KANANASKIS, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are broadly “aligned” with Alberta and the need to develop pipelines to get the region’s oil to market, the leader of the province said on Sunday.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she had emerged from a meeting with Trudeau and his cabinet with the feeling they were on the same page about pipelines and environmental concerns.
The left-leaning New Democrat leader is lobbying Trudeau’s Liberal government to approve TransCanada Corp’s Energy East pipeline project in the event it clears the National Energy Board’s review, which is underway.
Trudeau has previously said it is not his job to be a cheerleader for pipeline projects, but he is under pressure to help the province that once dominated Canada’s economy develop its energy resources.
“There is a general sense we’re aligned,” Notley told reporters after meeting with Trudeau and several ministers. “I absolutely come away with the sense that we were able to effectively make our case.”
The collapse of oil and gas prices has staggered the Canadian economy, and Trudeau has driven the budget into deficit to invest in infrastructure and boost growth in Alberta and beyond.
Trudeau and his ministers are in Alberta for a three-day cabinet meeting, and the choice of the province for his second cabinet retreat since his government took office last November suggests he’s sympathetic to its economic plight.
Trudeau greeted Notley at the start of their 30-minute meeting noting “the important role Alberta has to play in the entire country’s prosperity,” but he did not speak to reporters afterwards.
Energy East, which would take up to 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Canada’s east coast, faces increasing problems as environmental and aboriginal groups ramp up protests.
TransCanada and Alberta’s landlocked oil sands industry are looking to Energy East to reach international markets after U.S. President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project to the United States last year.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters outside the Trudeau-Notley meeting that the approval process for pipeline projects remained the same as outlined in January.
Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Tom Hogue