Conservative MPs urge Trudeau to 'call Montreal’s mayor' over Energy East
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose asks a question during Question Period, in Ottawa, on Monday, Jan. 25, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
One after another, Conservative MPs stood in the House of Commons Monday and urged the prime minister to call Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and express support for the Energy East pipeline, which Coderre vowed last week to fight.
Interim leader Rona Ambrose led the charge, saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “should stop using his cell phone for selfies with Leo DiCaprio and call Denis Coderre and fight for natural resources.” Trudeau met with the Oscar-winning actor and environmental activist last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“There’s almost 100,000 people out of work in (the natural resources) sector,” said Ambrose. “Does the prime minister understand that his lack of leadership on this issue is creating divisions in this country?”
Trudeau retorted that he found it strange the Conservatives were “criticizing us for not getting done in 10 weeks what they were not able to do in 10 years,” referring to the Tories’ track record on getting major pipelines built.
“We are working hard…” the prime minister went on, “to make sure we’re creating the social license, the oversight, the environmental responsibility and the partnership with communities to get our resources to market in a responsible way because that’s what it takes in the 21st century.”
Conservative natural resources critic Candice Bergen echoed Ambrose, saying that when Coderre came out against Energy East, the prime minister “was in Davos being star struck by actors.” She implored him “to pick up the phone, call the mayor of Montreal, tell him to smarten up and start standing up for Canadian jobs.”
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr responded to another volley from Bergen, saying that he will “stand up for jobs in Alberta and New Brunswick and Newfoundland,” adding that “zero” major pipelines had been built under the Conservatives because “their process did not have the public confidence of Canadians.”
Bergen said that, in fact, “four major pipelines” were built during their tenure.
Quebec MP Gerard Deltell also demanded Trudeau phone Coderre, saying that the Energy East project will create about 3,000 jobs in Quebec.
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer followed, calling Energy East a “shovel-ready massive stimulus project” that “won’t cost taxpayers a cent,” and demanded that the prime minister “denounce Coderre.”
Ambrose later told CTV’s Power Play that she has heard Trudeau will call Coderre, adding she hopes he will ask the mayor to “have an open mind.”
“I would encourage him to be open to the suffering of thousands of people in western Canada who have always been generous to the country,” Ambrose said.
“Albertans have paid billions into equalization over the years,” Ambrose went on. “They’ve never complained.”
“They’re very generously happy to do that, to support the federation, but when they’re suffering they feel maybe that parts of the country are turning their backs on them,” she added.
Earlier in the day, Ambrose said Coderre “insulted” Albertans when he came out in opposition to TransCanada’s Energy East.
The project involves converting an existing pipeline from northern Alberta to Montreal, and then building a new portion of pipeline east from there to a refinery New Brunswick where it could be shipped to other parts of eastern Canada and other countries.
On Thursday, Coderre said that he and other mayors representing 82 municipalities in the Montreal area will fight the Energy East pipeline because the economic benefits for Quebec would be small compared to the possible clean-up costs of a spill.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about our territory,” Coderre said last week.
Ambrose invited Coderre and other Montreal-area mayors opposed to the project to visit Alberta to get a first-hand look at the province’s environmental record and the technology used to “safely” build pipelines.
“Yes, oil prices have plummeted, but the key to long-term growth for the energy sector across the board is pipelines,” Ambrose told reporters.
“For Mr. Coderre to come out and insult Albertans and oppose a pipeline that hasn’t even been built yet is unfortunate,” she said. “This isn’t in the spirit of Confederation.”
Ambrose said she would like Coderre and other Quebec mayors to look at the pipeline issue “from an evidence-based, fact-based, science-based” angle -- “not from pure local politics.”
Other politicians, including Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, slammed Coderre for his stance.
Nenshi argued on CTV’s Power Play last week that the pipeline is a good project because it will allow eastern Canadians to substitute energy sourced from countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela with energy from western Canada.
Nenshi also said pipelines are safer than transporting oil by rail, pointing to the tragic 2013 accident that killed 47 in Lac-Megantic, Que.
The NDP, which has expressed support for Energy East conditional on a stronger environmental review process, chastised the Liberals in question period Monday for continuing the review process for Energy East, and a pipeline proposal from Kinder Morgan, using what Energy and Natural Resources Critic Peter Juilan called “the Conservatives’ broken rules.”
Minister Carr responded that, “there will be a transitional process that will govern those major projects that are currently under review,” adding “that process will embody the principles that will be necessary if we are going to get approval of these very important projects for Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair later told Power Play the Liberals are “backing away from a very clear promise” made during the election for a new process that would considering things like climate change when deciding on approvals for Kinder Morgan and Energy East.