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Alberta Premier Redford touts west-east pipeline project in New Brunswick

FREDERICTON – Canada’s biggest challenge is to improve access to international markets, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said Friday as she stepped up efforts to promote a proposal to ship oil to the East Coast.

Redford spoke to the New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton as part of a visit intended to advance the west-to-east pipeline development, an idea that has found a receptive ear in the government of Premier David Alward.

She said one reason why the project should go ahead is because Alberta’s lack of direct access to a coastal shipping route contributed to a $6 billion slide in her province’s revenues this year.

After her speech, Redford said she wasn’t concerned about environmental opposition to the construction of pipelines, an issue that has dogged the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline proposals.

“We face these challenges all the time, whether we’re talking about a pipeline or shale gas development or building a road or building a hospital,” she said.

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“But at the end of the day, the other choices we have to make are about whether or not we’re going to be able to continue to fund a public health care system, a public education system, to be able to continue to invest in wonderful universities to educate generations to come and to diversify our economy.

“My only point is that it’s not an either-or conversation. We’ve always done a very good job in Canada of being able to balance those interests and I think we can continue to do that.”

She was also scheduled later Friday to speak to members of the Saint John Board of Trade and tour the Irving Oil refinery, Canada’s largest.

TransCanada Corp. is considering to convert an existing 3,000-kilometre natural gas pipeline to carry crude into Quebec, with the possibility of a 1,400-kilometre extension to Saint John.

The Calgary-based company has set a deadline of June 17 to accept binding commitments from oil producers before determining whether to proceed with the development, known as the Energy East Pipeline project. It says if the development proceeds, it could begin shipping as much as 850,000 barrels of oil per day in late 2017.

An Irving Oil sign at a supertanker terminal, the last stop on Redford’s tour of Saint John. Paul McLaughlin/Global News

Alward said he is confident the proposal can stand on merit.

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Redford’s visit to New Brunswick comes four months after Alward conducted a similar trip to Alberta, where he toured the oilsands.

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