Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

The Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, NB.

Roger Hallett/The Globe and Mail

Two premiers from opposite ends of the country are promoting the idea of a pipeline from Alberta's oil sands to the Atlantic coast as a way of opening new markets and bringing jobs to a struggling region.

Alberta's Alison Redford and New Brunswick's David Alward have been talking about a pipeline that would deliver Alberta oil to the Irving refinery in Saint John.

"It looks like it's going to be a feasible option and that's a good thing," Ms. Redford told The Globe and Mail.

Story continues below advertisement

"A national pipeline from west to the east coast could be as important today as the railway was in centuries past," Mr. Alward said.

But their counterparts in Nova Scotia and Quebec don't share their enthusiasm. Nova Scotia's Premier Darrell Dexter is skeptical about the project actually extending into his province and Quebec's new Parti Québécois government has raised concerns about the environmental risks of heavy Alberta oil coming through a pipeline to refineries in Montreal.

Ms. Redford told The Globe that it's important for her province to "get further export access."

"I think there is a lot more room for us to think differently about how we've used our pipelines," she said. "In some ways, it's may be a bit surprising that we've not actually talked about it much before but I'm glad that so many are talking about it now."

No wonder she's pleased: Two key ventures, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would take Alberta's oil to Texas and the Northern Gateway pipeline to British Columbia, are in limbo.

In addition, the United States is poised to become the world's largest oil producer in the next few years, putting added pressure on Alberta to look for new markets.

Ms. Redford has spoken several times with Mr. Alward, who is leading the charge. He is hoping there will be some discussion about this when the premiers meet in Halifax this week to talk about the economy.

Story continues below advertisement

"We have so much to offer producers in the West," he said. Mr. Alward sees the pipeline – and there is pipe already as far east as Montreal – being extended to the Irving oil refinery in Saint John, which he noted makes up more than 40 per cent of Canada's export of refined petroleum products already.

Mr. Alward said the refinery offers "great access to the eastern seaboard" as Saint John is a deep-water port able to handle huge supertankers, which the St. Lawrence cannot.

"What that means to producers in Alberta long-term is very, very positive as well," he said.

Mr. Alward noted that as many as 100 rail cars a day full of oil are now coming from Alberta and the United States to the Saint John refinery.

He believes a pipeline would mean more long-term operational jobs for New Brunswickers, construction jobs as the refinery may have to be upgraded, and spin-off jobs from related industries.

Mr. Alward is spearheading this concept as his province needs a boost. The Globe reported that New Brunswick's economy did not move at all last year while Canada's gross domestic product grew 2.6 per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

"A strong economy in Alberta is great for all of Canada," Mr. Alward said. "If you look at the natural resources they produce, they are not getting as great a value for those as they could because of the lack of market opportunity they have."

Mr. Dexter said he has seen no proposal from the private sector, which would have to build the pipeline and find customers. In addition, the Dartmouth, N.S., refinery would not be able to handle the heavy, thick bitumen that comes from the oil sands.

"From our perspective here, any strengthening of the energy infrastructure is a good thing for Atlantic Canada," Mr. Dexter said. "What that would mean for Nova Scotia is hard to know. I have seen no proposal that would bring that to Nova Scotia."

But Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie talked over the idea with Ms. Redford on Sunday night, just before she spoke at his party's annual dinner in Halifax. He wants to build a Maritime-wide energy market for electricty and gas – a west-to-east pipeline would be part of this.

"She's looking for customers for Alberta crude. With the Keystone XL pipeline to the States on hold ... and with so much controversy over a pipeline west to B.C., I told her we'll take it," Mr. Baillie said. "What a great way to build a national energy strategy."

Influential former New Brunwick premier Frank McKenna sees a west-east pipeline in even grander terms: as a unifying force for the country. "Eastern Canada needs to have access to petroleum products," Mr. McKenna said.

Story continues below advertisement

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies