Former oil exec, now premier of New Brunswick, wants Energy East built and NB off equalization

Moosomin – Usually when premiers make official visits of other provinces, there’s some sort of conference involved. It’s not often that a premier from Atlantic Canada would come to small town Saskatchewan to address a pro-pipeline rally. It sure hasn’t happened in the last 10 years, at least until mid-February.

Because that’s exactly what did occur on Feb. 16, when recently elected New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs came to a rally for resources in Moosomin.

The choice of Moosomin was no accident. It was to be the Saskatchewan on-ramp for oil from southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba onto the now-defunct Energy East Pipeline. While Moosomin was the on-ramp, the Irving Oil Refinery and Canaport at St. John, New Brunswick was its terminus. And Higgs, before his political career, used to be an executive with Irving, where his responsibilities included refining and transportation.

With that said, here’s Higg’s speech, verbatim, picking up after his introduction:

Listening to your premier, here, I realized I have a new best friend. We have a daughter that recently moved to Moose Jaw. She married a local Saskatchewan resident, and I’m going to see them tonight. And at the time, I said, ‘Who do I know in Moose Jaw? Who do I know in Saskatchewan? Well I know a lot of people, and I know a lot of people and I know a lot of people who think like I do, so it’s good to be here today.

This shouldn’t be necessary. But it is. It is, and we’ve been working on it.

I’ve had people say, “How can we make change?”

They have to take time out from their everyday job to make a difference, to make it happen. And that’s what you’re doing here, and that’s why I flew halfway across the country, to be part of it.

It’s fun to be here with so many colleagues, federally, provincially, locally, and it’s what’s going to change the game.

You know, you say, why did I come all the way from New Brunswick? I did spend a little time in the oil and gas industry. Thirty-three years, to be exact.

I know how it works, and I know what it takes to be successful, and I know how hard people work in the industry. So when I see our resources not being utilized, and I see an 80 per cent reduction in the commodity pricing for oil resource that we have, right here in Canada, it’s a national issue.

When I went to Montreal a few months ago, with my colleagues, I found it wasn’t even on the radar for a national discussion. And here we have an issue that affects our transfer payments all over the country.

Now, Saskatchewan is a net contributor. And I’m hoping to be in that set, at some point. And I’m humbled by the generosity that I’ve seen throughout Canada, and the generosity I see in the western provinces. But I’m not taking it for granted! And that’s why I’m here to fight with you, to make a difference.

One day, I want to New Brunswick to be a net contributor for provinces that need our help. Now what do we have in New Brunswick? Some of you come from there, because we had a potash mine – and I met some fellas here today that are from the Sussex region, because their mine isn’t running at this point. I’m hopeful, one day, that it will open up.

But the idea that we have the largest refinery, in Canada, in Saint John, New Brunswick – 350,000 barrel a day refinery, and guess what it refines? Foreign crude oil! At least 70, 80 per cent of it is foreign crude oil. And what does it does for us here? It displaces 150,000 barrels a day of foreign oil.

Now what is wrong with that picture? There’s a problem, if we can’t make that happen and connect those dots.

So when I read the tee-shirts, about the world needs more Canadian oil, New Brunswick needs more Canadian oil!

And what do we have there, along with these ships coming and going? The largest tankers in the world have been calling in the deepest deep water port in the country, in Saint John, New Brunswick, for over 40 years.

It’s a way of life for us. Brining oil into Saint John, into New Brunswick, is not a new thing. It’s been going on for years. I spent a career in both the refining and transportation business. And I can talk at great length about what it takes at running those operations, as many of you can talk about the experiences you have.

That’s what it takes to make it happen. And that’s exciting. And the only people that don’t seem to get it right now is that we can’t seem to get it across to the federal government. But we have a future prime minister, here, that’s going to get it across.

I am convinced that across this province, that as we unite, across this country, one province at a time, people are going to get onboard. So we see it growing. We see it growing from New Brunswick, we see it growing in Ontario. We see it growing in Saskatchewan and in Manitoba, and we see it growing in Alberta. So we have one little place that we need to grow. But we’re saying, Quebec, we need your help. We need you to help us to make our country strong. We need you to be part of the solution. That’s our goal.

So it’s not about finding our differences and spending our time focusing on that. It’s about finding the issue that defines us and creates our province and moves forward. And when we talk about an energy corridor, like the railroad many years ago, it’s that infrastructure that we support one another on. It’s the infrastructure that makes us stronger than any other nation. It’s upholding the values that we cherish.

Hard work gets results. Using what you have to make you prosper gets results. So it’s not about more talk. It’s not about more focus. It’s not about more committees, more legislation. It’s about more doing! Get the job done! Let’s get ‘er done!

So I’m going to continue to be an advocate across the country, from poor, little ‘ole New Brunswick. Because we’re done being little ‘ole New Brunswick. We’re done being the stranded asset on the east coast. We have a lot to be proud of in our province, and I ran on ‘Fight for our province.’

After a 33-year career in the private sector, people say, “Why are you doing this now?”

Well, sometimes, I question that, too. But when I come to rallies like this, and I see real people, fighting for a real country, fighting for a real economy, wanting to make a difference for the next generation, it excites me. It makes it say we can go harder. We can be stronger, and we can get results.

 

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