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Quebec Will Not Block West-East Pipeline, Redford Says

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REDFORD MAROIS PIPELINE
Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she doesn't believe Quebec will stand in the way of a west-to-east pipeline carrying crude oil from Alberta to Saint John. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan) | CP

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she doesn't believe Quebec will stand in the way of a west-to-east pipeline carrying crude oil from Alberta to Saint John.

There has been speculation that Quebec might not allow the project to flow through that province and into New Brunswick.

But Redford said she has had discussions with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois over the potential pipeline project.

She said Marois wants to ensure that the environment is protected, regulations are met and the business case is strong.

“Our sense is that there's a real growing consensus that energy matters, that the infrastructure matters and that it does allow us to have further economic opportunity,” Redford said.

“And that's certainly the sense that we've got from leadership in Quebec as well.”

Redford said she's optimistic the pipeline project will go ahead if all the interested parties work together.

New Brunswick Premier David Alward spent three days in Alberta last week talking to Redford and oil executives about the possibility of a west-to-east pipeline.

There are no official projects being considered now, but TransCanada has said it wants to convert an existing, underused natural gas line to do the job.

The National Energy Board is required to approve such projects and the company has not formally submitted a proposal to the regulator for consideration.

Along with paying for upgrading the existing natural gas pipeline, a new pipeline would need to be constructed in New Brunswick.

Redford said the project must be driven by the pipeline companies. But she said the political support from New Brunswick is definitely an asset.

"Premier Alward has been a champion of this project because he talks about the importance of economic development and how being able to have this access to more resources allows for more jobs and development and that is important," she said.

"If people in New Brunswick, the government of New Brunswick didn’t think this would be a good idea, it would probably be more challenging."

New Brunswick is pitching to have the oil refined at Irving Oil Ltd.’s refinery in Saint John. The project has the possibility of creating 2,000 jobs during the construction phase of the pipeline and a few hundred refining jobs after, according to some estimates.

The Irving Oil refinery is the largest in Canada. Saint John also has a deep-water port and a liquefied natural gas facility.

Alberta is interested in the project because oil from that province is now being sent to the United States, where there is a glut. That means oil producers are getting $20 to $40 less per barrel than the world price.

Those lower prices translate into lower royalties for the provincial government and that is causing a potential multi-billion dollar deficit in Alberta.

A pipeline to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John would allow Alberta producers to charge the higher world price.

'Optimism and excitement' over pipeline

The pipeline proposal is expected to receive another high-profile boost on Monday when former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, the deputy chair of the TD Bank Group, speaks at the Saint John Board of Trade.

Alward specifically mentioned McKenna's upcoming speech in his recent state of the province address.

The business group's website said McKenna's speech will connect "the dots between shale gas, pipelines and refining capacity leading to a thriving energy sector and more prosperous New Brunswick."

Alberta's premier said she believe there is momentum behind the pipeline project.

"There is a real understanding that we have the opportunity to be a very strong energy leader in the world and that this project can help us do that as Canadians," Redford said.

"I think there is a lot of optimism and excitement about it so I am very optimistic about this. I’m very hopeful and I think that if we do our work well and work together we can get this done."

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