FIRST MINISTERS MEETING
No commitment on oil crisis
Alberta has gone on the offensive to sell the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, portraying the issue as a national priority.
In full-page ads purchased in Quebec media Friday, including the Montreal Gazette, the province says delays in the pipeline expansion are costing Canadians $80 million a day.
The campaign was launched as Canada’s first ministers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, gather in a Montreal hotel for talks. And on Thursday Premier François Legault said the issue of oil pipelines is no longer socially acceptable in Quebec.
He was referring to the dream of some western Canadian leaders and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, who would like to reactivate the dead TransCanada Energy East pipeline project, which would carry western oil across Quebec to the east.
But Alberta Premier Rachel Notley remains undaunted in solving her own pipeline problems.
After the failure to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project off the ground, she started crusading for federal compensation and is making another pitch in Montreal.
“The single most important issue facing Canada’s economy now is the difficulty getting our oil and gas products to market,” Notley told reporters arriving for talks.
“Any kind of meeting that focuses on the prosperity and well-being of Canadians that doesn’t focus substantially on that issue is not a meeting that is well designed. So we’re going to do everything we can to get some real work done here.”
Her comments reflect the main beef of some premiers who arrived saying the agenda for the meeting with Trudeau was too tilted to the needs of Ottawa, while they want to talk about the carbon tax and a rescue for the oil industry.
Arriving for the meeting, Legault revealed that Higgs raised the Energy East project, which would benefit New Brunswick but would have to cross Quebec, in a bilateral session Friday.
“He talked to me about it,” Legault said. “But I told him there’s no social acceptability (in Quebec).”
As for helping Alberta with its oil crisis, Legault suggested it was not really Quebec’s problem.
But in the ad, Alberta said the pipeline issue is everyone’s problem. The ad says the pipeline delay means less investment in infrastructure, less investment in green energy and fewer jobs for Canadians.
Legault also raised the issue with Trudeau of compensation for costs incurred in paying for asylum seekers. Quebec is seeking $300 million to cover costs incurred.
“We will pursue the discussions,” Legault said.
Trudeau moved to ease tensions at the meeting, saying he does not expect the premiers to agree on everything. He tried to ease their fears Thursday evening, inviting them to dine at a popular Park Extension Greek restaurant.
In his opening remarks at Friday ’s meeting, Trudeau responded to criticism — especially from Ontario Premier Doug Ford — that the agenda didn’t include enough time for the premiers’ concerns.
“Today the premiers and I will talk about how we can best support Canadians working in sectors that are currently facing significant challenges,” Trudeau said, “whether they’re oil and gas workers in Alberta hit hard by the price differential or GM workers in Oshawa.
“Our government will continue to support Canadian workers and we will always stand up for Canadian families. We have many subjects to discuss, and I want to leave the most time possible for discussion.”
But he was firm in his believe Ottawa’s new carbon tax to reduce pollution will stay.
“We have to acknowledge that pollution should not be free anywhere in Canada.”
The single most important issue facing Canada’s economy now is the difficulty getting our oil and gas products to market.
Premier Rachel Notley is on a mission to make the province’s oil crisis a priority for other provinces and Ottawa. Alberta launched an ad campaign to highlight the sector’s importance.