09/11/2014 09:07 EDT | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 EST

Brian Gallant, New Brunswick Liberal Leader, Vows To Create Jobs In Oil Industry

Canadian Press
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Liberal leader said Thursday he would try to convince Alberta's oil industry to create jobs in his province, a statement met with skepticism from the Progressive Conservatives because of his call for a shale gas moratorium.

Fresh off two days of debates, the province's political leaders headed back to the campaign trail Thursday in the run-up to the Sept. 22 election.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant said as premier, he would encourage more direct investment from the oil sector in Alberta, whether it includes refinery upgrades or expansions that can result from the proposed Energy East Pipeline.

"Let's shake the tree to try to get as many jobs opportunities for our province and as many investments as we possibly can," Gallant said while in Saint John.

Gallant said New Brunswick doesn't have the refining capacity to process the volume of oil that would travel through the $12-billion project from Alberta to as far as Saint John, if it proceeds. As a result, he said most of the oil would be exported to other markets, creating jobs elsewhere.

TransCanada Corp. is expected to file a regulatory application for the project this month. If approved, the Energy East Pipeline would be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Canadian history, crossing six provinces and 4,600 kilometres. The pipeline is also one of the pillars of Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward's plan to strengthen the economy.

The Tories said Gallant doesn't understand the oil and gas sector if he believes a moratorium on shale gas, as he has proposed, will persuade Alberta to invest in New Brunswick.

"Brian Gallant's claims that he will attract Alberta oil jobs to New Brunswick while banning shale gas development ranges between out of touch with reality and hypocritical on the scale of recklessness," Energy Minister Craig Leonard said in a statement. "The bottom line is it won't work."

Alward, as he has done throughout most of the campaign, highlighted the importance of natural resource development and the spinoffs that would benefit from expanding it.

He pointed out that the government announced earlier this year its commitment to help freight service, alluding to the fact that $25 million was set aside to help CN maintain freight service in the northern part of the province.

"When you see more cargo trains moving down our tracks, it means more men and women are going to work in our lumber mills, paper plants, in refining, industrial fabrication, engineering, ICT and financial and legal services," he said in a news release issued from Moncton.

Much of the Tory platform banks on an anticipated $10 billion in private investment flowing from natural resources such as shale gas and the Energy East Pipeline.

Green Leader David Coon used the legislature as a backdrop Thursday to say he would bring in a law requiring all government contracts to be posted online.

"The province has been long ruled by corporate interests making backroom deals with government for far too long," Coon said.

Coon said his party would also introduce a bill to create a job description for members of the legislature and would pursue the establishment of proportional representation to help boost the number of voices in the legislature.

The NDP's Dominic Cardy said his party would invest more in the arts community by bringing in a tax credit to lower the costs of rental space for arts and culture purposes.

He said they would also give the arts community access to unused government office space.

"I do hear people say that they are leaving the province, that they don't feel they get the necessary support here and there's not that recognition of the arts and culture industry in the province," Cardy said in Fredericton.

Cardy said he would also work with community colleges to develop opportunities for business training for artists.