Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is heading to Chicago and Houston this week in an attempt to build momentum in favour of the Keystone pipeline.
The minister’s trip comes on the heels of Friday’s report by the U.S. State Department, which was seen positively by supporters of the controversial $7.6-billion pipeline even though it did not weigh in with a clear recommendation on the project.
With a formal public debate on the pipeline still to come in the United States, the Canadian government has more lobbying ahead as it tries to win over a White House under pressure from the U.S. environmental movement to act more aggressively in response to climate change.
Mr. Oliver plans on reminding influential Americans that even with a rise in domestic production, the U.S. will continue to rely heavily on imported oil for decades.
“You can make a decision to take oil from some other countries like Venezuela and Mexico that have heavy crude coming in – or some other countries that may not be particularly reliable as sources of energy – or you can deal with your best friend and closest neighbour who has a robust environmental-protection regime and is friendly and has a long relationship of supplying oil to the United States,” Mr. Oliver said Sunday on CTV’s Question Period.
The proposed TransCanada Corp. pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels a day of bitumen from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refining.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has criticized the proposal, saying it would be better to have the oil refined in Canada to boost employment. Environmentalists in Canada and the United States have criticized some of the State Department’s assessments, arguing that the report underestimates the project’s potential impact on climate change.
Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell weighed in on the issue Sunday, warning that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s environmental policies need to catch up with the sharp change in American opinion of late when it comes to climate change.
“I think that Canada kind of dragged its heels on climate change for as long as the Bush administration wasn’t doing much. And the Obama administration is moving in a different direction,” she told Global’s West Block, pointing out that Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events have had an impact on public opinion.
“My sense is that Canada has to be aware of the extent to which things are moving in the United States on that file. And it would be a pity you know if there is a ‘no’ on the pipeline and that was a real chilling of our relationships,” she said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Oliver is scheduled to address the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. On Wednesday, he will deliver the afternoon keynote speech to the IHS CERAWeek conference on energy issues in Houston.
Mr. Oliver is expected to remind Americans that many of Canada’s environmental policies move in lockstep with the United States.
“We have the same rules in respect to fuel emissions from light trucks, from heavy trucks, from automobiles because we have an integrated auto market, and we’ve done a number of things that, frankly, are ahead of the Americans,” he said, citing reductions in coal emissions as an example.