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Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave his strongest endorsement yet of the $12-billion west-to-east pipeline project, enthusiastically pitching it as a job creator for all Canadians and one that will expand the country’s energy markets.
“This is an extremely exciting project,” he said during a visit Thursday to the Irving Oil Refinery in Saint John, which is to be the end of the line for TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline.
Beaming in the background was New Brunswick Premier David Alward, who has been working doggedly for the past year to help land the pipeline, given the green light by TransCanada last week. Mr. Alward’s struggling province has the highest unemployment rate in Canada at more than 11 per cent. The Premier says the project will bring about 2,000 construction jobs and the potential for more from spinoffs of the pipeline. It also holds out the promise that the province’s sons and daughters who have gone west to find work – including Mr. Alward’s 23-year-old son Ben, a pipefitter – can come home.
Mr. Harper cautioned that the federal government is not a project proponent and all big energy projects are subject to cabinet review. But he was clearly on-side.
“We’re not just expanding our markets for energy projects, which we need to do,” the Prime Minister said, “but we are also at the same time making sure that Canadians themselves benefit from those projects and from that energy security.”
Mr. Alward, in a sit-down interview later with The Globe and Mail, was upbeat as well.
“It was a significant day,” the Premier said. It’s exciting to hear the Prime Minister speak so strongly of the potential of the pipeline as a “pan-Canadian project,” he said, and “understanding what this can mean for our country.”
This week, Mr. Alward used the success of the pipeline announcement to launch a television campaign, telling New Brunswickers they’ve turned a corner and the “future has never looked brighter.” The ads have drawn the ire of critics, who say they’re partisan and should have been paid for by the Conservative Party.
In the interview, Mr. Alward was particularly bullish about what the pipeline means for employment prospects in the province. An estimated 8,000 New Brunswickers are working in the West, some commuting back and forth every few weeks.
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