Alberta, Quebec premiers agree to consider shipping western oil east

Enbridge and TransCanada have major plans to revamp existing pipelines and supply the east with western crude.

HALIFAX—The premiers of Alberta and Quebec have agreed to consider shipping oil to Eastern Canada after a similar proposal stoked tensions in the West.

Alison Redford and Pauline Marois announced they will strike working groups to explore the possible economic benefits and environmental effects of the project.

“We have agreed that there is some very good opportunity for us to exchange technical information around economic development, the environment and the technical development of resources so that we can have an informed conversation,” Redford said.

Marois said she will travel to Alberta to discuss the development further.

“Before we go and decide on these issues, I think we have the necessity to split some information, some expertise, about economic, technical issues and environmental issues,” she said.

Their overtures come after Redford’s struggles with pursuing the development of a pipeline in BC, where Premier Christy Clark has fiercely opposed the project unless her provinces reaps greater economic benefits.

For the Parti Quebecois government, whose raison d’etre is to remove Quebec from Canada, the West-East pipeline could be yet another example of how Marois appears to have shed the party’s more activist positions towards a more market-friendly stance.

The latest plan would reverse the flow of an existing pipeline to bring Alberta oil to customers in the eastern half of Canada, and could result in slightly lower gasoline prices in that region. The project is being reviewed by the National Energy Board.

The idea has sparked the interest of Premier Robert Ghiz.

“If we’re producing this oil to begin with, we should be using it in our own country if at all possible,” Ghiz said. “We just want to talk. We’re not saying we’re going to see this happen overnight.”

There are actually two current proposals to ship western crude eastward.

One by Enbridge Inc. involves expanding capacity on some pipes in the Great Lakes region and reversing the flow of another between Montreal and Sarnia, Ont.

Rival pipeline firm TransCanada Corp. has a plan to convert some of its part-empty natural gas mainline to oil service, which it had deemed to be both technically and economically feasible.

©The Canadian Press