New Brunswick

Energy East project given support by former ambassador to U.S.

Canada's former ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, has given his rousing endorsement of Energy East, TransCanada's pipeline project that would transport landlocked western oil to the Bay of Fundy for export.

"Let's have a can-do attitude" to get pipeline built, says Gary Doer

The former ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, is a firm supporter of the Energy East pipeline. (CBC)

Canada's former ambassador to the United States has given his rousing endorsement of Energy East, TransCanada's pipeline project, that would transport landlocked western oil to the Bay of Fundy for export.

"Getting oil to market, international markets, and pipelines approved, I believe is essential," said Gary Doer, in his keynote speech at a two-day energy conference hosted by the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce.

"So I confess, I support Premier Gallant. I support the people in this room. Let's have a can-do attitude with a big vision and a can-do attitude to get this pipeline built, and get it to the port of Saint John," he said to a round of applause.

As a former premier of Manitoba, Doer earned a reputation for being pro-environment.

His support of the Kyoto Accord and renewable energies such as hydro and wind power led to Bloomberg's BusinessWeek magazine ranking him as one of the 20 people leading the fight against climate change in 2005.

Doer believes transporting oil through pipelines is a safer option than using railways. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
In his extended role as ambassador (Oct. 2009 - Mar. 2016), he lobbied Washington to support the Keystone XL pipeline that would have moved Alberta oil to Texas.

The proposal was ultimately rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Back then, Doer argued, moving oil by pipe was safer and more efficient than moving oil by rail, and he holds that position on Energy East.

"We should transport oil in the safest way possible," he said. "Which I believe, from my personal view, when I was premier, I approved pipelines because I didn't want [oil trains] rumbling through the city of Winnipeg."

Quebec opposition

Meanwhile, opponents to the pipeline say resistance to the project is growing in Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois held a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday to announce a citizens' petition to stop the pipeline had amassed 25-thousand signatures. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was also present.

"These pipelines will make it impossible for Canada to reach our climate targets," said May. "And they are a threat to every stream they cross and every community they go near ... for no other reason, than it's in the interest of multinational fossil fuel companies to send oil to refineries in other places, rather than create jobs in Canada."

Gary Doer was a keynote speaker at the East Coast Energy Connection 2016 conference in Saint John. (CBC)
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant reiterated his message Tuesday that the pipeline will boost the economy and be a job creator.

"We believe the economic benefits are very significant for New Brunswick and for Canada as a whole," he said. "Of course, we're also going to ensure that we do whatever we can to make it happen in a safe way, in a way that we protect the environment, that we mitigate risks and in parallel that we're doing more to combat climate change." 

The East Coast Energy Connection conference is scheduled to hear from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall Wednesday afternoon.

His arrival in Saint John follows a stop at the Empire Club in Toronto, where he was talking up Energy East.

West vs. East

Wall made national headlines back in January, when he defended Energy East against criticism from municipal leaders in Quebec, including Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.

They said the project should be stopped because the environmental risks borne by Quebec would outweigh any benefits.

"I trust Montreal-area mayors will politely return their share of $10 billion in equalization supported by west," said Wall in a tweet.

He later followed it up with a more official statement. "For the better part of the past decade the western Canadian energy sector and western Canadian taxpayers have supported a great portion of these transfer payments as well as the Canadian economy," he said.

"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?"


Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.