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News Dec 19, 2018 10:14 AM EST

TPM Interviews: Blaine Higgs is determined to build Energy East, stop foreign oil

We had the opportunity to interview the new Premier of new Brunswick, Blaine Higgs. Here are some of the highlights.

TPM Interviews: Blaine Higgs is determined to build Energy East, stop foreign oil
John Ployer Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

Energy East

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is continuing his fight to get the Energy East pipeline built despite Quebec’s abnegation at the recent first ministers’ meeting.

Energy East, planned by the TransCanada corporation, would have brought at least 100,000 barrels of oil to Saint John, New Brunswick, and it’s refinery, bringing many jobs and increased potential for investment with it.

In a recent interview with TPM, Premier Higgs stated that it’s biggest benefit would have been to displace foreign oil use in his province and all along the hypothetical pipeline.

Higgs added: “the construction jobs would be another plus. They would be short term but would be a major economic benefit during construction. And once you have the oil here, and have certain amount of it being exported, then you have the opportunity to have other development here because the oil source is here.”

Higgs also mentioned that because of Saint Johns’ proximity to open ocean the ability to export becomes much easier.

Getting support for Energy East

Despite being cancelled last year Energy East has support from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. With Quebec being the old dissenter.

“They (Alberta) are losing 70% of the value of the crude oil (by exporting through the United States), and Alberta has been feeding the families across this country for generations, including Quebec. Quebec gets 70% of the equalization payments, yet has no interest in increasing the value of those reserves.”

Higgs said this when explaining the importance of this project, while being dismayed at the Quebec government’s refusal to reverse their anti-development stance.

“Why should we give away our own natural resources, why wouldn’t we help Alberta, because we’re helping ourselves when we do that.”

First ministers meeting

After last weeks’ first ministers meeting, Higgs claims that Quebec was at fault for holding up the process, and all this was hurting Alberta severely.

“My concern was that there was not a sense of urgency for the province that’s been helping us on transfer payments for generations.”

Referring to Alberta.

“Quebec has their oil brought in by railcar, and you have to say that wouldn’t it be safer to have it through a pipeline?”

Higgs also believes that Quebec wants to have it both way on natural resources.

“The concept was let’s open Canada up to our own resources, and Quebec wants to export hydropower, so if you want to export what you have, you should be interested in taking in and helping out other parts of the country. What concerned me was that I saw no interest in being part of a national solution”

This meeting came about a month after Premier Higgs announced he had his own plan for reviving Energy East which included having all the provinces involved make a joint appeal to the federal government.

Worries about bill C-69

When asked about bill C-69, which would change the pipeline approval process, Higgs was worried about how things might change but explained that he was already frustrated with the current system.

“TransCanada had been going on for years, investing heavily, and after all that work they had never even been given a decision on when the (final) decision would be made.”
“It’s criminal to think that we have private investment that wants to put money into Canada, and spent a lot to get ready for it, and we can’t even expedite the decision process. Let alone we’re putting roadblocks in the way.”

The latest roadblock may soon be bill C-69.

“It (C-69) doesn’t seem to be beneficial to the process. From the companies and premiers I’ve talked to it seems like a no pipeline bill for Canada.”
“I said in the premiers’ meeting that, maybe it allows us to expedite decision making, but maybe it allows to expedite making no decisions at all. We’re shutting ourselves out and shooting ourselves in the foot at a time when we’re going to continue to bring in the same produce from foreign countries. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Going Forward

When asked to address the opponents of Energy East in his own province, he said it’s best to see how the process can be made better, rather then “shutting off our source of income and hoping for the best.” New Brunswick has several thousand people employed in the energy sector and is famous for its oil refinery located in Saint John.

Higgs cited the BC NDP-Green coalition currently working on a liquified natural gas facility as evidence that recognizing the need to protect the environment does not mean shutting down our industries. “What we need instead (of Green Party of NB) is a new shade of green. One that isn’t so ‘black and white.’ One that’s more transitional.”

Higgs is concerned as well but remains intent on finding a way to make this project go forward.

Moving forward Higgs says he has been talking to TransCanada. Higgs stated that they left the project because of the political indecision, and they are concerned about the future with bill C-69 on the way.

Higgs concluded by saying that Energy East would be crucial in Canada’s energy development, and that it should be part of an overall natural resource strategy.

“We need to think long term about a national strategy for our natural resources. It’s about using what we have while we have it and while we need it. Oil and natural gas is just as much part of our energy solutions as green energy.”
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