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Newt's musings: A view from the Canadian left and the right

Republican presidential candidate, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, campaigns at a Chick-Fil-A in Anderson, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, on South Carolina's Republican primary election day.

Matt Rourke/AP

Newt Gingrich's shout-out to Stephen Harper, characterizing him as a fellow, pro-American conservative, is not exactly the kind of fame craved by a Prime Minister.

It shows how much Canada is caught up in the U.S. presidential race - and also emphasizes concerns over continental energy security, says Preston Manning, the former Reform party leader and a well-known Canadian conservative thinker.

The NDP's environment critic Megan Leslie, meanwhile, argues that it shows American and Canadian conservatives operate exactly the same way by "ignoring environmental concerns ...."

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"They deserve each other," Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said.

Mr. Gingrich, the controversial former House Speaker and a front-running Republican presidential candidate, described Mr. Harper as a "conservative and pro-American" in his speech Saturday night after winning the South Carolina primary.

It was in reference to the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to deny TransCanada Corp.'s bid to build it.

"What Prime Minister Harper -- who, by the way, is conservative and pro-American -- what he has said is he's gonna cut a deal with the Chinese and they'll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver," said Mr. Gingrich. "We'll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity."

But he didn't stop there - "Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country."

Mr. Manning told The Globe Monday that Mr. Gingrich makes a "valid point" in noting President Obama has unintentionally created a strange dynamic between Canada and China.

Prime Minister Harper has said that Canada will look to diversifying its energy exports. That means he'll be talking to top Chinese officials about this very issue when he visits there next month - his second visit since becoming Prime Minister six years ago.

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"It's too bad that this pipeline stuff gets caught up in American politics because continental energy security is a big worry," said Mr. Manning, relating the issue to "world peace."

"The more North America becomes energy independent the less pressure to get involved militarily in the Middle East if Saudi Arabia or Iran go sideways," he said. "It's just unfortunate that this is caught up now for a year now in their politics. It won't help things."

President Obama did not reject TransCanada's bid on its merits, which means the company will try again. The rejection basically delays the issue until after the November presidential election.

Strong Obama supporters, including Hollywood actors, had protested the pipeline that is to take oil from Alberta oil sands to Texas.

The NDP's Ms. Leslie sees this entirely different. She says that Mr. Gingrich is "not thinking about how we could develop a sustainable economy." He is simply criticizing, she says, and in a "bizarre way."

"Newt Gingrich doesn't have a concrete solution for job creation in the energy economy of our future, just like the Harper government," she added.

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