Plans for TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline that will move Alberta and Saskatchewan conventional oil to Atlantic Canada for refining while replacing the need for eastern Canada to import foreign oil are prompting considerable national debate. The National Energy Board is conducting a full review of the proposal as they are mandated to do.
We in Saskatchewan support the Energy East proposal. The project will generate significant economic activity, create jobs and increase tax revenue — particularly in Ontario and Quebec.
Energy East has been described as the largest pipeline project in Canada in over 50 years. A current gas pipeline with excess capacity will be repurposed to move western Canadian oil to refineries in eastern Canada. Two-thirds of the pipeline is already in the ground.
A pair of comprehensive analyses have been done on the proposal: one by Deloitte, the other by the Conference Board of Canada. Both point to the substantial benefits TransCanada’s plan will achieve.
The Deloitte report projects $35 billion in additional GDP activity over the life of the Energy East project. Of that $6.3 billion will be seen in Quebec and $13 billion in Ontario. As TransCanada notes, that’s roughly the same as the contribution made by the auto sector.
Deloitte also notes about $10 billion in additional tax revenues over the lifetime of the project. Of that, Quebec will receive 20 per cent of that total, Ontario 36 per cent.
It is also estimated that Energy East will create 10,000 full-time jobs in a construction phase lasting six years, once again mostly in eastern Canada.
Energy East is in the very initial stages of its National Energy Board review. During that review, these estimates will be subjected to scrutiny and interested parties from across the country will be invited to contribute. A $2.5-million fund has also been set up to assist those who wish to appear but do not have the means to do so.
Public hearings have already taken place here in Saskatchewan and across the country. Energy East has already talked to 5,500 landowners. Consultations have been held with 155 First Nations and Métis communities and agreements already been signed with 56 of those communities.
However, despite the obvious benefits and the NEB process, Ontario and Quebec have announced a joint position that at best moves the goalposts for approval and at worst lays out new barriers. A motion from the Quebec National Assembly asks for the assessment of “upstream” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be considered during the review of the project.
This request is unprecedented. In its most recent ruling on the Northern Gateway proposal, the National Energy Board ruled — correctly from Saskatchewan’s point of view — that environmental impacts should focus on the pipeline infrastructure itself.
To me, this is only common sense. Western Canadian oil arriving via the new Energy East pipeline would be replacing offshore oil from places like Algeria, Iraq and the United States. Whatever GHG’s might have been attendant to the consumption of foreign oil to eastern Canada will be notionally the same. Why then have we never heard Ontario or Quebec sounding concerns about the upstream GHG emissions from the former oil currently being imported, refined and consumed in eastern Canada? It could even be argued that there may be a net benefit, given that light, sweet crude from the Bakken Formation would be replacing heavier, more carbon-intensive grades from places like Venezuela.
Energy East is a $12-billion boost to the Canadian economy, providing jobs, economic growth and increased tax revenue for government. It would save millions of dollars now spent on foreign oil, reducing the costs to refineries and, inevitably, their customers. Those jurisdictions placing obstacles in its path are the very ones who would benefit the most.
Here in Saskatchewan, in addition to the jobs and economic activity, Energy East would provide the on-ramp for Bakken oil into the TransCanada system — something that is sorely needed. It would allow Saskatchewan people to get the best possible price for our resources. It would help us to continue to create opportunity and jobs and to contribute to the federal tax base that supports Ontario and Quebec through equalization to the tune of $11 billion combined.
Canada should be an aspirant to being the most responsible energy superpower in the world. We first need to ensure that proposals to move oil across the country to maximize the value of resources for Canadians and facilitate value added right here at home are not subject to politically motivated, unwarranted barriers.
- Brad Wall is the premier of Saskatchewan