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Quebec Premier Pauline Marois speaks during a news conference in Lac-Megantic, Que., on Aug. 26, 2013.

GRAHAM HUGHES/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has defended a pipeline project that would see Western Canadian oil pumped across her province.

Marois says the controversial Enbridge Inc. proposal to reverse the flow of one of its pipelines could be a boon for Quebec – particularly since it would supply oil refineries in Montreal.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, she said the Alberta crude would be cheaper than oil purchased from abroad.

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"It would supply our refineries at a better price than what we pay for oil from Algeria, Northern Europe and other places," Marois told a news conference.

Marois says her government will begin a formal examination next month of Enbridge's Line 9 proposal, to determine whether the project is in the interest of Quebeckers or too big of a risk.

The Parti Québécois Premier says while the project faces opposition from Quebec environmentalists, she insists it has not divided her caucus.

But she acknowledged that the controversial project has generated some debate within her party.

"There are different points of view. I don't call that division. It's normal and healthy," she said.

Enbridge wants to expand capacity on some pipes in the Great Lakes region and reverse the flow Line 9, which runs between Montreal and Southern Ontario.

The National Energy Board, meanwhile, is studying the project as it works its way through the federal regulatory process.

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In the past, Marois has shown an openness to the idea of permitting oil-sands bitumen to travel across her province.

After meeting with Canadian premiers in November, Marois agreed to create working groups to weigh the economic benefits and environmental risks of piping Alberta crude through Quebec.

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