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Editorial: Playing pipeline politics

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Ottawa is playing favourites by investing billions of dollars in the Trans Mountain pipeline in Western Canada after snubbing a similar project on the East Coast.
Last fall, the federal government sat idly by when the Energy East pipeline was cancelled, delivering a severe blow to provincial economies in Atlantic Canada — especially New Brunswick and the port city of Saint John.
The $4.5-billion Trans Mountain deal was done in the national interest to get Alberta oil — a key economic driver for the country — to Pacific Rim markets. It was essential for the pipeline expansion to proceed. It was also a sound business deal. If Ottawa can overcome B.C. court actions, it can sell the expanded pipeline at a profit for the benefit of Canadian taxpayers. 
Energy East was killed, largely, because of the federal government’s confusing energy and environmental policies. The Western pipeline decision should spur efforts to re-open Energy East discussions. If Ottawa and eastern provinces can get Trans Canada back to the table — with attractive financial assurances — perhaps Energy East isn’t dead after all.
No one can blame Saint John Mayor Don Darling for crying foul, or for the federal Conservatives to suggest that Ottawa is more concerned with the needs of Western Canada than those of the Atlantic provinces. If Ottawa is willing to do what’s necessary to save the Western pipeline, it should offer the same commitment to resurrecting Energy East. Federal investments in major energy projects are nothing new; they include the Syncrude oilsands in Alberta and the offshore Hibernia oilfield in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Energy East would have delivered more than 1 million barrels of Western oil a day to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John. It would have created more than 3,700 jobs during the construction phase and scores of permanent jobs once the pipeline was built. If Ottawa refuses to give Energy East at least a second look, it could boost the chances for Opposition parties in next year’s federal election. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to make reviving Energy East a campaign issue and said he’d put a matching $4.5 billion on the table to get it done.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was off base when he accused the Conservatives of resurrecting “old news” with Energy East. It’s not old news in parts of Atlantic Canada; it’s a fresh wound. Canada needs to flex its economic muscles in the face of NAFTA uncertainty and the imposition of unfair U.S. tariffs.
This could be a defining moment for both the government and the country.
Investing in Canada’s future must work on all coasts.

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