On the energy front, perhaps we should not have been so quick to assume that Maritime economic priorities neatly dovetail with those of Ontario and Quebec. After all, when have they ever?
Indeed, if there was a time when political leaders in New Brunswick considered TransCanada’s eastbound pipeline project a slam-dunk, that time is over, which leaves the province’s new Liberal premier Brian Gallant with yet another post-election migraine.
According to a Globe and Mail report last Friday, “Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel sent a letter to (TransCanada) chief executive officer Russ Girling laying down seven conditions (the company) must meet to win the province’s support for the (Energy East) project. With his letter, Mr. Heurtel established conditions similar to those adopted by British Columbia Premier Christy Clark for Enbridge Inc.’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline that would deliver oil sands bitumen to Kitimat for export to Asia, though his tone was somewhat more agreeable than Ms. Clark’s has been”.
Specifically, “Mr. Heurtel’s conditions include the need for public acceptance of the project, for proper consultations with First Nations, and for clear economic and fiscal benefits for Quebec, as well as assurances to gas customers. Mr. Heurtel also cited a National Assembly resolution demanding the government assess the impacts of ‘upstream”’GHG emissions – those produced by extracting the oil – for the pipeline that would carry 1.1 million barrels a day of western crude to market. But he was vague on whether the government will assert the right to block the pipeline.”
Ontario, too, wants environmental assurances and pledges from TransCanada that its newfound interest in shipping western bitumen through its territory en route to Saint John’s refinery will not overwhelm priorities to make supplies natural gas available to central Canadian industry.
Meanwhile, Premier Gallant is scrambling to put the new developments in the best possible light. “I will meet with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to talk about the fact that we are certainly behind the project,” he told reporters on Friday. “For us, what’s important is to assure when we can do it in the most safe and secure way possible. It’s one of the reasons why I read about the project at length two years ago. When we put the project into motion, I was already aware that we can do this in a secure way.”
Of course we can. But that’s not really the point. These days, pipelines are symbols of industrial rapacity and environmental carelessness. As such, they are marvelous for galvanizing public opinion against any expansion of the fossil fuel industry, as Maude Barlow, no shrinking violet on the subject, demonstrated last year.
Regarding the Energy East proposal, the national chairperson for the Council of Canadians, told her interviewer from the North Bay Nugget, “I want to let communities know not to be pressured to make a decision or risk not getting the benefits of the pipeline. I can tell you there are no benefits. There’s no argument for this pipeline. It’s an export pipeline and we don’t need it. . .We get the risk and (oil companies) get the reward,” adding “I would like to know what are the big jobs, because this pipeline is for export. It’s about greed. They’re playing with a potential environmental catastrophe that environmentalists have been warning about. . .It’s so much more dangerous (than any other oil) and it’s crossing watersheds and many waterways around the Great Lake Region that are already being threatened. We certainly don’t need to add to that threat.”
Naturally, TrabsCanada couldn’t let that go. It responded with its own statement:
“Quebec and New Brunswick currently import more than 700,000 barrels of oil every day – or 86 per cent of their refinery needs – from countries such as Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. At current oil prices, this is over $75 million drained out of the Canadian economy – every single day. Energy East proposes to connect Western Canada’s resources to Eastern Canada’s needs. Greater supplies of domestic crude would improve the financial viability of eastern Canadian refineries by giving them access to less-expensive, stable domestic supplies.”
Of course, for Mr. Gallant, it could be worse. He could start talking enthusiastically about shale gas.
Let the protests commence.