Sask. NDP pipeline pitch, backed by steelworkers, blasted by government

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili, flanked by the president of the Regina steelworkers union, made a pitch to the provincial government on Tuesday, calling for a pipeline expiry date system to be implemented in the province.

NDP cites safety, job creation, tariff uncertainty as reasons for plan

Ryan Meili announced a plan to place expiry dates on Saskatchewan pipeline. He made his pitch outside Evraz in Regina. (CBC)

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili, flanked by the president of the Regina steelworkers union, made a pitch to the provincial government on Tuesday —  one the government flatly rejected.

Meili called for a pipeline expiry date system to be implemented in the province. He said the system would be the first of its kind in Canada.

The proposal would call for "best before" dates on pipelines dependent on their age, material and whether they are near a body of water. He said the new pipe would be produced by Evraz in Regina, which would recycle the out-of-date pipe.

"We think that's a great opportunity to increase employment for the folks working in the steel industry, as well as protecting the water and the land that is really at the base of a successful economy and a successful quality of life right here in the province," Meili said.

Canadian steel produced in Regina's Evraz plant. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

As part of the reasoning for the expiry-date pitch, the NDP also referred to costs of the 2016 Husky oil spill and the recently released provincial auditor's report which highlighted issues in pipeline regulation. Meili also noted the uncertainty around the tariffs on Canadian steel announced by the Trump administration.

"The tariffs Donald Trump is imposing on Canadian steel will have serious negative impacts on steel manufacturing jobs here in Saskatchewan," Meili said.

Government blasts Meili's proposal

Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre called Meili's pipeline pitch "irresponsible" and "irrational."

"This would be a completely untested, untried system and Mr. Meili admitted as much," Eyre said.

The minister added the province already has a safety structure system in place to inspect and replace aging pipes.

She said to date in 2018, the ministry of energy and resources has conducted nearly 5,000 pipeline, well and facility inspections. 

Eyre said the NDP plan has not been budgeted and would hit taxpayers. She provided an example of replacing the entirety of SaskEnergy pipelines, which alone would cost $50 billion.

Union endorses Meili's pitch

United Steelworkers Local 5890 president Mike Day joined Meili for his announcement in a parking lot near the Evraz facility.

"Steelworkers are concerned about how American tariffs will lead to lost jobs, and this proposal form the Saskatchewan NDP will help create extra demand for steel made right here in Regina," Day said. 

Mike Day, president of United Steelworkers Local 5890, supported the NDP proposal for a system of pipeline expiry dates.

Day said the uncertainty over major pipeline projects like Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain have added to stress among the more than 1,000 workers at Evraz in Regina.

"We've been battling over the last few years over how pipelines seem to be a swear word in Canada. It's tough but we want to make sure we're protecting good jobs for this city, for this province," Day added.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the Provincial Affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca