No fewer than three southern New Brunswick Conservative candidates raised the issue of the Energy East pipeline, a massive project that would have linked Alberta and Saskatchewan oil sands to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick, at a candidates’ gathering in Saint John on Thursday morning.
“Coffee with the Candidates” was a joint presentation between the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce and Saint John Real Estate Board that brought together candidates representing all parties in the Saint John area.
Saint John—Rothesay Conservative candidate Rodney Weston called the project dead even though Tory Premier Blaine Higgs expressed a desire to revive it less than a year ago.
“Saint John—Rothesay residents understand very clearly the opportunity that was lost,” Weston said. “I want to work to develop the environment that if that opportunity ever presented itself again, that we don’t miss it.”
Liberal incumbent Wayne Long wasn’t impressed that Tory candidates are beating the Energy East drums again.
The NDP has unequivocally expressed opposition to any pipeline in Quebec, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh saying last week during the French-language debate that he “will never force a pipeline on Quebec. That is clear.”
The Green Party has been likewise opposed to any revival of the project.
UNB Saint John political scientist J.P. Lewis said it appears Conservatives are trying to score political points by talking about Liberals not being able to put major projects like Energy East to bed.
“Even though Energy East seems like a thing in the past here, it can still be a talking point … for Conservative candidates who are saying that the Trudeau government has been unfriendly to natural resource extraction and the energy sector.”
In New Brunswick, the Liberals are trying to hold on to seats gained in 2015 while the Conservatives are trying to win them back.
Both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have spent time in New Brunswick during the campaign.
RIDING PROFILE: Saint John—Rothesay
Lewis said the riding of Saint John—Rothesay, which is traditionally Conservative but went Liberal in 2015, might be a good indicator of what’s to come nationwide.
“If the Conservatives want to win the most seats, this feels like a riding they need to win to be a bit of a predictor for the types of ridings that they can win across the country,” he said.
Everyone will find out on Monday night.