Scotiabank CEO backs Energy East, says it deserves federal investment

TORONTO – The CEO of one of Canada’s big banks is urging Ottawa to boost its spending on infrastructure projects and says the Energy East Pipeline should qualify for federal investment.

Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter told the Canadian Club of Toronto on Friday that Energy East is a development that could help stimulate the country’s sluggish economy.

“Look, we’ve got an industry that’s core to this country that’s on its back,” Porter said.

“Energy East would be a quick solution to get Canada’s energy to global markets and reduce that discount that Canadian producers face today.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to spend an additional $60 billion on infrastructure projects over the coming decade, on top of what the previous Conservative government had planned to spend. That would bring total infrastructure spending to $125 billion by the end of the 10-year Liberal plan.

More details are expected to be revealed in the federal budget late next month.

On the subject of Energy East, Trudeau has been more circumspect, saying he won’t prejudge the outcome of any regulatory reviews.

The controversial pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) would ship 1.1 million barrels of Alberta oil per day to refineries in Eastern Canada.

The aim of the 4,600-kilometre pipeline is to get Canadian crude to domestic refineries and international markets, therefore reducing the discount that Canadian crude fetches relative to U.S. oil.

But the project faces opposition, including from Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who said recently that potential environmental risks associated with the pipeline outweigh any economic benefits for the city.

During his remarks Friday, Porter said the government must be thoughtful in deciding which infrastructure projects are worthy of investment.

“The government should prioritize projects that will safely move people, ideas and our abundant natural resources — projects that are environmentally and socially responsible,” Porter said. “One such project is the Energy East Pipeline.”

He said the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs and be a boon for both the national economy and federal coffers.

“At a time when the price of oil is low, conversations about pipelines might seem counter-intuitive,” he said. “But, in fact, these conversations are long overdue, and as timely now as ever.”

Porter’s comments are not the first time he has used his platform as a business leader to call for government action on pipelines.

During the bank’s annual general meeting last April, he called on federal leaders to end the “inter-provincial bickering” and “political indecision” that he said has hampered the development of energy projects.

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