Brad Wall makes case for Energy East in Quebec

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall took his pitch for the Energy East pipeline into relatively hostile territory on Thursday, meeting with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in a province where the project has faced stiff opposition.

Saskatchewan premier has been critical of opposition to pipeline project

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, left, has been touring Eastern Canada promoting the proposed TransCanada pipeline. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall took his pitch for the Energy East pipeline into relatively hostile territory on Thursday, meeting with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in a province where the project has faced stiff opposition.

"It's important to our province and we think it's important for the rest of the country," Wall said at a news conference following the meeting in Montreal.

"The people of Quebec will have different questions, and rightfully so. And it is up to the proponent to answer those questions."

Wall has been critical of Quebec's resistance to the pipeline in the past.

In February, Wall slammed Coderre and the Montreal Metropolitan Community for their opposition to the TransCanda project.

"I trust Montreal-area mayors will politely return their share of $10B in equalization supported by west," Wall wrote on Twitter at the time.

Coderre later fired back at Wall, saying that the Montreal Metropolitan Community represents four million people while the entire province of Saskatchewan has a population of 1.13 million.

Saskatchewan's premier has also questioned whether the federal government should bail out Bombardier, saying Ottawa should also make the energy sector a priority

Wall says the pipeline is expected to generate $55 billion in economic benefits for Canada, including $4.3 billion in Saskatchewan and $9.3 billion in Quebec.

The line would transport more than a million barrels of western Canadian oil a day to refineries in Eastern Canada and a marine terminal in New Brunswick, TransCanada says.

Opposition from First Nations

A number of politicians and environmentalists in Quebec have argued the project's ecological risks outweigh the economic rewards.

The most recent opposition surfaced Wednesday, when the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador formally stated it was against the proposal.

Couillard called the First Nations announcement "a significant event" that "should not be downplayed."

In May, Canada officially adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Couillard pointed out includes obtaining free and informed consent when it comes to resource development.

What this entails, Couillard said, "will have to be resolved and made explicit at some point." 

Wall and Couillard also discussed other topics, including carbon credits and federal health funding.

Wall's visit to Montreal comes after stops in Toronto and Saint John, where he also stressed the national importance of the pipeline.

The Council of Canadians, an environmental group, has called Wall's tour "a desperate attempt to save a failing project.''

"Wall is acting as an industry lobbyist for a pipeline that's a huge economic liability for Saskatchewan and all of Canada, not to mention an environmental and public health disaster,'' said the council's Daniel Cayley-Daoust.

with files from Kate McGillivray and The Canadian Press