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All-party consensus forming on west-to-east pipelines

Council of Canadians

November 18, 2012




It appears that an all-party consensus is forming around support for a west-to-east pipeline to carry Alberta tar sands bitumen to the East Coast of Canada.


The Canadian Press reports today that the Liberal MP for Halifax West Geoff Regan (the party's Industry critic) says that tar sands oil from Alberta would be welcome in Atlantic Canada. The news report says, "Calgary's TransCanada Corp. is studying the possibility of shipping as many as one million barrels a day of western crude to eastern refineries. To do so, it would convert part of its natural gas mainline partly to oil service. ...Company officials have also said they don't expect to see a big environmental pushback because eastern Canadians are keenly aware of how such a plan would positively affect fuel prices where they live."


In late-September, the Globe and Mail reported, "The federal NDP – which strongly opposes plans for a Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific coast – is now pledging its full support for a pipeline that would see Alberta oil pumped to Eastern Canada. In a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto at the Royal York Hotel, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair gave his clearest sign of support yet for the notion of a west-to-east pipeline."


In a Green Party media release this past August, Elizabeth May stated, "I am all in favour of getting Alberta oil to refineries in Eastern Canada, but the reversal of Line 9 must be approved only if and when the pipeline is refurbished to the highest industry standards. Bitumen crude and diluents are almost impossible to clean up. Canada’s energy security can be enhanced if, and only if, Enbridge accepts its responsibility to operate Line 9 to higher standards." That media release adds, "The Green Party welcomes the plan to refine Canadian crude in Canada. However, any expansion of tar sands extraction is not acceptable. In addition, pipelines that carry tar sands crude must be built to a higher standard to prevent spills."


And not surprisingly, the Conservative Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver recently stated that the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline in Ontario would demonstrate the benefits of the tar sands in Alberta.


But there are voices of opposition to these proposals.


In mid-October, Gordon Laxer - a long-time proponent of a Canadian energy strategy - wrote in the Edmonton Journal, "(Corporate advocates of the west-to-east pipeline) mention the pipeline bringing oil security to eastern Canadians by replacing oil imports, some of which comes from the 'politically uncertain Middle East'. That’s a side benefit. It’s clear that for them, the west-to-east pipeline is mainly an easier route to export Alberta oilsands oil. Blocked in the south, blocked in the west, go east." Laxer adds, "If you think B.C. opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline is fierce, wait until you see Quebec’s opposition to letting 'dirty oilsands oil' into and through their province."


And in mid-November, Laxer's warning appeared to come true. Quebec’s environment minister Daniel Breton, natural resources minister Martine Ouellet, and intergovernmental affairs minister Alexandre Cloutier stated serious concerns about tar sands pipelines that would pass through Quebec, and it appears that Quebec will conduct consultations or public hearings on the matter, as well as an environmental assessment.


Yesterday, the Council of Canadians participated in the 'Tar Sands Come to Ontario: No Line 9' public forum in Toronto. The conference was attended by more than 350 people and included speakers from the Six Nations, the Haudenosaunee, the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, the Coastal First Nations, and the Indigenous Environmental Network. More about that conference at

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