Contracts have been awarded to two companies for the $350-million renovation and expansion of a science centre in Moncton that's expected to add about 350 jobs to the city.
Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt was awarded a $26-million contract to create designs, and Montreal-based Pomerleau was awarded a $325-million construction contract for the expansion of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Gulf Fisheries Centre on University Avenue, said Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Dominic LeBlanc, in a news conference Monday morning.
"Together, these two service providers will work to fully develop and build the Atlantic Science Enterprise Centre, which more than doubles the existing space here today," said LeBlanc, appearing on a live video stream from the centre.
The announcement of the project to create the Atlantic Science Enterprise Centre was originally made back in April, ahead of federal elections held in September.
"I think the significant piece today is for people to understand is that this is no longer an announcement that some politician made on the eve of an election," LeBlanc said.
"The Government of Canada has now contracted legally to begin the design and construction in the first part of 2022," adding that it will be the largest federal infrastructure project in Atlantic Canada since the construction of the Confederation Bridge.
LeBlanc said the expansion will begin in spring 2022, and is expected to be completed in 2030. During that time, the project is expected to create about 200 construction jobs.
Once completed, the number of people working at the facility permanently will also be doubled from 350 to about 700, LeBlanc said.
"Many of those jobs will be scientific jobs, so you can imagine for the local economy, those are highly skilled, well-paid people," he said.
Aside from Fisheries and Oceans Canada employees, the facility will also house staff from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the National Research Council, as well as the Canadian Space Agency, which will be a "virtual partner," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said the renovations and expansion won't come at the expense of the heritage of the existing building, which once housed Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie, a school for girls run by nuns, until 1965.
"The Gulf Fisheries Centre is also an important symbol of Acadian heritage and renaissance and a prominent landmark in the city of Moncton and in southeastern New Brunswick," he said.
"The fully redeveloped ASEC will retain its cultural significance by commemorating the Acadian heritage elements that are obviously part of the existing building we're in today."
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister of official languages and MP for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, said the project will give scientists the facilities and resources they need to do "leading-edge research" for the next several years.
"There is no doubt that the work being done here at the Atlantic Science Enterprise Centre is important for all Canadians," Petitpas Taylor said.
"It will also contribute greatly in our efforts to understand, to protect and to sustain Atlantic freshwater and coastal ecosystems — something that is particularly close to the hearts of all of us that are here today."
Moncton Deputy Mayor Charles Leger said he was happy to see the project move forward.
"It's a huge impact and certainly very nice to see it moving forward," Leger said.
"Besides the new building that they're going to be creating, they're also going to be renovating an existing structure, so I think that is certainly very good news in terms of... the historical content of that area."