Brad Wall is taking on Al Gore and Daryl Hannah in their own country.
The Saskatchewan Premier believes “mythmaking” and “conspiracy” theories around the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project are hurting Canada’s trade relationship with the United States.
Embracing the Harper government’s ethical-oil defence, Mr. Wall said he spoke “bluntly” recently to a group of influential American politicians about the star-studded protests in Washington against the $7-billion pipeline project.
He reflected on his speech and the message he delivered in an interview with The Globe this week.
“Here you have a friend, here you have a country that has the same core values in terms of democracy, freedom and human rights ... and that’s the country you target when you are happy to import oil from places where women are not allowed to drive, where gays are persecuted, where there is no democracy and I think it’s time that we speak bluntly about that because overall the relationship is suffering,” the Premier said.
Mr. Wall delivered this message to about 35 state speakers at their annual conference, which was held in Charleston, South Carolina. State speakers are much more powerful and politically involved than the House of Commons Speaker, who usually remains above the political fray.
“I wanted to come at this dirty oil stuff,” Mr. Wall said. He was perturbed about the message coming from the recent protests in Washington – that saw the arrests of Hollywood stars and Canadian activist Naomi Klein – over the 2,700 kilometre project that will deliver oil from the Alberta oil sands to a refinery in Texas.
The project is in a 90-day review period and U.S. President Barack Obama is being urged by celebrities, including Ms. Hannah, and other activists to turn it down.
Mr. Wall says they are unnecessarily ramping up the debate. And he was critical of former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, who has said the oil inside the pipeline is “the dirtiest source of fuel on the planet.”
The Premier accused Mr. Gore of ignoring “inconvenient truths” about Canada’s oil sands – a sly reference to Mr. Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary on global warming. He argues that no other country is putting more public money into trying to reduce the carbon footprint of oil production than Canada.
Although his province does not have a stake in the pipeline, he is getting involved in the debate because he believes the rhetoric is hurting Canada-U.S. ties. “I think that this particular issue as large as it is especially if it goes to something like energy has the potential to lean into other parts.”
The use of “incendiary language” like calling labelling Canadian oil “dirty oil” is over the top, Mr. Wall added. “I really don’t think it helps the relationship.”
The Premier said he is not shilling for the federal government. In addition, he said his appearance at the speakers’ meeting has nothing to do with his upcoming election campaign. Rather, he has a relationship – personal and business – with former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, who is also a former South Carolina speaker.
Mr. Wall said the “unique opportunity” – he was the only Canadian invited – was too good to pass up, especially since he is aggressively trying get his province known in the United States and internationally.
It seems to be working. South Carolina Speaker Bobby Harrell, who hosted the meeting, had never met Mr. Wall before. He told The Globe Wednesday the Premier received three standing ovations.
“I didn’t know what to expect. ... He had everybody sitting on the edge of their seats. His message was right on target. ... I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t have a greater future in Canadian politics.”