New Brunswick premier wants to revive Energy East — but TransCanada's not interested

New Brunswick's premier is hoping to restart the Energy East pipeline project — even though the company behind the project has no plans to do so.

Pipeline would have carried one million barrels per day from Alberta to Quebec, N.B.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says the level of transfer payments to the provinces could be at risk if a pipeline isn't built to move western crude to Eastern Canada and foreign markets. (James West/Canadian Press)

New Brunswick's premier is hoping to restart the Energy East pipeline project — even though the company behind the project has no plans to do so.

TransCanada opted to kill the $16-billion project, which would have transported oil from Alberta to refineries in Eastern Canada and an export terminal in Saint John, N.B., in October 2017.

At the time, it cited "existing and likely future delays resulting from the regulatory process, the associated cost implications and the increasingly challenging issues and obstacles" as the reasons to pull the plug.

Terry Cunha, manager of communications for TransCanada, said there's no plan to revisit the project.

"We are focused on developing the more than $36 billion in commercially secured pipeline and power generation projects that we currently have underway across North America, including Keystone XL and the Coastal GasLink project," Cunha said in an emailed statement.

But Premier Blaine Higgs said a holding company could guide the project through the regulatory process with the National Energy Board. And then once it's approved, the holding company could put out a call for interested companies to take it over.

"Have the NEB go through the process and then we can go back to a company and say it's been approved," he said. "I will be pretty confident that there will be people interested, but they're not interested to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and the political will [to] blow that money out the door."

Premier Blaine Higgs joins us to talk about why he wants to discuss the pipeline project at the First Ministers' meeting this week. 7:28

Higgs said he has the support of several provinces along the pipeline's proposed route, and he's hoping when he brings up the idea at a first minister's meeting this week he can convince Quebec's premier — who has been vocally opposed — to support the project.

The pipeline would have carried more than one million barrels of oil per day, and added 1,500 kilometres to an existing 3,000-kilometre network.

Higgs said he's worried the level of transfer payments to provinces like his could be at risk if Alberta's falling oil revenues aren't addressed, and he believes a pipeline to move western crude to Eastern Canada and foreign markets could be the solution.

The proposed 4,500-kilometre Energy East pipeline would carry more than a million barrels a day of Canadian crude from Alberta to refineries and export terminals in Atlantic Canada. (The Canadian Press)

He said transfers currently make up about 30 per cent of New Brunswick's budget.

"Right now, we have foreign oil that's coming into our province that our own oil can displace. We have a resource here that we have chosen not to market, and it's going to hurt every one of us," Higgs said.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley made a similar point last week.

"Quite frankly, it is quite perverse that we are selling our oil in Alberta for $10 a barrel and then in Eastern Canada we are importing from places like Saudi Arabia. This makes no sense," she said.

Alberta is trying to deal with a supply glut by purchasing rail cars to get oil to market and introducing mandatory production caps.

In September, Canada produced about 4.6 million barrels of oil per day but exported just 3.47 million barrels per day.

With files from Reid Southwick, the Calgary Eyeopener and The Canadian Press