‘There is no so­cial ac­cept­abil­ity for pipe­line,’ says Que­bec premier

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - — THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

mON­treaL — New brunswick Premier blaine Higgs 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 on­wards 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?”

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