TransCanada hopes to correct 'disconnect' with Quebec communities on Energy East

An executive for TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East project in Quebec acknowledges his company has not been doing a good job of selling the project to communities in the province - but says he's confident he can change that dynamic.

Vice-president Louis Bergeron wants to fix 'disconnect' between TransCanada Corp. and Quebec communities

TransCanada is seeking approval for its $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline, which would run from Alberta to New Brunswick. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The vice-president for TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East project in Quebec and New Brunswick acknowledges his company has not been doing a good job of selling the project to communities in Quebec. 

Louis Bergeron, who has been on the job for six months, says it's his goal to change that dynamic, and he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Thursday he's confident he can do so.

I can't really change the past. My personal philosophy is to work with the communities, so I think there has been a disconnect, a communication problem at that time and today we want to fix that. - Louis  Bergeron , vice-president for TransCanada's Energy East pipeline

A day earlier, TransCanada announced a deal with ABB Canada would create 120 direct jobs in Quebec and a further 90 spinoff jobs. 

But it will only proceed if the $15.7-billion pipeline project gets the go-ahead, and Quebec politicians remain unconvinced that the Energy East project is in the best interest of the province. 

Here is some of the highlights from Bergeron's interview with Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.

What are your thoughts on Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre calling TransCanada a "bad corporate citizen?"

Louis Bergeron says he has the experience needed to improve relations with Quebec communities and improve Energy East's image in the province. (CBC)

I think Mr. Coderre's comments are a reflection of what a lot of Quebecers think, that TransCanada came in with its project being very confident that with the National Energy Board process in Ottawa, expecting to go through the BAPE hearings in Quebec and the Commission du protection du territoire agricole — TransCanada felt it did its homework and was really doing the right thing.

Based on my experience managing a pipeline project that was completed in 2012 over 250 kilometres and 32 municipalities, I can say that we need to do a lot more than that. This is what I'm trying to do.

Do you think there's a disconnect between Energy East and Quebec communities?

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says the economic benefits of TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Energy East pipeline are paltry when compared with the possible costs of an oil cleanup. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

There were disconnects and I think that's one of the problems that we had. We weren't nimble enough, we weren't capable of reaching the communities and coming up with some concrete solutions that people are expecting to get from us.

I've looked at the 37 recommendations from the [Montreal Metropolitan Community] report and I feel that they're very legitimate and many of them are being addressed as we speak.

Should TransCanada have attended the Montreal hearings?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, shakes hands with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre following their joint press conference in Montreal, Tuesday, January 26, 2016. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

I can't really change the past. My personal philosophy is to work with the communities, so I think there has been a disconnect, a communication problem at that time and today we want to fix that.

The only way to succeed is to participate. You can disagree on the format, but there's no other way to succeed than to work with the communities.

Is 120 jobs for a period of two years the best you can do for Quebec?

If it’s built, the Energy East pipeline would cross 828 bodies of water and 69 municipalities in Quebec. (Tanya Birkbeck/CBC)

This is a highly technological project and that tends to create a lesser number of jobs. I come from the refining industry, where we were investing hundreds of millions of dollars in creating sometimes five or 10 jobs... They don't require a lot of people.

Agreements like the one yesterday provide the ability for these companies to further develop their technology, their personnel and be capable to bid for larger projects internationally or Plan Nord or other projects. It's in the nature of these companies to have two, three year contracts and then move on. One thing for sure is we have 180 suppliers [in Quebec] ready to work with us.

What's your take on Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's criticism of Quebec?

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should be backing projects like the Energy East pipeline. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press)

I'm not going to get into this. One thing for sure is that everybody agrees in Canada that we have to get our resources to the water in order to export our crude oil at the international price.

Whatever political party you're talking to, everybody is on the same page.

Did anyone at TransCanada make a phone call to Brad Wall and say this isn't helping?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives a 'thumbs up' to protesters following his meeting with Montreal mayor and pipeline opponent Denis Coderre in Montreal last month. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

We're not going into these politics. We're going to do our job, we're going to work with the national energy board, we're going to work with the provincial authorities and we're going to make sure we have the best project possible. It's a great project for Canada.

This is the only way to go. We're doing our homework, as Mr. Coderre said, we're working on the project itself, we're leaving the politics to politicians.

You think you're the man to bring Quebecers on board?

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)

With my experience — I've managed similar projects in the province here, I've created relationships with communities, I've been able to resolve some pretty complex issues.

I agree that the challenge right now is great, but I think I have the abilities to meet the challenge.


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