EDMONTON — Alberta's big city mayors want science — not politics — to drive the debate over the proposed Energy East oil pipeline.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he welcomes comments from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday that energy companies deserve the chance to prove the merits and safety of the pipeline through the regulatory process.
Trudeau made the remarks after meeting with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, a spokesman for Quebec municipal leaders who oppose the pipeline crossing their communities.
"It is Mayor Coderre's job to get the best possible deal that he can get, and more importantly, to raise his concerns and questions, but I think what is really important here, and what I appreciated the prime minister saying today, is that there is a process in place," Nenshi said.
"It is a rigorous science-based process. The National Energy Board knows what it is doing."
Energy East would transport about one million barrels of oil a day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada and a marine terminal in New Brunswick.
Debate over the project comes as other pipeline proposals to transport oil from Alberta to market have either been rejected, as in the case of Keystone XL, or face mounting opposition such as towards Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the entire country stands to share in the economic benefits of Energy East. He said people with concerns should express them through the regulatory process.
Iveson called the pipeline a nation-building piece of infrastructure.
"Just imagine if we were trying to build a railroad 100 years ago and mayors were saying no. What kind of country would we have?" Iveson said.
"Bring the concerns forward and have them addressed duly by the regulatory process, but politicizing this is not good for the country."
Nenshi pointed out Alberta and Ottawa are starting to raise Canada's international environmental profile. Alberta's plan to put a price on carbon emissions is making an impression around the world, he said, but such rebranding won't bear fruit without pipelines.
"All of our work to build social licence internationally means nothing if we cannot get the energy to market."