COMMENTARY: Pipeline Must be a Priority

1/31/2013

Building a pipeline from western Canada through to Saint John must be the priority for us. To accomplish such a task, one that will benefit our entire region, will require many people working together in a very focused and co-ordinated effort to ensure this key energy infrastructure becomes a reality. Our nation cannot continue to allow our natural resources to be sold at a discount with the bulk of the benefits leaving the country.

I was very pleased to host recently, along with Irving Oil and Premier Alward, my colleague, the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Recourses, in Saint John. After having a tour of the refinery and the Canaport oil terminal, the minister described a pipeline from western Canada as being of “national significance.” By transporting western crude oil to Saint John, it will improve the competitive position of the Irving Oil Refinery, strengthen the position of Alberta oil producers and greatly enhance the future for New Brunswick by creating an energy connection that will lead to greater economic prosperity.

To ensure that a pipeline to Saint John is built, it will require commitments from numerous players, of both time and financial resources. Projects of this scale require reasonable time lines and strong community support in order to attract partners capable of delivering such a major project. Locally, we have seen a tremendous out-pouring of support for this important development, it has come from all levels of government and community leaders alike. There has been a lot of excitement generated within our community for this project; the discussions around the water-coolers and at the coffee shops has been nothing but positive.

The federal government has taken the steps required to create the economic and regulatory climate necessary to demonstrate to the investment community that we are prepared to allow the construction of environmentally acceptable infrastructure in a predictable time frame.

The province of New Brunswick and the City of Saint John must continue to express support for a pipeline to our region. It’s important for our support to be visible, as it provides confidence to investors as they pursue the necessary approvals and undertake construction. It is not only important for the immediate benefits to the refinery, but also for the local economy through the port of Saint John, the construction sector and the untold potential for future development associated with the availability of a secure supply of oil located near global marine trade routes.

Our support must continue and it must be obvious throughout the entire community.

There is no guarantee that the pipeline will be built to Saint John. There are still a number of major challenges that need to be addressed. The development of a business case supporting the construction and operation of the pipeline is the greatest obstacle we face. It will have to include financial and environmental benefits for it to be attractive to the many partners required: a pipeline company, oil producers and committed customers for a large quantity of oil for many years to come.

A compelling case could include refineries in Montreal, Quebec City and Saint John along with a marine export terminal capable of shipping product overseas (either refined or crude).

There certainly is a strong case for oil producers to seek access to foreign markets to address the discounts they are presently forced to provide in order to market their product. However, we are only one of a number of options that is being considered for the transportation of western Canadian crude oil. Other proposals are facing opposition for a variety of reasons (Keystone XL, Northern Gateway) and it is having a negative impact on the possibility of those projects moving forward.

I believe that we are extremely well positioned in Saint John as we take the necessary steps required to connect us to one of the largest operating sources of oil in the world. This is an opportunity that could move us towards a secure economic future, however, community support is a “key” element in bringing this pipeline to Saint John.

Rodney Weston is the Member of Parliament for Saint John.

(Telegraph Journal)