Sarnia officials emphasize significance of Enbridge's Line 5 to Members of Parliament

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and pipefitters' union leader Scott Archer answered questions from Members of Parliament Tuesday about Line 5 — which has been ordered to close by Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

'It's vital we keep this going' says Essex MP

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and union leader Scott Archer answered questions from Members of Parliament in Ottawa Tuesday about the economic impact of removing the line. (Radio-Canada)

Sarnia officials answered questions from Members of Parliament Tuesday about Enbridge's Line 5, a pipeline that carries oil and gas to Sarnia from Western Canada, and spoke toward the importance of keeping the pipeline running. 

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and pipefitters' union leader Scott Archer spoke to Members of Parliament Tuesday about Line 5 — which has been ordered to close by Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Canadian federal government has said it will fight Michigan's attempt to shut the pipeline down. 

"[It's] vital we keep this going," said Chris Lewis, Conservative MP for Essex who heard the discussion with Bradley and Archer. Lewis told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette Wednesday that the removal of the line would harm jobs in Canada and Michigan. 

Line 5, which runs through Michigan from the Wisconsin city of Superior to Sarnia, Ont., crosses the Great Lakes beneath the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, which link Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Whitmer has ordered Enbridge to close the pipeline in May due to environmental concerns.

But Enbridge has denied that request and is fighting the ordered shutdown in federal court. 

Bradley and Archer spoke to members who make up the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship Between Canada and the United States. 

According to Lewis, the committee is "aligned" on the issue and everyone wants to keep Line 5 open. 

He said that Whitmer needs to allow Enbridge the time to build its new tunnel. 

Conservative MP for Essex Chris Lewis says the committee is in agreement that Line 5 needs to stay open. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The company wants to build a tunnel underneath the straits to house an upgraded version of the dual pipeline — a project Michigan has already approved — but needs the existing line to continue to operate in the meantime. The tunnel isn't expected to completed until 2024.

But Whitmer has revoked a 1953 easement that has allowed the pipeline to operate without incident for more than 65 years, saying the company has violated the terms of the agreement. 

"Line 5 has been in use for, quite frankly, decades and I think there's a much greater chance of an oil catastrophe, an oil spill on 14,000  trucks, barges in our Great Lakes or we put it on trains," Lewis said. "We are very dependent on petroleum products ... if Line 5 is shut down, we're looking at a 50 per cent reduction in oil ... that means costs go up again." 

"I know that it's going to be a major impact to our economy," he added. 

Lewis continued to say it's important that everyone "come to the table" and keep this moving forward. But he said officials here haven't had "nearly enough" communication with Whitmer or others in the United States on this, despite requesting them to join the committee.  

The committee will now put together a report and bring that to the House of Commons with findings and suggestions from witnesses, Lewis said.

With files from James McCarten, Windsor Morning