Joe Oliver: Mulcair should not speak against Keystone in Washington

Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver at his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in February, 2012.

(Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail)

Last week I completed a successful visit to the United States to promote our mutual interest in jobs and the economy, through the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The responsible development of Canada’s energy resources, including the oil sands, is critical to the Canadian economy and ongoing funding for essential social programs like health and education.

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NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is also traveling to the U.S. to meet with American officials in Washington. But what message will he bring? Will he leave politics at the border and join our Conservative Government in supporting Canadian jobs, exports, diversified markets and the Keystone XL pipeline? Or will he adopt the approach of his deputy leader, Megan Leslie, and attack Canada’s economic and environmental success story and criticize State Department scientists who concluded that Keystone will not hurt the environment and that it will be safer than typically constructed pipelines in the U.S.?

We expect Mr. Mulcair to stand up for Canadian workers and their families. We hope he will not repeat the mistake of his deputy leader and travel abroad to lobby against approval of this critical project, especially at a critical moment prior to the presidential decision. Unfortunately, if the NDP record is any indication, the prospects are not encouraging. The NDP is committed to ‘renegotiating’ NAFTA, and has opposed almost every other trade agreement. Still, with tens of thousands of Canadian jobs at stake, this would be the time for Mr. Mulcair to finally get behind Canada’s national interest.

A responsible politician would not travel to a foreign capital to score cheap political points. I call on Mr. Mulcair to make Americans aware of the reality – that Canadian measures to combat global warming are as good as, or better, than those taken in the United States. He ought to point out that Canada, which has aligned its greenhouse gas emissions goals with the United States, is already halfway to our target of a 17 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. Trying to undermine this important message would endanger Canadian jobs and economic prosperity.

We ground our support in science and the facts, while Megan Leslie and the NDP have rejected the independent objective findings of the U.S. State Department’s environmental impact statement. It’s clear that pipelines like Keystone are the best way to carry oil to different markets, both economically and environmentally. Canada is the safest and most reliable source for America’s energy needs, head and shoulders above the alternatives, Venezuela and the Middle East. So it is in the interests of both our countries to strengthen our trading relationship, not weaken it.

Whether Mr. Mulcair chooses to support Canadian interests or talk down exports and the hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs that depend on them, our government’s position is clear. As we prepare for Economic Action Plan 2013, we are focused on jobs and growth. This includes supporting increased trade and the socially and environmentally responsible development of Canada’s resources.

Joe Oliver is the Minister of Natural Resources.

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