FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - A Liberal MP from Nova Scotia has paid a visit to the oilsands, saying that Alberta may be having struggles in accessing foreign markets but the province's crude is always welcome in the East.
Halifax West MP Geoff Regan says environmental concerns appear to be stalling approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas and the Northern Gateway pipeline which would ship through B.C. for export to Asian countries.
But Regan says the struggling economies of the Atlantic provinces would be encouraged by the notion of bringing Canadian oil eastward, where residents rely on Middle Eastern imports.
Calgary's TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) is studying the possibility of shipping as many as one million barrels a day of western crude to eastern refineries.
To do so, it would convert part of its natural gas mainline partly to oil service. CEO Russ Girling has called the project both technically and economically feasible.
Company officials have also said they don't expect to see a big environmental pushback because eastern Canadians are keenly aware of how such a plan would positively affect fuel prices where they live.
Regan also says competitive wages in the oilsands could put pressure on companies back east, such as Irving, to offer a bigger paycheque for skilled workers.
"The tradespeople will be saying, `do I want to go home and work for $10 an hour less plus take a haircut on my benefits?' " said Regan.
"I think they're going to have to be competitive. Some people will want to stay home but still, when the opportunities still exist out here I think they're real and that's something that will have to factor in."
Regan also said there's a national benefit in terms of security of the oil supply.
"I think there is a strong interest in Atlantic Canada and in Eastern Canada generally in the idea of having access to Canadian oil," he said.
"The fact of the matter is that if there's a connection to the East coast, one of the important benefits of that for Alberta and for the oilsands is that you get the international price."