Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is taking his push for the Energy East pipeline to a place where it may not be welcome — Quebec.
Wall is to be in Montreal next Thursday to discuss the pipeline and other matters with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. Wall asked for the meeting, but will not be giving a speech.
The Saskatchewan premier is also to travel next week to Toronto and Saint John to speak in support of the $15.7−billion project proposed by TransCanada (TSX:TRP).
Wall says it’s important to spread the message about the pipeline’s benefits.
"Our problem has been that we haven’t taken every opportunity we could to speak across the country and build support for the sector and for things like Energy East," Wall said Thursday at the legislature in Regina.
The project has run into stiff opposition in Quebec where politicians, citizens and environmentalists are question whether the ecological risks outweigh the economic rewards.
On social media, Wall has been at odds with mayors from the Montreal area who oppose Energy East.
Wall has pointed out the pipeline is expected to generate $55 billion in economic benefits for Canada, including $4.3 billion in Saskatchewan and $9.3 billion in Quebec.
The company says the line would transport more than a million barrels of western Canadian oil a day to refineries in Eastern Canada and a marine terminal in New Brunswick.
On Wednesday, the premier was in Calgary and told the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada that the energy industry is losing the public relations battle against environmentalists and needs to redouble efforts to get out its side of the story.
Wall said the industry needs to do a better job of promoting the benefits it provides and has to continue to ask questions of its critics.
He said Thursday that he’ll be blunt in his defence of Energy East.
"I’m going to continue to be very direct because we perhaps were a bit flat−footed — the broader ’we,’ the energy sector and those in leadership in provinces where the oil sector is important — in the past."
The premier also said the Fort McMurray fire that forced the shutdown of several oilsands operations highlights the connection between Canada’s economy and the energy sector.
He said he’ll point out on his tour that the Bank of Canada recently predicted the fire will shave 1.25 percentage points off economic growth in the second quarter of 2016.
"That’s remarkable," said Wall.
"And that underscores our message that this sector is ... very important to the country. It’s why (an economic) recovery that many feel should probably have been more robust across Canada in other sectors, if not the resource sector, has been slow and anemic.
"I think part of the reason is because maybe the importance of the energy sector has been underestimated by some of the country."