Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is accusing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of trying to be on both sides of the west-east pipeline proposal.
Trudeau said during an interview in Fredericton on Thursday that he thought TransCanada Corp.’s proposal to build a pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick was "interesting" but he said it would not go forward unless it addressed environmental concerns.
Those comments created an immediate backlash from Premier David Alward and Energy Minister Craig Leonard and even had one Liberal MLA indicating he’d speak with Trudeau.
Oliver said on Friday he’s concerned about the tone and message that Trudeau is sending about the pipeline.
"I just don’t think we need the naysayers using cute wording to get on both sides of the issue," he said.
'This isn’t the time to diss a major project of this kind.' — Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver
The federal natural resources minister said he is supportive of the proposed project. He also said he believes any environmental questions will be addressed through the regulatory process.
"This isn’t the time to diss a major project of this kind. I’ve been in Europe talking about the prospects of moving oil to the east and then on by tanker to Europe," he said.
"And I've been in India .... India has huge needs for oil and gas and here is an opportunity to open up this new market for Canadian resources and create jobs and economic activity for Canada. I think we need a positive tone to the messaging and we didn’t get that from the leader of the Liberal Party."
Under the proposal, 3,000 kilometres of the company's natural gas pipeline would be converted to allow for crude oil to be transported.
The company would also have to build 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline from Quebec into Saint John.
TransCanada has said if the next phase is successful, the pipeline company plans to start seeking regulatory approvals later in 2013, and the oil could start flowing to Eastern Canada by late 2017.
Officials with Irving Oil Ltd. have indicated the company’s Saint John-based refinery, which is the largest in Canada, could handle western crude oil.
The New Brunswick government has estimated the pipeline project could create 2,000 jobs during the construction phase and a few hundred refinery jobs afterwards.
The federal natural resources minister said he feels it is his responsibility to promote the responsible development of Canada’s resources and he’s worried about Trudeau’s comments.
"We are encountering a lot of challenge in that regard from groups who don’t want to see hydro-carbons developed at all and every major project in this country in the resource sector has been opposed by one group or another," Oliver said.
"This is a time for Canadians to get behind our development that has to be done, of course, responsibly. There is an enormous amount at stake here, billions of dollars of revenue to governments for critical social problems, jobs, economic growth. I think we need frankly a bipartisan approach, which is why I said we are supportive in principle of this proposal."
Alward says Trudeau's comments are 'unacceptable'
Trudeau’s comments continued to dominate legislative proceedings on Friday morning.
The Progressive Conservatives used their allotted time for members' statements to hammer away at the federal Liberal leader and further raise questions about provincial Liberal Leader Brian Gallant.
Gallant also rose to issue his full support for the west-east pipeline project.
Gallant and Alward also clashed over Trudeau’s pipeline comments in question period. The New Brunswick Liberal leader said he spoke with Trudeau on Thursday night, hours after he made the controversial comment.
"Mr. Trudeau says he is for the west-east pipeline but as he said in the media, he said we have to do it right and make sure that we have [studied]
all the environmental potential impacts and that we have consultations with aboriginals and the local communities," Gallant said.
Alward said Trudeau has not taken the time to clarify his remarks over the pipeline. The premier also questioned the timing of Trudeau’s pipeline comments.
"In the middle of an open season where TransCanada is seeking business opportunities, firm contracts … the leader of the Liberal Party raised doubt and that is unacceptable," Alward said.
"The reality is the Liberal leader of Canada needs to stand up and needs to support the west-east pipeline. We know the environmental issues are going to be dealt with through the regulatory process, there is no place today to raise negative comments."