Hundreds of mayors and reeves from across Alberta rallied in support of the Energy East pipeline on Wednesday during Premier Rachel Notley's address to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
The premier spoke to the AUMA mayors' caucus one day after her NDP government delivered a throne speech that promised to invest in infrastructure, raise benefits for low-income parents and increase investment for small and medium-sized businesses.
Audience members held up green signs that read 'Go East' as the premier explained the importance of the project to Alberta's economic recovery.
"When people in other jurisdictions think that by blocking oil transfer from Alberta that they're somehow making an environmental decision, they need to actually understand what's happening," Notley said.
"All they're doing is, they're bringing it in from a difference place. And they're doing it in a way that doesn't help their national economy."
The proposed 4,600-kilometre pipeline would stretch from Alberta to an export terminal in New Brunswick, and could carry up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day.
Notley said the government has asked the province's mayors to spread the word to their counterparts across the country about the environmental and economic advantages of buying Alberta oil.
"Municipal leaders are an incredibly important group of people that need to be listened to," she said. "They speak for the people whom they represent."
AUMA president Lisa Holmes said the group has already written letters of support for the project and delivered them to all the provincial and territorial association presidents.
Holmes, the mayor of Morinville, said the group also plans to rally the support of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties at its annual convention next week.
"We needed to show the country that we are willing to stand up and be a strong voice," Holmes said.
She said the prospect of jobs is what's driving the Alberta mayors to take action.
"Albertans are finding that this isn't just a nice-to-have project, this is a need," she said.
Notley warned the AUMA that even a return to higher oil prices will not fix all the problems the province faces.
While higher-priced oil would restore billions of dollars to the economy, she said, without changes the province would still be subject to the same boom-and-bust cycles it has suffered through many times.
Notley said with that in mind, her government will work to strengthen the energy sector will diversifying the economy to prepare Alberta for a new and better future.