Energy East opposition from Montreal's mayor draws criticism in Alberta

Political and business leaders across western Canada are reacting to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre's opposition of the Energy East pipeline project. Coderre said the potential environmental risks outweigh possible economic benefits for Montreal area.​

Alberta leaders call it 'ungenerous and short-sighted,' take jabs at Montreal's own actions

'This mayor is wrong' Jean responds to Montreal mayor's opposition to Energy East

7 years ago
Duration 1:07
Jean slammed Montreal mayor Denis Coderre's environmental record after Coderre made comments on proposed pipeline.

Political and business leaders in Alberta — and across the Prairies — are voicing strong reaction to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre's opposition of the Energy East pipeline project.

Coderre said in announcement on Thursday that potential environmental risks outweigh possible economic benefits for the Montreal area.​

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi​ didn't waiver when asked what he thought of his Montreal counterpart's claims.

"He's wrong, it's as simple as that," Nenshi said Thursday afternoon.

Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean took a jab at Montreal on Twitter, slamming the St. Lawrence sewage dump.

"While Mr. Coderre dumps a billion litres of raw sewage directly into his waterways and benefits from billions in equalization payments, his opposition to the Energy East pipeline is nothing short of hypocritical," said Jean in a media release.

"Montreal buys millions of barrels of foreign oil from dictatorships, but it is rejecting oil from their friends in confederation — it's disgraceful. This is a project that will benefit all of Canada, and will improve our GDP by $55 billion."

​The City of Montreal's opposition is the latest challenge to TransCanada's proposed pipeline project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day of oilsands crude through Quebec to an export terminal in Saint John, N.B.

The project would include the existing TransCanada pipeline as far east as Montreal plus a new pipeline through Quebec.

Saskatchewan premier weighs in

Calling it a sad day for the country, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall wrote a Facebook post blasting "leaders from a province that benefits from being part of Canada" for being "parochial about a project that would benefit all of Canada."

His social media posts also criticize Quebec leaders for accepting nearly $10 billion in equalization payments this year, saying the western energy sector has supported the entire Canadian economy for the better part of the last decade.

"Is it too much to expect that these Quebec municipal leaders would respond to this reality with generous support for a pipeline that supports the very sector that has supported them?" said Wall.

Safest way to transport, says spokesperson

"We know that people do have questions and concerns related to pipeline safety — related to the protection of the environment — and we want to address those concerns as best we can," said Tim Duboyce, spokesperson for Energy East.

"At the end of the day we are looking at a project that is better than the status quo. Pipelines are proven to be the safest way to move oil over long distances — oil that we all need."

Since the pipeline was first proposed in 2013, Duboyce says there have been roughly 700 changes made to the project in response to feedback from stakeholders. 

He says TransCanada will review the report based on the public consultation from around the Montreal area, and will consider changes to the route and hosting additional information meetings.

Deron Bilous, Alberta's minister of economic development and trade, calls Corderre's statement "both ungenerous and short-sighted."

"We are also facing a very serious challenge today due to the collapse in commodity prices — and so do all Canadians, since we all look to the same resource revenues to create jobs and fund the social programs we all depend on."

Cross-Canada impact

"It's not progress," said Chris Bloomer, president and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. "In today's environment we need to be cognizant that projects can't wait forever."

Bloomer says a thorough application process is necessary but comments calling for barriers to pipeline projects delay potential economic benefits.

"We need to communicate what the industry is doing to demonstrate that they are [safe]," said Bloomer. 

Greg Stringham, vice president of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says this isn't a setback, but wants to see Quebec and Atlantic Canada reverse their dependance on foreign oil. 

He says 600,000 barrels of oil are brought in from suppliers outside of Canada every day.

"The real prime purpose for us it to make this Canadian oil available for others in other parts of Canada including Quebec." 

Greenpeace also responded to Thursday's announcement by calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject the pipeline project.

"Trudeau already said that pipelines projects must be accepted by the local communities before they get approved. [Montreal's] decision is a clear no to TransCanada's project, which means that it cannot go forward," said Patrick Bonin, a Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner.

The National Energy Board has yet to have its review of the project. TransCanada will submit a report to the federal government in 2017. If approved, they hope the pipeline will be operational by 2020.

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)