A 37-car train derailment near St. Lazare, Man. early Saturday put an exclamation point on a pro-pipeline and resource rally later the same day.
Just hours before politicians, resource-industry stakeholders and hundreds of concerned residents from southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba met in Moosomin, Sask., a Canadian National Railway (CN) train pulling cars containing crude oil left the tracks, spilling an unknown quantity of oil onto nearby farmland. The incident occurred about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, causing what has been reported as a “partial leak” of oil near the small, Francophone community in the Assiniboine River Valley along the Manitoba border with Saskatchewan.
CN said no injuries or fires were involved in the incident and crews were onsite not long after to inspect the damage, begin cleanup efforts and investigate what caused the train to derail.
“Our environmental team is responding to start clean up, remediate the site and protect the environment,” CN said in an emailed statement to media outlets on Saturday. “A perimeter has been set up around the area to facilitate site access.”
CN later reported that the spill had been contained and no product entered the Assiniboine River. The rail line reopened to other trains at noon on Sunday. Investigators with CN and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada were looking into the cause of the derailment, an investigation that was expected to take several days.
Less than eight hours after the incident, a pro-pipeline rally was held in Moosomin, Sask., located about 60 kilometers southwest of St. Lazare. About 700 people attended the event, where Rural Municipality of Ellice-Archie Reeve Barry Lowes informed the crowd about the derailment.
Conservative Party and Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party Senator Denise Batters, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs headlined a group of about 10 speakers at the rally, which supported the construction of Canadian oil pipelines, including the currently dormant Energy East project. Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire also attended.
The rally focused on the impact federal government legislation has had on Western Canada’s resource sector and its broad effect on other industries and residents living in the rest of the country. Many speakers spoke against the both the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which proposes a more stringent process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of oil, pipeline and other resource-related projects.
“I know that Canadians are paying for Justin Trudeau’s mistakes,” Scheer told the audience.
“His attack on Canada’s energy sector is by design. It’s on purpose. This is the one area where he’s doing exactly what he said he would do.”
Considering their impact on the social and economic interests of citizens across Canada, Scheer suggested that pipelines like the Trans-Mountain and Energy East projects should be considered a matter of national interest.
“I will travel around the world promoting the Canadian energy sector as a source of ethical, responsible and sustainable energy,” he said.
"It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard. It’s time for us to push back against a federal government that isn’t listening to us and, quite simply, doesn’t get it.” – Sask. Premier Scott Moe
“Come October, after forming government, we will start to clean up the mess that (the Liberal government) has left us.”
Higgs, the minority-government premier of New Brunswick, said provinces across the country are beginning to see the detriment that federal policies are having on their resource sectors.
“So we see it growing. We see it growing from New Brunswick. We see it growing in Ontario. We see it growing in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We see it growing, obviously, in Alberta,” he said. “We have one place here that we need to grow on. I’m saying, ‘Quebec, we need your help. We need you to help us make our country strong. We need you to be part of the solution.’ That’s our goal.”
The currently-defunct Energy East pipeline project would have carried bitumen from Alberta and Saskatchewan 4600 kilometers to refineries and terminals in New Brunswick. TransCanada Pipeline, the company proposing the construction of the project, pulled out of the project in October of 2017 after bitter opposition from various groups – including the province of Quebec – and a lack of cooperation from the federal government during the approval process.
The Moosomin area would have seen the construction of a one million barrel tank farm and a feeder pipeline from Cromer, Man. to the Moosomin Compressor Station. Following the cancellation of Energy East, the Town of Moosomin and the Rural Municipality of Moosomin began efforts to put legs under the project again by lobbying the provincial governments and resource-friendly opposition parties and provinces.
“When we talk about an energy corridor like the railroad many years ago, it’s that infrastructure that we support one another on,” said Higgs. “It’s the infrastructure that makes us stronger than any other nation. And it’s holding the values that we cherish. Hard work gets results. Using what you have to make it prosperous gets results… It’s not about more talk. It’s not about more focus. It’s not about more committees and more legislation. It’s about more doing; getting the job done.”
During his presentation, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the federal government was not listening to the concerns coming from various regions of the country, including the resource-rich Prairie provinces.
“For far too long, our voices have not been heard. The voices that are being heard are the voices that would shut down our oil and gas industry; that would shut down our mining industry; that would shut down modern agriculture as we know it,” said Moe, at one time the lone provincial leader working against the implementation of a national carbon tax.
“The moment has come in the nation of Canada. It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard. It’s time for us to push back against a federal government that isn’t listening to us and, quite simply, doesn’t get it.”
Moe said federal policies are working against the interests of local and provincial economies and driving investment out of Canada.
“The message we are here to send today loud and clear is that it’s time for all of us to stand up and defend our world-class, wealth generating, sustainable energy sector here in Canada,” he said.
Devin Nosterud is a plumbing and heating contractor based in Moosomin who attended the rally. He said he heard what he expected to hear at the event and hopes the rally’s key message was transmitted to other areas of the country.
“(Federal resource policy) impacts my supply acquisition and travel. We work a large area around Moosomin, so there’s trucks on the road and we pay for fuel and pay our guys,” he said, referring to how a carbon tax would affect his operation. “The cost of living goes up and not to mention, if there’s no jobs, people don’t make money. If people don’t make money, they don’t spend money. And if people aren’t spending money, businesses aren’t making money. It all falls together in a circle.”
Nosterud, like Premier Moe, said his region has not always been represented effectively, particularly in the resource sector.
“(Our area) seems to kind of be more of a subtext than anything,” he said. “So I really hope we’re going to achieve what we’re looking for in getting the word out and getting it out east so people realize this is an issue and something that needs to be addressed.”