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Opposition to Energy East deepening in Quebec

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard     Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard and Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne are expected to issue a joint statement on the Energy East pipeline today.

Opposition from the Couillard government, general public, First Nations, students and even gas companies in Quebec is deepening against the proposed 1.1 million barrels per day Energy East pipeline. And with the governments of Quebec and Ontario set to issue a joint statement on the pipeline today, there is hope that TransCanada will be dealt another setback.

1. New conditions set by Quebec government

The Montreal Gazette reports, “Quebec is requiring TransCanada meet seven conditions before allowing construction of the pipeline, according to a copy of a Nov. 18 letter by David Heurtel, the provincial environment minister, to TransCanada… Among Quebec’s requirements are that the project be subject to an environmental assessment and that TransCanada must guarantee an emergency plan in case of a spill, consult with communities including aboriginal groups along the route and ensure the project doesn’t reduce Quebec’s gas supply.”

2. Quebec to evaluate climate change impacts of the pipeline

The setting of these conditions follows the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passing a motion on November 6 asking the government to do its own environmental review on the Energy east pipeline, including its climate change impacts. That resolution stated in part, “That the National Assembly ask the Quebec government that it includes in particular the overall contribution of Energy East project to climate change and the emission of greenhouse gas emissions in the mandate entrusted to the Office of Public Hearings on environment (BAPE) to assess the overall impact of the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline.”

3. People concerned about belugas in the St. Lawrence River

Thousands have also been mobilizing to protect the St. Lawrence River and beluga whales from Energy East supertankers. An online petition is calling on Quebec premier Couillard to ban all preparatory work for the Energy East oil terminal on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. TransCanada wants to build an oil terminal in a beluga habitat to load supertankers supplied by the Energy East pipeline.

4. Poll shows pipeline unpopular in Quebec

A poll conducted by the Université de Montréal in October found that opposition in Quebec to Energy East is strong, with a mere 33 per cent of people in support of the pipeline.

5. First Nations opposition

The Energy East pipeline also faces resistance from First Nations. Ellen Gabriel, who lives in the Mohawk community of Kanehsatàke, says, “In the absence of our free prior and informed consent, it would be illegal for the National Energy Board to grant TransCanada an application for Energy East.” The First Nations on or near the pipeline route are Timiskaming First Nation, Mohawks of Akwesasne First Nation, Mohawks of Kanesatake First Nation, Mohawks of Kahnawá:ke First Nation, Première Nation Odanak, Première Nation des Abénakis de Wôlinak, Nation Huronne Wendat and Première Nation Malecite de Viger.

6. Students opposed to the pipeline

A new coalition of student associations representing almost 70,000 students in Quebec recently formed in opposition to the Energy East pipeline. The stated intention of Étudiants et Étudiantes Contre les Oléoducs (ECO) is to “block any and all pipelines at the provincial border.” The coalition has said it will support‎ ‎”all forms of non-violent action” to block pipelines.

7. Gaz Métro campaigns against the pipeline conversion

TransCanada is also having to contend with opposition from the province’s biggest gas distributor. Gaz Métro CEO Sophie Brochu has commented, “I refuse [to accept] that the Children’s Hospital of Montreal pays a higher price for its gas because Western Canada needs to export its oil to the international markets.” This is in reference to the energy consultancy group Wood Mackenzie telling the Quebec regulatory body Regie de l’energie that TransCanada’s plan to convert their natural gas pipeline to oil would mean a shortfall of supply and higher natural gas prices for 3.6 million people in Quebec and Ontario.

The Council of Canadians, which has 10,000 supporters in Quebec, is opposed to Energy East. This past weekend, the Council of Canadians Montreal chapter marched with ECO on the streets of Montreal in opposition to Energy East. For more on our campaign against the pipeline, please click here.