Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was in Saint John on Friday, where he declared his commitment to the Energy East pipeline project.
“I will continue to fight relentlessly for the dream of Energy East,” he told reporters after a breakfast event hosted by the Saint John Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve always said that we need multiple pipelines, not just one. One pipeline doesn’t just get us the kind of certainty and diversity of markets that we need for Canadian energy.”
About a dozen protesters gathered outside the Hilton, where Kenney gave his standing-room-only address, declaring opposition to the Alberta premier’s views on oil and gas development. But inside, the mood was decidedly pro-oil.
The federal government is expected to announce the results of the latest review of the Trans Mountain expansion next week, but chamber of commerce CEO David Duplessis says pro-pipeline Saint Johners aren’t worried that Alberta could lose interest should the western path to tidewater open up.
“The situation hasn’t changed, regardless of some of the initiatives and policy decisions the current government is making. The dream is not dead. We still have to get Alberta resources out to tidewater somehow,” he said.
“We need to find the investors as well because there’s already been a billion dollars invested in the concept of a pipeline to Saint John, and that’s been wasted because of some of the initiatives the federal government is taking.”
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Kenney said he has spoken to some companies and the interest is there but only “if there is a clear shot at getting it done.”
“You can’t do it with regulatory uncertainty, the kind of uncertainty that killed Energy East in 2017,” he said.
Kenney is travelling the country to campaign against bills C-69 and C-48.
Kenney has taken to referring to Bill C-69 as the “no more pipeline bill,” calling it an overhaul of the regulatory process for approving major resource projects like pipelines. Bill C-48 would ban tanker traffic along the northern B.C. coastline.
Bill C-69 was heavily amended in the Senate, but the Liberals have said they only intend to keep some of the amendments, saying those made by Conservative senators would effectively gut the bill.
Kenney recently signed a letter along with five other premiers, including New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs, calling the bills a threat to national unity.
When asked if he believes pipeline projects are possible under the Trudeau government, Kenney paused before answering.
“Not under the Trudeau government’s current policy direction because if they continue with Bill C-69 without the Senate amendments, it will become impossible, but I always want to hold out hope,” he said.
Higgs says he isn’t focused on one particular project but, rather, on the longer-term vision of an energy corridor that has been championed by federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
“I think the focus has to be on a national corridor so it’s a longer-term vision of uniting the country,” Higgs said.
“Having a corridor that will allow its unrestricted use that’s already pre-approved, whether it be gas, oil, electrical transmission, communication, whatever it might be, then it connects our country like the railroad once did.”
Higgs added that Canada needs to stop handcuffing the oil and gas sector.
“We’re in a transition economy. We are at a point now where we know we’re shifting from one economy to the other, but we can’t just shut the lights out and wander around in the dark in the meantime,” he said.
“We have the highest standards in the world and yet we’re shutting ourselves down. This is like putting a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. Why would we do that and have it impact so many people across the country?”