From welders to pipefitters, crane operators to truckers, the biggest trade unions from across the country and in the Maritimes threw their support behind the Energy East Pipeline Thursday.

The agreement with TransCanada Pipelines promises thousands of jobs if the project gets the greenlight.

Welder Erica Comeau is one of the tradespeople waiting and hoping the big project goes ahead.

“I know a lot of people are against the pipeline, but it would help out a lot of families around here,” says Comeau. “There’s not much work here. You take what you can get and that will open up a lot of doors for people.”

The top people in her union and other national trades groups call Thursday’s signing with TransCanada is a historic agreement.

“Today’s agreement signals to all of Canada that Energy East is much more than just a pipeline,” says Energy East President John Soini. “It’s a legacy opportunity that will help provide good quality jobs.”

If approval is granted, at bestit will be between three and four years before their Energy East Pipeline arrives at a new terminal on the Bay of Fundy. However, people in the construction industry say with $15-billion at stake, it’s not unusual labour agreements are worked out years in advance.

Among the issues that both company and labour leaders are working on, are guarantees that enough skilled workers will be available.

“Commitments will be made,” says Jodi Waring of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 213. “You know, we’re going to come to you looking for pipefitters and welders, and whatever else they need. We’re going to be there for them. We’ll be making that commitment as the other trades will as well.”

Some questions remain unanswered, including whether contracts will be awarded to local companies along the pipeline route.

“That’s where the meat and potatoes for the local contractors and local workforce are,” says Stephen Beatteay of the Saint John Construction Association. “The location of the five pump stations, how is that work going to be tendered? When is it physically going to be constructed? And the tank farm of course, and the jetty in Saint John?”

There can be little doubt that TransCanada will use those newly signed labour agreements to support its case, when the national energy board opens hearings into the Energy East Pipeline next month in Saint John.”

With files from CTV’s Mike Cameron