The leaders of two federal opposition parties welcomed news that U.S. president-elect Joe Biden is poised to rescind a presidential permit allowing cross-border construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision that would effectively kill the long-delayed project.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said Biden’s expected move to block the project shows that the U.S. will soon be led by a committed “climate warrior” in Biden while Canada’s leadership is “not serious about tackling the climate emergency.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long supported the project — he backed the pipeline while running for the Liberal leadership in 2013 — which would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas.
The project has been championed by the oilpatch because it would allow Canadian producers to fetch prices closer to the going world rate.
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, released a statement late Sunday saying the government “continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States.”
“This infrastructure will safely transport Canadian crude oil that is produced under one of the strongest environmental and climate policy frameworks in the world, and will strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship,” she said.
Hillman said the project has “changed significantly since it was first proposed.”
She said the emissions intensity of the Alberta oil sector has improved dramatically over the last two decades, with per-barrel oil sands emissions falling 31 per cent since 2000 after the province implemented new environmental policies. The project also has since secured the support of some Indigenous communities on both sides of the border.
Canada should pivot to ‘green’ jobs: Singh
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh applauded Biden’s expected executive action saying it contrasts with Trudeau’s continued support for some natural resources projects.
“I agree with that decision. I do not support the project,” Singh told reporters. “This is the direction that the future requires, we’ve got to fight the climate crisis.”
WATCH | Paul reacts to reported cancellation:
Singh said the federal government needs to pivot from supporting oil-related projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to support “green” jobs — and lead the global transition away from extractive industries like the oil and gas sector to other, unspecified clean energy.
“Global markets are clearer than ever that the jobs of the future are jobs that help us fight the climate crisis and that’s where we need to make investments,” Singh said. “Justin Trudeau has failed on this.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, said a U.S. move to rescind the Keystone XL permits would further imperil Canada’s oil sector and the tens of thousands of jobs that are tied to the industry.
“This move will devastate thousands of Canadian families who have already been badly hurt by the economic crisis,” O’Toole said in a statement.
“I call on the Prime Minister to immediately reach out to the incoming U.S. administration to stop this from happening and stand up for working Canadians across Canada.”
Paul Lefebvre, parliamentary secretary to the natural resources minister, told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos that the Biden transition team hasn’t formally notified the Trudeau government of its plans for the pipeline. Lefebvre didn’t say whether Trudeau had communicated with Biden’s team in response to the reports, although he said Canadian officials continue to make the case to U.S. officials in the Trump administration.
WATCH | Biden team hasn’t confirmed cancellation, Lefebvre says:
“The Biden administration is more than aware of what our position is. We made the case through our ambassador and we continue to make the case as to why this project is important,” said Lefebvre. “Speculating as to what their decisions will be right now is certainly not something we want to engage in.”
Thorn in relations
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney urged Biden administration officials to immediately meet with Canadian leadership to discuss the project’s future, saying a “retroactive veto” like the one Biden is considering could threaten other critical energy links.
“Here’s the very simple choice: either the United States has access to environmentally responsible energy produced in a close democratic ally, or it becomes more dependent on foreign oil imports from Venezuela and other OPEC dictatorships in the future,” Kenney said, referring to the Saudi Arabia-led oil cartel.
“The United States government owes Canada the respect to at least sit down with us and talk about this vital project in the broader context of our shared challenge in addressing climate change, continental energy security and broader issues.”
The project has long been a thorn in the side of the Canada-U.S. relationship.
WATCH | Scott Moe on what cancellation could mean:
Former prime minister Stephen Harper was openly critical of the former Democratic president, Barack Obama, when he blocked cross-border construction through executive action.
Harper predicted the pipeline would be built “with or without Obama.” That won’t happen if Biden proceeds as planned.
U.S. President Donald Trump breathed new life into the project when he reversed Obama’s actions in 2017 and invited the proponent, TC Energy, to again apply for necessary permits.
Trump said the pipeline would secure North American energy independence and create well-paid unionized jobs.
Despite Trump’s support, the company faced an onslaught of legal action from Indigenous and environmental groups in states along the route — litigation that substantially delayed construction of the expansion project that was to connect with TC’s existing Keystone pipeline system.
While hopeful for a diplomatic solution, Kenney said the province has retained legal counsel on both sides of the border to pursue court challenges should Biden give Keystone XL the axe.
In 2014, TC launched legal action under a section of the old NAFTA after Obama denied the company a permit. That action was dropped after Trump was elected.
WATCH | Pipeline is good for the U.S., foreign affairs minister says