Edmonton – Ever since February, when Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick joined Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on a stage in Moosomin, there has been growing talk of a “national energy corridor.” On Sept. 28, Scheer made it part of the official Conservative platform in this federal election, with an announcement on the campaign trail in Edmonton.
Standing before frac pumpers and workers in fire retardant coveralls, Scheer announced his intentions for a national energy corridor.
“Our country’s potential is as vast as the distance between our shores,” he said. “Leaders like Sir John A. Macdonald, whose vision of a country that spanned from the Atlantic to the Pacific led to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Like Louis St. Laurent, whose vision of a more engaged, more united nation, led to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Transcanada Highway. Like John Diefenbaker, whose vision of a Canada of the north, led to the first all-weather road across the arctic circle.
“These were leaders who could see beyond what was there, so what there could be. Leaders who could turn to Canadians and say, ‘Follow me, the journey will be difficult, but the destination will be worth it,” Scheer said.
He took aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, saying since he took office as prime minister, Trudeau had repeatedly attacked Canada’s energy sector and the men and women who work in it. He cited Bill C-69, the Impact Assessments Act, as the “no more pipelines” bill, and C-48, the tanker ban off the northern British Columbia coast.
“The results have been as depressing as they have been predictable. Two major pipelines cancelled, Trans Mountain on life support. Investment has left the country, and hundreds of thousands of hard working people have lost their jobs,” Scheer said.
“Canada works better when we work together, and our natural resources can be a force for good.”
“A new Conservative government will create a national energy corridor to carry Canadian energy, and resources, from coast to coast.
“It will move oil, gas, hydro, telecommunications and accommodate other linear infrastructure. It will be a transnational corridor, that will generate economic and social benefits for the entire country. A national energy corridor will provide Quebec with new opportunities to export its hydroelectricity to new markets. It will provide rural communities the opportunity to connect to vital telecommunications infrastructure. It will provide economic activity for Indigenous communities along the route,” Sheer said.
“With a single corridor, industry wouldn’t need to submit complicated route proposals for every new project. With a single corridor we could minimize environmental impacts, lower the cost of environmental assessments, without sacrificing quality, increase certainty for investors, get critical projects built, and create good-paying jobs.
“A new Conservative government will appoint a blue ribbon task force to provide recommendations within six months of its establishment on how best to proceed. We will then work with the provinces and Indigenous peoples, who will both share in the prosperity this project will provide, to realize this vital coast-to-coast link.
“Now there will be those who say it can’t be done, who say it’s simply too ambitious. Canadians have heard that before. And each and every time through our determination and our ingenuity, we have proven our naysayers wrong.
“Canada has spent four years being a country of ‘No’ under Justin Trudeau. That needs to change. As Canadians, we need to return to the optimism and vision of great Canadians like Macdonald, St. Laurent, and Diefenbaker. We need to start dreaming big again. And we need to start dreaming together,” he said.
“We need to move from no to yes. Yes to more responsible resource exploration. Yes to getting our energy to market. Yes to more, better paying jobs. Yes to new infrastructure projects that shorten commute times and keep our economy moving. And yes to being a country where big things are possible,” Scheer said.
Responding to reporters, he said it hasn’t always been difficult to build pipelines in Canada. “I am convinced that with this idea, we can address some of the concerns that business communities have, some provinces have, and do assessments all up front, so when project proponents come along, the heavy lifting has been done, and they can do what they’ve always done, get pipelines built with private sector money, not with taxpayers’ money.”
“I know Quebecers understand it’s better to buy Canadian energy. It makes no sense that they’re spending their consumer dollar on energy that’s coming from the United States. I’ve made my choice. I support Canadian energy. I support Canadian energy workers. I think the world needs more Canadian energy. I think needs more Canadian energy. And this energy corridor will help us accomplish exactly that.”
He spoke of talking to people in the energy sector whose companies went bankrupt and their equipment went up for auction, only to be sold to work on projects in the U.S.
Asked about a preferred route for this corridor, Scheer said that would be determined by the blue ribbon panel after extensive consultations with Indigenous communities and premiers. “Obviously it will need to get to ports. We would envisage this to go through areas that would ultimately allow us to export our energy throughout the world. That would be the ultimate endpoint. How we get there, we’ll leave to the experts, the scientists, the geologists and the Indigenous leaders.”
He specifically emphasised ports, plural.
As for buying the land along the right-of-way, Scheer said, “It’s not necessarily about buying the land. It’s about creating the regulator approvals process so that, as is the case already with pipelines being constructed, it’s about establishing a regulatory process that allows private sector proponents to do what they’ve always done in this country.”
When asked about possible resentment from land expropriation along the right-of-way, he replied that “There’s no doubt that the people laid off, here in Alberta and in Saskatchewan, will benefit when we get these projects up and running again. But the benefits of Western Canadian oil and gas benefits all Canadians. It benefits every province in this country. Refinery jobs in Eastern Canada. Manufacturing jobs in Ontario and Quebec. Revenue that goes into the federal government that allows the federal government to support provincial programs in health and education.
“This is not a zero-sum game,” he said, accusing Trudeau of pitting regions against each other.
This corridor will provide certainty for proponents who have lost confidence in the approvals process. “Companies are not willing to put in hundreds of millions of dollars, only to have the Liberal government move the goalposts and change the conditions halfway through the process.”
“This will be an ambitious project that will require a lot of consultation. I believe it can be done in the medium term. Obviously, we will wait to see what the recommendations are from this panel. I believe we can start working on this within this first mandate, and ultimately get to the point where big projects can be built in this country,” Scheer said.
Later in the day he appeared with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who also supported the idea of a national energy corridor.
In addition to Kenney, Moe and Higgs, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister have also supported the idea of a national energy corridor. The one holdout is Quebec Premier François Legault, who has said oil pipelines were not socially acceptable in his province.
According to the Canadian Energy Regulator website, “Two large refineries currently operate in Quebec with a combined capacity of 402 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d): Suncor in Montreal and Valero in Lévis, near Quebec City. Suncor has a capacity of 137,000 bpd and Valero has a capacity of 265,000 bpd.
“Supply for Quebec’s refineries prior to 2013 was a mix of crude oil from eastern Canada and offshore imports from Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. After 2013, use of crude oil from western Canada and the United States (U.S.) began increasing because of higher crude-by-rail deliveries, changes to pipeline infrastructure, and higher production in the U.S.
In February in Moosomin, Scheer said, “We’re going to get these pipelines built so that Canada can become self-sufficient when it comes to energy, so we don’t have to import oil or gas from anywhere in the world, we can develop it in this country, and keep those consumer dollars at home.”
At the time he broadly alluded to the defunct Energy East Pipeline, which would have shipped up to 1.1 million barrels a day of oil from Western Canada to Central and Eastern Canada, regions that currently import foreign oil by tanker.
Quebec’s oil infrastructure
A lot of discussion regarding pipelines centres around Quebec’s current negative attitude towards any new oil pipelines. So where does it get its oil? The following points are found on the Canadian Energy Regulator (formerly National Energy Board) website:
- Quebec receives crude oil by Enbridge’s Line 9, by rail, and by tanker. Quebec can also receive crude oil by the Portland-Montreal pipeline, but throughputs on the pipeline have been very low since 2016.
- Enbridge Line 9 has been delivering crude oil from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal since its reversal became operational in December 2015. The line has a capacity of 300 Mb/d and transports a combination of oil from western Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
- In 2017, deliveries of imported and eastern Canadian crude oil on the fell to an average 11,000 bpd bpd, approximately 5 per cent of its capacity.
- There are three rail terminals in Quebec capable of receiving crude oil shipments, including one at each of the Suncor and Valero refineries, and one at Sorel-Tracy. These facilities have a combined capacity to receive approximately 160,000 bpd of crude oil.
- Quebec receives crude oil via tankers arriving at Montreal and Lévis.
- The Trans-Northern Pipeline delivers approximately 178,000 bpd of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and heating fuel from Montreal to markets in Ontario.
- Valero’s Saint-Laurent Pipeline has a capacity of 100 Mb/d and delivers RPPs from the Valero refinery in Lévis to a distribution terminal in east Montreal.