David Coon questions motion by Liberals, PCs to support Energy East

Premier Brian Gallant and Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs are once again asking the New Brunswick Legislature to recommit to the Energy East pipeline and the economic opportunities they say it could bring to the province.

Green Party Leader David Coon says Energy East would go in 'opposite direction' in effort to reduce emissions

Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs and Premier Brian Gallant supported a motion that would ask the legislature to endorse the Energy East pipeline project. Green Party Leader David Coon said the proposed pipeline project would move in the opposite direction in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (CBC)

Green Party Leader David Coon is criticising the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives for bringing back a motion on Tuesday to ask the legislature to support TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Energy East pipeline project.

Premier Brian Gallant and Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs made the request in a motion tabled by the Liberals and seconded by the Tories in hopes of drawing more support for the pipeline project.

Gallant said in a statement he thought it would be a good time to show "bi-partisan support" for the pipeline project, but it's clear Energy East does not have all-party support in New Brunswick.

The Green MLA said he doesn't understand why Gallant brought back the motion on Tuesday, similar to one passed in 2012.

"Over the next 30 years, our electricity generation will have to be emissions free, our vehicles will be electric and heavy vehicles will run on biofuels," Coon said in an email.

"Oil and other fossil fuels will necessarily provide a much smaller proportion of our energy demand. New fossil fuel infrastructure like Energy East will take us in the opposite direction."

Gallant said this week that he still sees a future for the Energy East project, even after the Trudeau government approved two pipeline expansions in Western Canada last week.

Coon said the approval of those western pipelines is a key reason why Energy East should not move ahead.

"We have reached the point where we can't further expand the production of bitumen in the oilsands if we are to do our part to maintain a liveable climate," he said.

"Energy East would drive increased production, on top of the increased production now needed to fill the expanded TransMountain and Number 3 pipelines just approved."

The motion on Tuesday came in advance of the Gallant government's decision to release its climate action plan.

Gallant and Environment Minister Serge Rousselle will be announcing the climate action plan on Wednesday morning in Fredericton.

Lifting pipeline out of politics

Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said the Energy East motion may be a move by the Liberals to take partisan politics out of the pipeline issue. (CBC)

Tom Bateman, a political scientist with St. Thomas University, said he believes Gallant is hoping the motion will remove the politics from the pipeline issue.

"The government wants to lift the pipeline issue out of the partisan field and make it a matter of regional development and collaboration in the formation of a national energy strategy," Bateman said.

"Canadian politics is usually bogged down in inter-provincial bickering and ... here is a chance for an east-west, win-win. Alberta benefits and so does New Brunswick."

Bateman also said the motion is an admission by the Liberals that the province's economic future rests in some way on natural resource development.

He said that made it easy for the PCs to join the motion considering their campaign strategy in 2014 around natural resource development.

"I do not see how Mr. Higgs could not go along with this motion," he said.

"And I do not see how Mr. Coon could."

The provincial government recently tabled a motion in the legislative assembly in hopes of drawing more support for Energy East. (CBC)
Gallant has said he hopes the financial benefits that will come with the Energy East pipeline will be enough to make it a reality.

"The Energy East pipeline would create thousands of jobs and boost the New Brunswick economy by hundreds of millions of dollars," Gallant said in a news release.

According to the premier's office, more than 4,500 direct and indirect jobs would be created in the province during the pipeline's construction, with an additional 321 jobs yearly after the pipeline is in operation.

The provincial government also says the pipeline could inject $3 billion into New Brunswick's GDP.