FREDERICTON – The premier of New Brunswick says he believes he can convince Quebec’s skeptical premier of the benefits of reviving the Energy East pipeline project.
Higgs, along with a number of other premiers and federal politicians, are pressing for a restart of the $16 billion Energy East pipeline to get oil from Alberta to refineries in eastern Canada and to an export terminal in Saint John, N.B.
The pipeline would have to pass through Quebec, but so far, Premier Francois Legault has signalled he’s not interested.
Higgs says he’s hoping to convince Legault that Energy East would benefit all provinces including Quebec when the two men are face-to-face this week at a first ministers’ meeting in Montreal.
“We have a number of provinces lined up who say this is a big interest for us. I’m optimistic that he too is going to see the benefit here because we all share in the benefit of this resource, and he has refineries too that would be interested in sourcing this oil that are currently on foreign oil,” Higgs said Wednesday.
Legault’s spokesman told La Presse this week that Quebec has no intention of supporting any revival of Energy East.
“Our government’s ambition is to increase the level of wealth in Quebec, but it will have to be done in a perspective that respects the environment,” Ewan Sauves told the Montreal news outlet. “We have always been reluctant faced with this project, which is poorly put together environmentally and economically.”
Sauves told The Canadian Press Wednesday they have no further comment for the moment.
Alberta is cutting production and buying rail cars in an effort to address slumping prices for its oil.
Higgs said he’s worried the level of transfer payments to provinces like his could be at risk if Alberta’s falling oil revenues aren’t addressed, and he believes a pipeline to move western crude to Eastern Canada and foreign markets could be the solution.
He said transfers currently make up about 30 per cent of New Brunswick’s budget.
“Right now we have foreign oil that’s coming into our province that our own oil can displace. We have a resource here that we have chosen not to market, and it’s going to hurt every one of us,” Higgs said.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley made a similar point last week.
“Quite frankly it is quite perverse that we are selling our oil in Alberta for $10 a barrel and then in eastern Canada we are importing from places like Saudi Arabia. This makes no sense,” she said.
TransCanada, the original proponent of the pipeline, has stated it has no plans to revisit the project.
“We are focused on developing the more than $36 billion in commercially secured pipeline and power generation projects that we currently have underway across North America, including Keystone XL and the Coastal GasLink project in B.C.,” Terry Cunha, manager of communications for TransCanada, wrote in a statement.
But Higgs said he’s confident TransCanada could be lured back onboard.
“They never left because of the market. They left because of political uncertainty and the continual political roadblocks,” he said.
Higgs suggests that a holding company be formed to start the application process to the National Energy Board, and that TransCanada or another company could become interested then.