Thunder Bay

'A lot of hope' for trained workers after Ontario designates NextBridge to construct East-West Tie Line

The chairman of the board for Supercom Industries — a 100 per cent First Nation owned company that's been recruiting and training workers for the East-West Tie Line from Thunder Bay to Wawa — says the uncertainty around which company will ultimately build the transmission line "created a lot of confusion" among their students.

Last week, the province designated NextBridge as the official partner company to construct

NextBridge Infrastructure's 400-kilometre-long power line will run from Wawa to Thunder Bay. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

The chairman of the board for Supercom Industries — a 100 per cent First Nation owned company that's been recruiting and training workers for the East-West Tie Line from Thunder Bay to Wawa — says the uncertainty around which company will ultimately build the transmission line "created a lot of confusion" among their students.

The province reaffirmed that they have directed the Ontario Energy Board to designate NextBridge as the transmitter to build the East-West Tie Line Project. Matthew Dupuis is the chief of the Red Rock Indian Band and chairman of the board for SuperCom 6:01

Last week, the province announced that it has issued an Order in Council (OIC) and a ministerial directive designating NextBridge as the official partner company on the construction of the approximately 450-kilometre long transmission line in northwestern Ontario.

This came after Hydro One submitted their bid in 2018, saying that they could build the line at a lower cost.

"At the beginning it seemed like a clear, set forward plan with a set in-service date, set construction date and we built a program around it," Chief of Red Rock Indian Band and chairman of the board for Supercom Industries, Matthew Dupuis told CBC News, "and when a competing bid was submitted, it started to bog everything down."

He added that an announcement was expected to be made "before the new year," but because of the uncertainty around who will build the transmission line, "that got pushed back until the end of January."

"Now minister Rickford is actually stepping in and giving the ministry a directive to give the project to NextBridge as the transmitter is huge," Dupuis said, adding that it creates a lot of hope for individuals who are going to go work on this project or thinking about it in the future.

Roughly 200 students have graduated from their training program, he said, with many of them now working with partnering companies like Hydro One or in other sectors such as mining and forestry.

"We did work with Hydro One as well and actually for them, they ended up hiring a lot of our students," Dupuis explained, "so I would really like to thank them for that because even though they weren't successful on this bid, they still recruited a lot of local individuals to work for their company and it's a win-win for both."

He said the next step for Supercom Industries is to "look at the gaps," and determine how many more already trained or new workers they'll need for the project.

"Right now we are still waiting on what the in-service date is and that will depict the construction schedule," he said, "and if it is a short construction period that means there's going to be a lot more people needed."