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Canada’s oldest incorporated city will likely emerge the big winner in the wake of TransCanada Corp.’s decision to build a $12-billion pipeline to transport crude oil from Alberta to refineries and export terminals in Quebec and New Brunswick.
The 228-year-old city of Saint John, nestled along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, clings stubbornly to its historic Maritime past of shipbuilding. Home to North America’s first deep-water oil terminal, the city named after the Biblical figure John the Baptist, once boasted Canada’s largest shipyard and one of the biggest dry docks on the planet, but it has seen far more traffic from cruise ship visitors than the industrial kind in recent decades.
That moribund existence will get a much-needed jolt if TransCanada secures the necessary regulatory and environmental approvals to forge ahead with building its Energy East pipeline that would deliver 1.1-million barrels of crude a day from Western Canada to the East, passing through Montreal, Quebec City and Saint John.
Under the plan, TransCanada would convert about 3,000 kilometres of existing natural gas pipeline in Ontario and Quebec and construct an additional 1,400 kilometres extending to an ice-free, deep-water port in Saint John owned by Irving Oil Corp. Built in the 1950s, the TransCanada natural-gas pipeline is currently operating at only half capacity.
“I think there’s going to be winners all along the path [of the pipeline],” Paul Browning, president and chief executive of Irving Oil told the Financial Post in an interview Thursday. “Still, it’s great to be here [in Saint John].”
Touted as a nation-building exercise by both New Brunswick Premier David Alward and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, the project has been enthusiastically endorsed by Ottawa in recent months. Even Quebec has given its blessing, although Premier Pauline Marois indicated her province would study the proposal more in depth once TransCanada delivers more detailed plans in the coming weeks.
New Brunswick’s Mr. Alward has clung to the prospect of a West-East pipeline as vital for his province’s economic future. Consider how the creation of thousands of construction jobs – many of them highly skilled – slated to begin in early 2016 can improve the fortunes of an economically depressed province with a paltry economic growth of 0.7% and collapsing revenues.
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