IN THE NEWS ~ Don't strand our oil resources: Minister

BRYN WEESE, Parliamentary Bureau, The Toronto Sun (Final), News, Page 32.

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OTTAWA-- Building pipelines and getting Canada's oil to more and different markets -- including right here in Canada -- is a top priority for the federal government.

And the official opposition could get on board with some of the government's plans, if it's done responsibly.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told a luncheon crowd in Sarnia, Ont., Thursday Canada is poised to become an energy superpower in the coming decades, so long as its resources aren't "stranded."

"Canadian crude oil production can double by 2030, but without the infrastructure to move our product to new markets, our oil will be stranded," Oliver told the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. "New pipeline capacity is critical to move Canada's growing production to tidewater to access foreign markets."

The government is also keen to see Alberta oil refined in Canada and Oliver said West-East pipelines that could ultimately ship more than one million barrels of crude per day from the oilsands to refineries in Quebec and the Maritimes are just as important.

The NDP, which opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway project are on board with moving the oil east.

But the party's energy and natural resources critic, Peter Julian, said only if the government beefs up current regulatory standards.

"There's no doubt that moving oil west to east can be a win-win," he said in an e-mail to QMI Agency, adding the Conservatives have "gutted" environmental assessments and "shut out criticism," making it more difficult to support such large projects.

"New Democrats have been clear that moving Western Canadian oil east makes good economic sense, if environmental and public concerns are satisfied during a thorough review, and if pipeline safety is substantially improved," he said. ILLUS: photo of Joe Oliver