The premiers of Quebec and New Brunswick met in Montreal on Monday to discuss oil pipelines, amid increasing talk of sending Alberta crude to Eastern Canada.
The get-together between Quebec's Pauline Marois and New Brunswick's David Alward comes at a critical time for Alberta's oilsands industry, which is trying to find ways to get its bitumen to international markets.
A spokeswoman for Marois said the provincial leaders discussed Employment Insurance and pipelines at the Quebec premier's office.
The Canadian oil industry is awaiting a U.S. decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to send oilsands crude to the Gulf Coast — a project that has been met with strong opposition amid environmental concerns on both sides of the border.
In the meantime, other options are being examined.
Two other pipeline proposals would see Alberta crude sent east from the oilpatch.
TransCanada Corp. says it's technically and economically feasible for it to convert an existing, underused natural gas line to bring oil from Western Canada to Quebec and New Brunswick.
Alward said earlier this month that he would happily welcome a pipeline carrying oilsands bitumen to a 300,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Saint John, with the possibility of also exporting some of that crude by tanker.
His remarks came after a meeting in Calgary with Alberta Premier Alison Redford.
Another proposal would see Enbridge Inc. expand capacity on some pipes in the Great Lakes region and reverse the flow of another line between Montreal and southern Ontario. The project is currently working its way through the regulatory process.
Marois' office initially billed Monday's discussion with Alward as the first tete-a-tete for the provincial leaders, but a spokeswoman later said the two premiers had met one-on-one before.
Alward's office said he and Marois had a private meeting shortly after she won Quebec's September election. They also saw each other at a Francophonie summit in Africa and at a premiers' conference.