Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre dialed back the rhetoric on the Energy East pipeline project Tuesday, coming out of a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a more conciliatory message.

Coderre has accused TransCanada Corp. of "arrogance" in its dealings with the Montreal Metropolitan Community.

On Tuesday, the mayor said "respect" is essential.

"At the end of the day, it's all about respect, being responsible and having a balanced approach [between economic growth and sustainable development]," he told reporters, standing next to Trudeau at Montreal city hall.

Coderre stuck to his position that TransCanada Corp. has more work to do if it hopes to win community support for its Energy East project.

Map of Energy East

TransCanada Corp.'s proposed pipeline project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day from Alberta through Quebec to an export terminal in Saint John, N.B. (Canadian Press)

The meeting took place early Tuesday morning, just one day after interim federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose called on Trudeau to rein in his "friend" Coderre, a former Liberal cabinet minister, before he further whips up Western alienation.

Last week, Coderre and 81 other mayors from surrounding municipalities came out against TransCanada's pan-Canadian pipeline project — which would convert an existing natural gas pipeline to one transporting crude oil — setting off a war of words with political leaders in the West.

Coderre said Montreal's position is contingent upon TransCanada's improving the case it's making for the Energy East project.

"If we have a role to play, there are people who have to do their homework," he said.

Coderre said Montreal is committed to fully participating in the process.

"We've done rigorous work and it's not because we're asking questions and telling others to their homework, it's not a lack of respect. We just want to ensure that we find the right balance," he said.

Trudeau protest

A small group of anti-pipeline protesters greeted Prime Minister Justice Trudeau outside Montreal City Hall. (CBC)

That view was echoed by Trudeau, who said it was his government's role to act as a "responsible referee."

"My responsibility as prime minister is to make sure that on national projects, we're behaving in a way that both contributes to the economy, to a secure environment, to bringing people together and mostly to creating a better future," Trudeau said.

An opposition Projet Montréal councillor, Craig Sauvé, said he is worried because Trudeau favours pipeline projects.

"I think Justin Trudeau is trying to play nice for now, but if we recall what his positions were in the past, he was a firm supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline which is almost as large a pipeline as the Energy East pipeline," Sauvé said. "That worries us."

"The climate should be the number one concern for all Montrealers."

The prime minister was greeted at city hall by a small group of anti-pipeline protesters.

TransCanada 'prepared to work' with governments

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesman for TransCanada's Energy East project said the company remains committed to finding a way forward for the project.  

"We are prepared to work with all levels of government to ensure the continued safe and environmentally sound transportation of our natural resources to market," Tim Duboyce said.

He said pipelines are a safer and cleaner option than transporting oil by rail.

Pipelines "produce fewer emissions than diesel powered trains or trucks because they operate using electricity, which means a signficantly lower carbon footprint," Duboyce said.

Trudeau and Coderre discuss pipelines3:22

Opposition 'affecting national unity,' says Ambrose

On Monday, Rona Ambrose said some westerners feel betrayed by Montreal's opposition to the proposed Energy East project after shouldering the burden of equalization payments that Quebec has relied on for decades.

"My concern is … this is affecting national unity," Ambrose said. 

Trudeau said this morning's meeting was planned weeks ago and is not a result of cries from the Opposition.

Coderre tweeted Monday evening, welcoming Trudeau to Montreal and repeating that the meeting was planned some time ago.

"Happy to welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to city hall," Coderre wrote in French. "The meeting was planned several weeks ago."

The meeting was expected to be similar to those Trudeau held with the mayors of Vancouver and Toronto in recent weeks.

This was the first formal meeting between Trudeau and Coderre since last fall's federal election.