The leaders of two federal opposition parties welcomed news today that U.S. president-elect Joe Biden is poised to rescind a presidential permit allowing cross-border construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision that would effectively kill the long-delayed project.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said Biden’s expected move to block the project shows that the U.S. will soon be led by a committed “climate warrior” in Biden while Canada’s leadership is “not serious about tackling the climate emergency.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long supported the project — he backed the pipeline while running for the Liberal leadership in 2013 — which would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas.
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, released a statement late Sunday saying the government “continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States.”
“This infrastructure will safely transport Canadian crude oil that is produced under one of the strongest environmental and climate policy frameworks in the world, and will strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship,” she said.
She said the emissions intensity of the Alberta oil sector has improved dramatically over the last two decades, with per-barrel oil sands emissions falling 31 per cent since 2000 after the province implemented new environmental policies. The project also has since secured the support of some Indigenous communities on both sides of the border.
Canada should pivot to ‘green’ jobs: Singh
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh applauded Biden’s expected executive action saying it contrasts with Trudeau’s continued support for some natural resources projects.
Singh said the federal government needs to pivot from supporting oil-related projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to support “green” jobs — and lead the global transition away from extractive industries like the oil and gas sector to other, unspecified clean energy.
“Global markets are clearer than ever that the jobs of the future are jobs that help us fight the climate crisis and that’s where we need to make investments,” Singh said. “Justin Trudeau has failed on this.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, said a U.S. move to rescind the Keystone XL permits would further imperil Canada’s oil sector and the tens of thousands of jobs that are tied to the industry.
“This move will devastate thousands of Canadian families who have already been badly hurt by the economic crisis,” O’Toole said in a statement.
Keystone long a thorn in Canada-U.S. relations
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney urged Biden administration officials to immediately meet with Canadian leadership to discuss the project’s future, saying a “retroactive veto” like the one Biden is considering could threaten other critical energy links.
“Here’s the very simple choice: either the United States has access to environmentally responsible energy produced in a close democratic ally, or it becomes more dependent on foreign oil imports from Venezuela and other OPEC dictatorships in the future,” Kenney said, referring to the Saudi Arabia-led oil cartel.
“The United States government owes Canada the respect to at least sit down with us and talk about this vital project in the broader context of our shared challenge in addressing climate change, continental energy security and broader issues.”
The project has long been a thorn in the side of the Canada-U.S. relationship.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper was openly critical of the former Democratic president, Barack Obama when he blocked cross-border construction through executive action.
U.S. President Donald Trump breathed new life into the project when he reversed Obama’s actions in 2017 and invited the proponent, TC Energy, to again apply for necessary permits.
Trump said the pipeline would secure North American energy independence and create well-paid unionized jobs.
Despite Trump’s support, the company faced an onslaught of legal action from Indigenous and environmental groups in states along the route — litigation that substantially delayed construction of the expansion project that was to connect with TC’s existing Keystone pipeline system.
While hopeful for a diplomatic solution, Kenney said the province has retained legal counsel on both sides of the border to pursue court challenges should Biden give Keystone XL the axe.
In 2014, TC launched legal action under a section of the old NAFTA after Obama denied the company a permit. That action was dropped after Trump was elected.