The federal government restated its support for TransCanada Corp. Tuesday, after the Calgary-based energy company said it is inviting companies to make 'firm commitments' to ship oil across the country in a proposed pipeline from Western Canada all the way to Saint John, New Brunswick.

In Ottawa, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said that the Energy East Pipeline could deliver Canadian oil to large energy consumers in Asia, while making the country less dependent on foreign oil.

“Global energy demand is expected to increase by over 36 per cent from 2010 to 2035 and Canada is well positioned to support that demand,” Oliver told reporters in Ottawa. “But without the infrastructure to move the product to market, our oil will be stranded and our legacy lost.”

Oliver’s comments came shortly after TransCanada announced an "open season" that will run from April 15 to June 17. During that time, the company said it will be looking for "firm commitments" from companies interested in delivering oil to Montreal, Quebec City and Saint John, N.B.

TransCanada said the proposed pipeline could eliminate the need to import crude oil to supply the refineries.

The project involves converting about 3,000 kilometres of an existing natural gas pipeline and constructing 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline.

The proposal has previously received the support of the premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick, as well the federal government under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who vehemently opposes the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport bitumen south from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast, has expressed his support for construction of the West-East pipeline in Canada.

Oliver criticized the NDP leader for jumping "on the bandwagon of a West-East pipeline.”

“He effectively undermines the prospects of making it a reality,” Oliver said, pointing to NDP criticism of Ottawa’s move to slash environmental reviews to speed of the approval of energy projects.

“Our government’s approach is very different,” Oliver said.

Oliver warned that while 99 per cent of Canada’s crude oil and 100 per cent of gas exports currently goes to the U.S., the demand for Canadian energy from south of the border is dropping.

“To preserve and grow Canadian jobs we must bring our resources to tidewater to diversify the market to fastest growing economies in the world, and that means building pipeline,” he said.

TransCanada says, if established, the Energy East Pipeline could have the capacity to transport 850,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in the east.

In a statement released Tuesday, the company said that, if the "open season" is a success, it will then apply for the regulatory go-ahead.

Pending approval, TransCanada forecast a late-2017 in-service date.