MONCTON – Despite failed attempts to advance the Energy East pipeline project in recent years, the Conservative Party and People’s Party candidates in Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe are still hopeful an east-west pipeline to New Brunswick will be constructed.
“By building the pipeline to Saint John, it’s going to create new opportunities and great new investments,” said Stephen Driver of the People’s Party in a debate at the Arts and Culture Centre in Dieppe Tuesday night.
The Conservative Party, provincially and federally, no longer talk about just building a pipeline. They now pitch it as part of a larger energy transmission system.
Echoing the views of federal leader Andrew Scheer and Premier Blaine Higgs, Conservative candidate Sylvie Godin-Charest says her party wants to create a national energy corridor “that will control our own resources” and “generate an economy with stable benefits” for the whole country.
“We will be able to move oil, gas, electricity and telecommunications through this [corridor],” said Godin-Charest.
Five candidates running in Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe in the upcoming federal election debated a variety of issues from small business growth, to homelessness and affordable housing. Area journalists posed the questions at the event organized by The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton.
Answering a Huddle question about automation and the future of Canada’s labour market, Driver said automation will affect millions of jobs so it’s time to look at where new jobs will come from. He connected the issue back to the pipeline debate.
“I’d like to suggest to you that oil will be dead by 2050, so why not use this resource that we have in Canada and build a pipeline to Saint John, take the profits from those industries and reinvest it into new and emerging industries that are coming forward,” he said.
Claire Kelly, the Green Party Candidate, said adding pipelines to the economy won’t help the country’s efforts to move towards cleaner energy and will instead increase fossil fuel consumption. Besides, she says, the opposition to Energy East has been strong.
“I don’t think the [Energy East] pipeline’s ever going to be built because Quebec won’t allow it,” she said.
“We actually need to be moving away from boom and bust projects like building pipelines. We need to divest from the fossil fuel industry, which is a dying industry anyway. And take all those investments that would just be in primarily one or two provinces and spread them across Canada. We could create four million jobs in clean energy.”
The Energy East pipeline was slated to bring crude oil from Alberta to the Irving Oil refinery and an export terminal to be constructed in Saint John. TransCanada, which dropped the project in 2017, had said in 2016 the construction of the pipeline could create nearly 10,000 jobs and its operation would create 900 permanent jobs.
But the people of Quebec and parts of Ontario did not support the project, and several of Quebec’s mayors voiced their opposition in 2016. Former Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre noted the high environmental risk and low economic benefits. However, Alberta premier Jason Kenney is a supporter of the project, and so was former New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.
Driver said his party won’t let Quebec stop the pipeline, citing section 92 of the constitution, which allows provinces to control non-renewable exploration within their own jurisdiction.
“We will give 12 months for consensus. And if there’s no consensus, there will be a pipeline in Saint John, New Brunswick,” he said.
Kelly said the move might generate protests from Quebec and beyond.
Godin-Charest, on the other hand, also asked Liberal incumbent Ginette Petitpas Taylor whether she agreed with the Liberal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline. Petitpas Taylor said the deal was a “very difficult” decision but noted that with each dollar spent on the purchase, the government also spent $15 on green initiatives.
Petitpas Taylor said her party is “looking ahead” at jobs that are expected to come from the green energy sector and has invested in training for tradeswomen and energy audit jobs, among other roles.
Luke MacLaren, the NDP candidate, reminded the panel about the environmental impact of pipelines.
“[Driver] said oil will be dead by 2050. And if we do move ahead with this pipeline, there’s a chance that we might also be dead by 2050,” MacLaren said.
Automation and the future of work
As more industries automate and replace people with machines for certain jobs and tasks, Driver said his party plans to redistribute funds to provinces to help them reskill citizens but would leave the details to the provinces.
Kelly says the Green Party plans to impose a tax on employers that’s equal to the income tax paid by employees who have been replaced by machines. The party plans to use the revenue to eliminate tuition for college and universities.
MacLaren says the NDP will invest in the auto industry and support made-in-Canada electric vehicles.
Immigration and the impact on workforce challenges
Immigration was also a hot topic among the candidates as Kelly called out the People’s Party and its rhetoric – notably using the term mass immigration. Kelly also says immigration pathways needs to be streamlined.
People’s Party candidate Stephen Driver says his party supports sustainable immigration.
“My wife and I personally sponsored 12 Syrian refugees. We brought them to Canada a year and a half ago – six children, two sets of parents and a grandfather and grandmother – 12. They have settled very well and opened up their own business and are actually employing Canadians now.”
Godin-Charest said she plans to fix the accreditation system for professional immigrants and amend the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program, which was launched by the Liberal government, to include private post-secondary institutions.
“We have a nurse shortage here and we have immigrant nurses working in call centres … that’s ridiculous,” said Godin-Charest.
Support for small business
The candidates also spoke about small businesses and their importance to Greater Moncton.
MacLaren says his party wants to hold the line on small business taxes and says the NDP’s national pharmacare plan will save money for employees.
“That will mean saving $600 per year, per employee, for each company.”
Godin-Charest feels taxes and red tape need to be reduced for small businesses.
“[We need to] make it easier for people to want to do business here. I don’t know any businessperson that was not affected by the Bill Morneau (finance minister) changes.”
With files from Allan Dearing of 91.9 The Bend, a Huddle content partner.