Que­bec stiff-arms hopes of re­viv­ing En­ergy East

New Brunswick’s Higgs warns of pos­si­ble con­se­quences on equal­iza­tion pay­ments

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION -

MON­TREAL New Brunswick Premier Blaine Hig gs re­mained op­ti­mistic Fri­day that, some­day, a pipe­line would be built to bring western crude oil to ports in his re­gion for trans­port over­seas. But the Que­bec premier tried his best to kill that dream.

While the prime min­is­ter and Canada’s pre­miers found com­mon ground on is­sues such as trade dur­ing their meet­ing in Mon­treal, they were con­fronted with the harsh real­ity that Que­bec will not ac­cept a pipe­line.

“I un­der­stand that Al­berta and the other prov­inces that pro­duce oil want to find ways to get it (to tide­wa­ter), but I was very, very clear,” Fran­cois Le­gault told re­porters after the closed-door meet­ing. “There is no so­cial ac­cept­abil­ity for a pipe­line that would pass through Que­bec ter­ri­tory.”

Le­gault saw no con­tra­dic­tion in lob­by­ing pre­miers Fri­day to buy more hy­dro­elec­tric­ity from his prov­ince while re­ject­ing western en­ergy.

“We are of­fer­ing an en­ergy that is not ex­pen­sive and is clean,” Le­gault said. “I am not em­bar­rassed to refuse dirty en­ergy while we are of­fer­ing clean en­ergy at a com­pet­i­tive price.”

Tran­sCanada Cor­po­ra­tion had pro­posed the $15.7-bil­lion En­ergy East pipe­line to bring western crude through Que­bec and on­ward to New Brunswick be­fore be­ing shipped over­seas.

The com­pany aban­doned the project more than a year ago, and a spokesper­son re­cently said it has no plan to re­vive it.

But de­spite the hur­dles placed by Tran­sCanada and Que­bec, Higgs told re­porters Fri­day he isn’t giv­ing up.

“This is the first time I had a dis­cus­sion with Mr. Le­gault (about the pipe­line),” Higgs said. “I un­der­stand the po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties. And the first process (for En­ergy East) was a flawed one.”

The New Brunswick premier ac­knowl­edged Le­gault gave him “no in­di­ca­tion (the pipe­line) will be a pos­si­bil­ity — so I won’t pre­tend other­wise.”

“But I am op­ti­mistic that if we work to­gether with peo­ple in our prov­ince and his prov­ince and across the na­tion that we’ll find so­lu­tions.”

While he re­mained hope­ful, Higgs also of­fered a warn­ing.

The coun­try is still very much de­pen­dent on oil rev­enues and if Al­berta con­tin­ues to suf­fer eco­nom­i­cally, it will hurt the en­tire coun­try — re­gard­less of how much hy­dro­elec­tric­ity Que­bec has.

He said New Brunswick con­tin­ues to re­ceive fed­eral equal­iza­tion pay­ments, which rep­re­sent 30 per cent of the prov­ince’s bud­get.

Que­bec is also a ma­jor bene­fac­tor of equal­iza­tion, while Al­berta re­mains a “have prov­ince” that sub­si­dizes oth­ers.

“Al­berta has been feed­ing our kids for a long time with the roy­al­ties, with the money that has come from oil,” Higgs said.

“My con­cern is how will the fed­eral govern­ment con­tinue to pay, how will trans­fer pay­ments sur­vive in the cur­rent form? Will the next mes­sage be that trans­fer pay­ments need to be cut be­cause the rev­enue is no longer there?”

MARTIN OUEL­LET-DIOTTE/AFP-GETTY IM­AGES

Que­bec Premier Fran­cois Le­gault dis­putes any com­par­i­son in his hopes to sell more hy­dro out­side the prov­ince with Al­berta’s de­sire to get its oil to over­seas mar­kets.

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