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James W. Kerr, 1914-1997

 

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1914, Jim Kerr graduated from the University of Toronto in 1937 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, and joined Canadian Westinghouse Co., Ltd. that same year. There he rose to the position of vice-president and general manager of the company's apparatus products group in 1956.

 

In 1958-immediately following the completion of the TransCanada PipeLines Limited system-Kerr joined TCPL as president and chief executive officer, and three years later was appointed chairman of the board of directors. He continued as chairman and chief executive officer until his retirement in 1979, but remained as a director and consultant to the company until he retired from the board in 1984.

 

Jim was instrumental in building the Canadian natural gas industry. Without his leadership, and that provided by others like him, Canada's natural gas markets and the delivery infrastructure underpinning those markets would have been structured very differently, to the detriment of the Canadian upstream natural gas industry, gas consumers across the country, and the hundreds of communities that benefit financially from the presence of the pipelines.

 

During more than two decades of Jim's leadership, TCPL grew dramatically, both in its Canadian markets and in its function as a key export gateway to the United States. Highlights of his tenure included initial exports to the U.S. Midwest through Emerson in 1960, the buyback of the northern Ontario section of the TCPL mainline (originally financed by the federal government) in 1961, and the approval and construction of the Great Lakes Pipeline system through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan and back into Canada at Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline system provided access to additional export markets and lower-cost transportation to eastern Canadian markets.

 

During this period, there was also tremendous market growth in Canada and the United States, with pipeline capacity increasing from 360 million cubic feet per day to more than four billion cubic feet per day. The expansion required massive looping projects between Alberta and Manitoba, on the Northern Ontario line, on the line to Montreal, and on the Great Lakes system, as well as substantial growth in compression power, to more than one million horsepower.

 

Besides overseeing the dramatic growth of the TCPL system, Jim contributed to the development of the first liquids extraction plant on a major pipeline facility in Canada by Pacific Petroleum at the village of Empress, on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. The straddle plant system eventually became key to the success of Alberta's world-class petrochemical industry.

 

During his career, Jim was actively involved in natural gas industry associations, serving as president of the Canadian Gas Association in 1964-65 and as a director of the American Gas Association in two different periods. In 1976, he was the first Canadian named as president of the International Gas Union, and as its president, hosted the 14th World Gas Conference in Toronto in 1979. In 1980, he was honorary chairman of LNG 6, the sixth international conference on liquefied natural gas, held in Tokyo.

 

Jim was president of the Toronto Board of Trade in 1969-70, and in 1970 was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Petroleum. He served on numerous boards of directors, and his community activities included terms as governor of the Ontario Research Foundation and chairman of the Salvation Army Territorial Advisory Board Executive for Canada and Bermuda.

 

Jim received numerous awards, including the Government of Canada Centennial Medal (1967), the American Academy of Achievement Award (1975), the Engineering Institute of Canada Medal (1976), Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (1979), and the Salvation Army Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service (1982). The Coronary Care Unit at the Scarborough Grace General Hospital was named after him in recognition of his service to the Salvation Army.

 

Jim died in May 1997 at the age of 83. He is survived by his wife Ruth, their two children David and Barbara (Mrs. J. D. Deeks), and two grandsons, Charles and Colin Deeks.

 

   
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