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
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
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(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),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); } //

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says the most important thing about transporting oil is safety.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

After years of visiting Canadian ministers talking of little else – at least inside the Beltway – Transport Minister Lisa Raitt barely mentioned the controversial and long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday.

Rail or pipeline, it doesn't really matter, Ms. Raitt told a "conversation" hosted by the Canadian American Business Council, which promotes trade and business links between the two countries. What matters most is safety, she said when asked about Keystone.

"The reality is this," Ms. Raitt said, taking a long view rarely previously evident in the fevered Keystone debate. "There's an increase in [oil] production in this continent and we want to make sure we are moving it as efficiently and as safely as we possibly can."

Story continues below advertisement

She added: "All modes can be safe; all modes can mitigate the risks associated with them."

Should Ms. Raitt's understated tone focusing on the broader issue of getting North American oil – Canadian and American – safely to markets signal an end to years of strident, insistent Canadian demands that President Barack Obama approve the project, it will mark the third shift in Ottawa's stance in barely half a year.

Last September, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was bluntly and publicly calling out the U.S. President, proclaiming that Canada would not "take no for an answer" on Keystone. The wording was so tough that some in Washington questioned whether Mr. Harper had overstepped; in effect, saying Canada would not respect the long-established, democratic, U.S. pipeline review process.

Then in January, Foreign Minister John Baird changed tack, firing off a new – albeit equally strident – rhetorical salvo by saying Canada demanded a decision now, even if the decision was "No."

"The time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it's not the right one," Mr. Baird told the U.S Chamber of Commerce. "We can't continue in this state of limbo," he added, although it was not clear just what the Canadian government intended if, as expected, Mr. Obama was not stampeded into an immediate decision.

In notable contrast, on Tuesday, Ms. Raitt said softly: "I'm not here to give timelines."

Perhaps Mr. Obama's often-repeated message – most recently last month when he told Mr. Harper at the Three Amigos summit in Mexico – that the U.S. process will take its course, notwithstanding shrill or insistent demands by Canadian cabinet ministers and provincial premiers, has sunk in.

Story continues below advertisement

Making a decision on "Keystone will proceed along the path that already has been set forth," Mr. Obama said in Toluca, Mexico, noting that his Canadian counterpart seemed to think that the U.S. process is "a little too laborious."

The State Department review continues. Other U.S. agencies will weigh in, but the final decision will be made in the Oval Office.

Keystone XL was once touted by its promoters and Ottawa as a way for Americans to escape unreliable oil supplies from unsavoury Arab regimes. But soaring U.S. domestic production has all but erased the need for new supplies of oil imports and American environmental groups have turned Keystone and developing Canada's vast carbon-laden oil sands into a litmus test of Mr. Obama's vow to combat climate change by curbing emissions.

Just as Keystone XL's role has changed – the oil it carries now seems destined for export, at least so detractors claim – so too have some of the major players in the long-running advocacy of it.

With Joe Oliver, the former energy minister and long-time lead Keystone cheerleader, gone to Finance and former Alberta premier Alison Redford just gone, the new cast of Canadian pipeline boosters may be deliberately singing from a different song sheet.

Ms. Raitt was still backing Keystone, but it was hardly front and centre.

Story continues below advertisement

She made no mention of the project designed to funnel upward of one million barrels of Alberta oil sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries until it was raised as a question.

In response, she said: "A lot of people want to boil this down to: 'If you don't put it in a pipeline, you are going to put it in railcars.' … For me, it is about making sure that no matter what mode it's going in, it's going to be safe."

As proposed, Keystone XL remains an "incredibly important piece of transportation infrastructure," she said, adding that "if we have the capability and the wherewithal to build it, we should build it."

Although many still expect Mr. Obama to make a decision on the pipeline in the coming months, there are as many who believe that he will – in Mr. Harper's words – "punt" again, leaving Keystone undecided until after November's midterm elections.

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 topics related to 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 feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

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