01/16/2013 12:53 EST | Updated 03/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Pipeline Would Help Budget Woes, Says Former Suncor Head

Alberta won’t see its next provincial budget until the legislature resumes March 7, but the premier and finance minister are sending strong signals for people to prepare for sobering numbers.

And oil companies are using it as an opportunity to make a new case for pipelines out of the province.

"It's actually about our basic sovereignty," said former Suncor head Rick George.

"You don't want to be captive to the U.S., making decisions that reflect back on the biggest economic driver in our country … and that's kind of where we sit today."

Much of the problem comes from dropping oil revenues, which puts a strain on Alberta’s finances.

George thinks the situation will improve in the next year and a half, but he argues that Alberta needs a pipeline to bring oil to the west coast. That will open up access to Asian markets, he said.

Not everyone is so keen on the project, with environmental groups, First Nations people and many politicians in B.C. coming out strongly against the proposed Enbridge pipeline to the coast. They say they’re concerns with the environmental impacts of the project, and point to previous spills from the company’s pipelines as evidence that Enbridge can’t guarantee against accidents.

In Vancouver, five people were arrested Tuesday for disrupting a hearing on the project Tuesday.

George said those opposing the pipeline need to look at the big pictures.

"We need to have a civil conversation where people are not entrenched in their views and to talk about the facts about how economically important this is,"

George said he’s confident that another controversial project, the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S., will also be approved.

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