Study on the Development of a Strategy to Facilitate the Transport of Crude Oil to Eastern Canadian refineries and to Ports on the East and West Coasts of CanadaPublished on 21 June 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Terry Mercer
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, acknowledging that this is in Senator Day’s name, I wanted to make a very brief comment.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators that this will remain in Senator Day’s name?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Mercer: Thank you very much, Your Honour and colleagues. I just want to talk briefly about the study of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on pipelines for oil for protecting our economy while respecting our environment, which was deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on December 7.
It is an important document that the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications has produced, but I wanted to get it on the record because Senator Mockler and I have been exchanging barbs about the pipeline.
I think the real issue is that after our study, we concluded that pipelines are the safe way to move petroleum across this country. It’s important that we all recognize that for a number of years the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan have been driving the economy of this country because of the production of energy.
It’s important for us to recognize also that many people from other parts of the country have been out there working. I know in my province, thousands of young men and women go to Alberta every week to work in the oil fields and then come back home every couple of weeks with their paycheques. The downturn in Alberta was felt more in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador than it was felt on Bay Street, and it’s important to recognize that moving bitumen out of northern Alberta to tidewater to the customers we need to develop will do two things. First, it will allow those jobs to continue to flourish. Then — God forbid — we would actually get the world price for our product instead of the discounted price that we get from our American friends. Then maybe at some date in the future when our American friends want to buy more from us we will say, “Sorry, we’re selling to the higher bidder who is somewhere else in the world,” and maybe they will then step up to the plate and pay the world price.
This is an important issue not only for Alberta and Saskatchewan but also for Atlantic Canadians. It is an important situation for Quebecers and Ontarians as well. When the committee was in Montreal, I happened to be in the chair that day. As we know, our good friend Senator Dawson had been ill and Senator MacDonald was delayed in coming to Montreal, so I took the chair.
I also participated in a couple of interviews in Montreal, and I will tell you about one interview I had with a radio station. Of course, we all know that the mayor of Montreal, Mayor Coderre, has expressed opposition to that. I know Denis Coderre; I’ve known him for years.
The reporter asked me: “What are you going to say to Mayor Coderre about your support of pipelines going through the province of Quebec?” I said: “I’m not going to say anything to him, but he’s going to have to speak to the workers in Montreal and the workers in Quebec who will not have jobs if the pipelines don’t go ahead.” If the pipeline does not go through Quebec, there are thousands of jobs that Quebecers will not have. And if done properly, there will be thousands of jobs that young Aboriginal people are going to have. If anything good has come out of all this mess, it’s that I think the pipeline people have finally caught onto the idea that “Gee, we shouldn’t go talking to these people now when we are in crisis. We should be talking to these people all the time. We should be trying to engage the Aboriginal community, recruiting young Aboriginal men and women to do jobs on the pipelines, demonstrating the benefits to people in their communities and making sure there are benefits in employment and financially to the communities.”
It frustrated me every time we had somebody from the pipelines come to the committee. “Oh, yes. It’s very important to us.” And I wanted to ask, “When did that light go on? After the fire in Fort McMurray? After the price of oil dropped?”
You have to pay attention. You can’t develop something as large as getting bitumen to tidewater overnight. This is an ongoing job. This is a nation-building job. This is important to every Canadian. If somebody doesn’t believe that, then they are not paying attention. The success of our ability to get the product from northern Alberta to tidewater, both east and west, is important for everybody, whether you live in downtown Vancouver, Iqaluit, Halifax, Calgary, Fort McMurray or points in between. Even if you live in Saint John, New Brunswick, the pipeline could be important, too, as the pipeline is on the way to the Strait of Canso.
This is an important issue for an energy-rich country such as ours. When I pull into the gas station in Halifax tomorrow or maybe Friday and fill up my tank, I will be putting gas that came from oil from the Far East. That doesn’t make any sense to me. We are one of the richest countries in the world, energy-wise, and I’m buying gas that comes from oil from Saudi Arabia, a country with a questionable human rights record? I’d rather keep someone in Alberta employed. I’d rather keep somebody working the pipeline across the country employed than somebody in Saudi Arabia, who is not probably getting paid a decent wage and who is certainly not getting respect for proper human rights from his or her government.
Colleagues, this is an important report. If you have not read it, it’s not that technical. It is a very worthwhile study. I want to compliment all the members of the committee who took the time to do the travelling that we did but also took the time to take this as a serious matter. We didn’t go in with a fait accompli; we didn’t go in that we were all in favour of this, because we had so many questions. After the Lac-Mégantic disaster, I was predisposed and the light went on for me that I would rather have a pipeline go through my backyard than a train going through my backyard with bitumen on it.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Mercer: Honourable senators, this will stay adjourned in the name of Senator Day, but when it comes up for a vote, I encourage you that this is about nation-building. It is not about the economy of northern Alberta; it’s about the economy of Canada, from coast to coast to coast.