It was pretty amazing to see the widespread support across New Brunswick for the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline. The leaders of four of the five main parties were lockstep in support of it – PCs, Libs, NDPs and even the People’s Alliance. Only the recalcitrant David Coon was stubbornly against the pipe but on the grounds it would be aiding and abetting Alberta in its crimes against the global environment.
Mayors jumped on board. Pundits galore. Business leaders and business groups. It was like a love-in. All our economic problems would be washed away down the pipe along with all that bitumen.
It is, of course, good news. We know from the example of the Brunswick Pipeline and other pipes they can be a solid economic generator during the construction phase and the oil export terminal will also create considerable construction activity.
But when was the last time a mayor, party leader or even business leader for that matter came out so ebullient about shale gas development – an opportunity that could provide 50 years worth of economic benefits to the province? The political leaders in New Brunswick are falling over themselves to extol the economic benefits of an oil pipe but, let’s be honest, the bulk of the economic benefit would accrue to Alberta.
Which brings me to Stephen Harper who hardly gave the New Brunswick economy a second look until it seemed to be beneficial to Alberta.
Again, I have no problem with Harper’s strident support for the oil pipe. I welcome it. I would prefer, however; him to take a little more interest in New Brunswick’s economy overall. No other province has suffered worse during his time in office – in terms of lost jobs, stagnant population and weak GDP growth.
I would much prefer Harper would come to New Brunswick and talk about how important the development of the natural gas sector will be to the New Brunswick economy.
Anyway, I love the concept of an oil pipe. The reason New Brunswick joined Confederation was the agreement to link up Canada with a national railway (although we know what happened a few decades later with the St. Lawrence Seaway). The national telecommunications network was a grand exercise. An energy pipeline would complement that in a positive way.
In the end its all politics. From Gallant to Cardy to Austin, they didn’t see any political downside to supporting the pipe while they view shale gas development as politically toxic – as do most mayors and even Chambers of Commerce.
As long as the holes are being dug in the ground somewhere else, we seem to be happy to transport the stuff through our territory. Just don’t dig any holes here.