Incoming U.S. president Joe Biden will be making a “serious economic and strategic error” that will damage Canada-U.S. relations if he revokes the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline this week, the Alberta premier says.
“All we ask, at this point, is that president-elect Biden show Canada the respect to actually sit down and hear our case about how we can be partners in prosperity, partners in combating climate change, partners in energy security,” Jason Kenney told reporters Monday in Calgary.
Kenney was reacting to reports, based on transition documents seen by The Canadian Press, that Biden will sign an executive order after he is inaugurated Wednesday to scrap the construction permit for TC Energy Corp.’s pipeline, granted in 2017 by Donald Trump.
Biden, who served as Barack Obama’s vice-president when that administration blocked the project in 2015, made it clear during his run for president that he did not support the Keystone XL pipeline. He has also pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord and make action on climate change a major part of his administration.
Once finished, the 1,947-kilometre line would carry up to 830,000 barrels of Alberta oilsands bitumen a day to Steele City, Nebraska. From there, the oil would be transported along existing facilities to reach refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
In an attempt to win over Biden and salvage the project, TC Energy announced Sunday it will spend $1.7 billion US on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030.
Kenney’s United Conservative government ponied up $1.5 billion for the project last year, and committed to $6 billion in loan guarantees. He said Monday the province would have, under the terms of the revamped NAFTA trade deal, “very strong arguments for legal recourse for damages” if the project is killed.
“This is, I believe, without precedent for an American administration, retroactively, to seek to cancel a piece of infrastructure… that already exists,” he said, referring to how the cross-border portion of the project has already been completed.
If the U.S. government can “unilaterally stop border-crossings of pipelines that already exist,” Kenney said, the same standard could be applied to other major projects. Scrapping the project would see the U.S. become “more dependent on foreign oil imports from Venezuela and other OPEC dictatorship,” rather than its democratic ally next door, he said.
Kenney noted that a readout of the president-elect’s conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 9, shortly after it was declared Biden had defeated Trump, noted the two looked forward to “engaging” on key issues, including Keystone XL.
Former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne also said in November that making the case for Keystone to Biden was at the “top of the agenda.” Champagne was shuffled out of that portfolio last week and replaced by Marc Garneau.
Kenney did not criticize federal Liberals over the developments that now threaten the pipeline, but said it was important that Trudeau reach out directly to the incoming administration before Wednesday.
“Ultimately, this is about the Canada-U.S. relationship. And that is why we also need a clear message to be sent from Ottawa that a decision to retroactively kill a critical infrastructure project that binds the two countries together, that strengthens continental energy protection for two countries that have similar goals with respect to climate change and the environment, that that would not be acceptable,” he said.
In a statement Sunday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also called on Trudeau to reach out to the U.S. incoming administration “to stop this from happening” and stand up for working Canadians.
“I also call upon the incoming U.S. administration to meet with our Prime Minister and affected workers prior to making this decision,” the Tory leader said.
In the House of Commons in November, O’Toole called on Trudeau to exert as much energy saving the Keystone XL pipeline as he did on Canada’s unsuccessful bid for a United Nations Security Council seat.
“Canadians know that the only way forward with Americans and people around the world is to show real leadership on climate change, the kind of leadership we have shown over the past five years,” Trudeau said at the time. “When will Conservatives wake up and realize that to protect jobs, they need to fight climate change?”
Trudeau was hunkered down Monday with his cabinet, preparing for the return of Parliament next week. In a statement to Global News, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said the government continues to “make the case” to Americans that the Keystone XL project will create jobs and “strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship.”
NDP, Green Party leaders weigh in on developments
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters earlier in the day that he wasn’t surprised to learn of Biden’s expected kibosh of the pipeline.
“Broadly speaking, we know that the direction that global markets are headed (is) that they want to see jobs that help us fight the climate crisis,” he said.
The NDP leader also said he didn’t think it would be a good use of time or resources for the federal government to join in any legal fights over the matter, but instead they should focus on “finding ways to create good jobs for these workers that are long-lasting.”
At another virtual press conference, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said recent developments show a “contrast in leadership” between Biden and Trudeau.
She noted that as the U.S. president was signalling he’d cancel Keystone, Trudeau’s government gave approval for three offshore drilling projects off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador to move forward, following their environmental assessments.
“Canada is not committing to lead on the climate, Canada is not committing to be ambitious on the climate in a way that people in Canada have asked our government to be,” Paul said.
With files from The Canadian Press