TransCanada announced Thursday it was proceeding with the Energy East project, which would convert a natural gas pipeline to carry diluted oilsands crude through Quebec to Saint John, N.B. to be refined for domestic use and export.
Asked about possible safety concerns in Quebec, where a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded killing 47 people last month, Harper said the TransCanada project would get a rigorous "independent analysis," and added that pipelines are the safest method of transporting oil.
Harper was also asked what his government would do to counter suggestions by U.S. President Barack Obama this week that TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the United States would not generate significant long-term jobs. Obama has yet to approve the project.
"Our top priority is creating jobs, [Keystone XL] will create jobs on both sides of the border. It is in the national interest of both countries and this is known by Washington, and in our judgment it is important because it would create long-term energy security," Harper said.
Harper also told the press conference that Ottawa will give $8.2 million for a project to open Gilmour Hill, a historic road leading up to the Plains of Abraham, to vehicle traffic year-round.
The Plains of Abraham, where French and English forces met in a definitive battle in 1759, is a major tourist attraction and a park in the centre of the city. Gilmour Hill is an important route for cars but is currently closed in the winter. With Friday's announcement, it will open 12 months a year starting in 2014.
With Harper for the announcement were Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel and Régis Labeaume, mayor of Quebec City.
The prime minister is also scheduled to deliver a speech in Sherbrooke, Que., later this evening.
More to come