Canada will not become a “captive supplier” to U.S. energy needs, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday in advance of talks at the White House next week on deeper economic integration.
Mr. Harper affirmed the importance of Canada’s economic bond with its neighbour but also sent a tough signal about diversifying energy markets in advance of Wednesday’s long-awaited border security meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Prime Minister’s Office has been trying for months to arrange a meeting with the White House to roll out a much-hyped Canada-U.S. perimeter security deal.
Sources say Mr. Harper has been waiting for an opportunity to sign the agreement in a high-profile setting with Mr. Obama.
But in the interim, Mr. Harper has watched relations sour with the U.S. on a number of fronts, notably Mr. Obama’s move to delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project until after next year’s presidential election.
“It is not in this country’s interest that we are a captive supplier of the United States, of energy products, especially when we see some of the politics that are going on south of the border,” Mr. Harper said Friday in Burlington, Ont.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper are expected to announce the so-called Beyond the Border deal. The perimeter arrangement is an attempt to protect the continent from terrorist threats while speeding the flow of people and products across the border.
Mr. Harper has urged Mr. Obama to support the new oil pipeline from western Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“I’m disappointed with the politics down there. I think the project will eventually go ahead, but in the meantime we will ensure that we have the ability to sell our energy products around the world,” Mr. Harper said Friday.
The Obama administration said last month it was delaying a decision on the project until it can study new potential routes that would avoid environmentally sensitive areas in the Midwest. The decision delays the pipeline decision until 2013, and it came after massive protests from environmentalists.
Mr. Harper has said that he understands the Keystone decision was held up because of the “political season” south of the border.
The Prime Minister has said that boosting trade with Asia is now a high economic priority of his government. A key link in that plan is the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project between Alberta and the British Columbia coast. The project will carry bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to a tanker port at Kitimat, B.C.
A new report says the pipeline poses an unacceptable risk to B.C.’s mountain rivers and pristine coastline. Enbridge, the company behind the pipeline, says the report’s claims are inaccurate.