Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

United States Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson smiles during an interview June 17, 2013 at his official residence in Ottawa.

Dave Chan

Attitudes toward Canada's oil have shifted dramatically in the United States in recent years, as Americans increasingly view it as a key part of their own energy independence, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson says.

After four years in Ottawa, Mr. Jacobson steps down from his post next month with the fate of a key piece of cross-border energy politics, the Keystone XL pipeline, left hanging. In Washington, it is a charged and symbolic debate: For many environmentally-minded Americans, approving the pipeline amounts to approving more burning of Canada's "dirty oil."

But the outgoing U.S. envoy said Americans' perception has changed in many ways – including the dawning realization that energy from north of the border, seen by many Americans as akin to domestic supply, is very important to the U.S.

Story continues below advertisement

"One of the ways it's changed is that I think a lot more Americans understand how much of our energy comes from Canada," Mr. Jacobson said in an interview at his Ottawa residence. "Clearly, there is an issue with respect to the oil sands, and I don't want to diminish it. But I think another piece of the public perception in the United States is just how important a foreign supplier of energy Canada is."

Mr. Jacobson made clear that his comments are not intended to hint at the Obama administration's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. That, he repeats, is winding its way through a regulatory process in the U.S. and it is Mr. Jacobson's still-unnominated successor who will deal with the fallout from that pipeline decision, which is ultimately in the hands of President Barack Obama.

But Americans are belatedly waking to the impact of energy from Canada, which supplies 28 per cent of the foreign oil imported in the U.S.

"If you asked 10 Americans, 'Who is our largest foreign supplier of oil? Ten of them would say Saudi Arabia. [But] Saudi Arabia is second at 12 per cent," he said. "And I think more and more Americans are understanding just how much of our oil comes from Canada."

"It's almost like it's not a foreign supplier of energy. It's part of our regular flow of energy. And if there's one thing that I think Americans understand and agree on, it is that in the whole world, if we have to import energy, there is not a safer and more secure source of foreign energy than Canada," he said. "That has to be traded off against some other things, but that's something that's very important to Americans."

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, however, it has been a frustrating and slow process on an issue they deem to be their top priority in Canada-U.S. relations. Mr. Harper has called the decision a "no-brainer," and launched a Canadian lobby effort in the U.S.

"I think that they have been very careful, and wisely so, to stay out of the political process, the regulatory process in the United States," he said. "I think what they are trying to do is to try to see to it both that [U.S.] government officials understand the facts, which I think we do. And that the public understands the facts as the Canadians see them. … I don't have an issue at all with what they are doing. This is an important issue to Canada. The Prime Minister, I can assure you, regularly raises this issue with the President, pretty much every time he sees him."

Story continues below advertisement

But it is an issue, he said, that still belongs in context – and which should not be exaggerated as a do-or-die test of relations.

There are four major "buckets" of issues in Canada-U.S. relations, he said – trade, border traffic, energy and the environment, and foreign policy. His tenure as ambassador was marked by the signing of a Canada-U.S. border accord that has officials hammering out new measures that, he insists, are gradually improving security and speeding up traffic waiting times.

It is perhaps the biggest single, visible achievement of Mr. Jacobson's tenure as ambassador, but one that never carried the high-profile tension of pipeline politics. Mr. Jacobson acknowledges that it will be up to his his successor – rumoured to be Chicago investment banker Bruce Heyman – to field the controversy of the Keystone decision. "That will be an issue that my successor will have to deal with. But I also think there are other issues, and the totality of issues, that are more important," he said.

"Even Keystone – even Keystone – has to be taken into account for what it is and what it is not. And that fundamentally, this is a relationship that will go on for generations and generations to come between the Canadian people and the American people."

A new ambassador?

U.S. President Barack Obama hasn't yet nominated a successor to outgoing Ambassador David Jacobson, who leaves the embassy July 15 to take a new post as vice-chair of the Bank of Montreal.

Story continues below advertisement

But the name of the man being vetted for the job has already been leaked: He's Bruce Heyman, a Goldman Sachs executive from Chicago who, like Mr. Jacobson, was an Obama campaign fundraiser. He's one of the few top investment bankers who stuck with Mr. Obama in 2012.

Mr. Heyman and his wife, Vicki, have been a political power couple for three decades. They were among Mr. Obama's top fundraisers, collecting and contributing $1.7-million to the President's bid for a second term.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies