well as numerous positions in related industries, would be affected if the pipeline shut down.

“If you’re talking about that number of jobs, it is like dropping a neutron bomb on the community,” he said. “It would be truly devastating.”

Bradley has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan urging them to appeal to Biden.

In a letter last week, O’Regan said he shared Bradley’s concerns.

O’Regan said Line 5’s shutdown would have a “profound” impact on jobs, raise the cost of supplies and take a financial toll on many Canadian and U.S. refineries.

“We continue to advocate for Line 5 to remain in operation while recognizing and respecting the sensitivity of the issue to the state of Michigan, and the importance of furthering a constructive dialogue with the new United States administration,” the minister wrote.

The federal Conservatives said last week that more needs to be done to ensure Line 5 stays open to protect the jobs associated with it.

– With files from The Associated Press.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press


  1. Yeah Jim you tell him, if line 5 goes down our gas rates in Ontario would sky rocket, green energy is not plentiful or dependable, we need gas to heat our homes and to drive our vehicles, will need it for years to come!!!!!! If you want to save the planet blame China, they are building coal plants, many of them still, they are the major polluters, here in Canada, our pollution rate is very low. Our gas and oil industries, along with forestry, if let to flow would get Canada out of our deficit, but not with boy wonder in charge of the country, that’s for sure!!!!!

  2. People are going to have to make a career change. The longer they delay the inevitable, the harder it may be for them.

    The next decade is a critical one for reducing emissions and ratcheting up ambition quickly.
    Canada’s climate plan must meet a reduction target of at least 40 per cent by 2030 with even stronger targets thereafter.

    Transitioning to a green economy will not only save lives but lead to a better quality of life for all Canadians. This focus will create a massive need for businesses, professionals and trained or retrained tradespeople including oil workers, in every community, in every province and territory. Our economy will be stimulated and there will be millions of good, long-term jobs on projects in every community throughout Canada that will save our environment and our future.

    Polling shows that 61% of Canadians want governments to prioritize climate action in their response to the pandemic. Already, we are far, far behind many other countries taking the opportunity the COVID-19 recovery presents to shape a better world — from the green agendas in the European Union and South Korea to the labour reforms being explored in New Zealand.

    Because the climate crisis presents another imminent fight for our lives, it is crucial that any and all spending be only focused on endeavours that support attacking the climate crisis.

    It is crucial that decisive, committed action be started now to implement the changes that are required. We can’t afford any time, any money or people resources to bail out/support big oil or even listen to the oil industry’s babble. There is much to be done and little time to do it.

    • There is no climate crisis. Quit buying into the fraud. The alarmists have been doing this for the past 50 years with absolutely none of their predictions coming true.

      There are few jobs in ‘green energy'(there is no such thing by the way). Most of the jobs created by ‘green energy’ are created when constructing solar blights and wind turbines. Once they are there only a few people are required to check on them. So, no, there won’t be hundreds of thousands of jobs.

      Your so-called ‘green energy’ creates solar panels that can’t be recycled, wind turbine blades that can’t be recycled. Solar and wind power generates less than 5% of energy on the best days. Feburary 10 (Gridwatch) Wind 3.9% and Solar .03% of Ontario generation. They never recoup the costs and pollution created to get them operating and the taxpayer is on the hooks for hundreds of millions in subsidies to companies that cozied up to the former provincial Liberal government and current federal Liberal government to make billions.

      Canada creates a minimal amount of pollution compared to China, which isn’t part of the climate accords. You think a country of 1.4 billion people pollutes less than us? That’s absurd.
      Most European energy reforms have failed miserably.

      You need to educate yourself on the real deal about ‘green energy’ and stop spouting platitudes that don’t create jobs, don’t keep us warm in the winter and don’t boost the economy.

  3. Line 5 should not be shut down. Few people even knew it existed until a few years ago when the eco-radicals started complaining about it. There was one issue with the line which wasn’t the fault of the company, but a ship’s captain, which didn’t result in any oil being spilled.
    Oil pipelines are the safest and most efficient (not to mention environmentally friendly) way to transport oil.
    What is the alternative for oil to provide energy and materials for many of the items we use daily?
    Don’t say wind or solar as both generate a very small amounts of energy to this province’s grid (and for that matter all of Canada) and sometimes nothing. They also are built from raw materials that in some cases can’t be recycled and are dangerous to human health. They are not clean energy sources – not by a long shot.
    Oil and its by-products are going to be required for hundreds of years before something takes its place.

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