New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says he and some of his fellow conservative premiers back the concept of an energy corridor across the country that would allow a project such as the Energy East pipeline to be built without a lot of obstacles.
The goal, originally laid out by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in the spring, is to create a route that would move Canada's natural resources across the country through an area with a pre-approved status for energy projects.
"The goal is to remove the barriers for private-sector investments to move our energy sources from one end of the country to the other," Higgs said in an interview Monday with Information Morning Fredericton.
The topic was brought up during last week's Council of the Federation meeting in Saskatoon.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also support Scheer's proposal.
Scheer hasn't gone into detail about geography, cost or the timeline for his proposed corridor, but his vision includes increased refining capacity in New Brunswick, and oil and gas shipments from Alberta to Eastern Canada.
Higgs said New Brunswick isn't interested in becoming part of the pipeline business, but he said private companies like Enbridge Inc., might want to invest in projects if they didn't "have all these hoops to jump to get resources to market."
"The whole concept of a … corridor is a highway, like the railroad, only it's a highway of development," Higgs said. "So it allows industry to come along and say, 'Look we want to run from the West Coast to the East Coast.'"
Right now, Higgs said, no private company would invest in a pipeline project because of regulatory and political hurdles.
A corridor would amount to establishing a zone for energy developments, he said.
"Here's a zone across our country that helps our economic regions from one end of the country to the other and to the north. And it allows us to have that route already defined, permitted, approved for development."
Sees other benefits
Higgs said he disagrees with the Green Party position that a new pipeline would increase fossil fuel production and add to climate change. He said the corridor would only displace oil that's already being used from other countries.
"The longer you put this off the more oil we'll use from countries around the world," he said.
With a corridor, fewer railcars carrying petroleum through different provinces would be needed, Higgs said, and there would be fewer oil tankers coming through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The deaths this year of six North Atlantic right whales suggests ships in that area have become an issue.
TransCanada's dropped its proposed Energy East pipeline project in 2017, four years after it was first proposed. The project, whose opponents included Indigenous and environmental groups and the Province of Quebec, still had not made it through the regulatory process.
The pipeline would have carried more than one million barrels of oil every day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Quebec and New Brunswick. It would have added 1,500 kilometres worth of new oil pipeline to an existing network of more than 3,000 kilometres.
Would manipulate transfer payments
Quebec Premier François Legault has maintained that there is no "social acceptability" in his province for a pipeline connecting Alberta to a refinery in New Brunswick and crossing through his province, and that he will continue to oppose any such proposals.
But Higgs reiterated his call for penalizing Quebec through the loss of transfer payments if it doesn't allow a pipeline through the province.
"If you're prepared to take transfer payments, you should either be prepared to have that same industry in your own backyard if you have the capability or you certainly help others to get access so their values maximize," he said.
"When you step back from that and say, 'Oh, that's not my problem.' Well, that's not Canada. Neighbours have helped neighbours in Canada forever and it's not Canada when you ignore the plight of others."