As the Canadian government waits to see what the outcome of the U.S. election will mean for a number of key bilateral initiatives, the country’s Minister of Natural Resources says the government will continue to advocate for the Keystone XL pipeline project, regardless of who is in power.
In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Seamus O’Regan said the federal government is “unwavering” in it’s support of the Keystone project.
“There is a very, very strong argument for the Keystone project that continues regardless of who the president of the United States is,” he said. “And we will continue to make that argument strongly.”
Biden said claims that shutting down the Keystone pipeline would do undue damage to the oil industry are “just not rational,” adding that the arguments do not make any environmental or economic sense.
In a statement to Politico, Biden’s policy director Stef Feldman said the candidate stood firmly with then-president Barack Obama in 2015 to reject the project and will “proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as president and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit.”
The former vice president has also said he will transition the U.S. from fossil-fuels and towards clean energy.
TC Energy approved construction of the US$8-billion project to transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of oil from Alberta to Nebraska, which is about one-fifth of all the oil Canada transports to the United States each day.
Trump green-lit the project in January of this year.
The Alberta government has also agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity in the project and to guarantee a US$4.2-billion loan.
According to O’Regan, he spoke with CEO of TC Energy, Russell Girling in recent days. He said the company continues to “tweak and improve” the project so it remains “competitive.”
“And that takes into account present realities,” he said.
O’Regan said the market has changed “enormously” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“There were certain trends, Mercedes, that we knew were happening in terms of switching to renewables, but particularly investors going towards jurisdictions that take combating climate change seriously in their view,” he said. “And that has only accelerated since the lockdown.”
“So, you know, you follow the money — you follow the market and the market is moving that way. TC Energy is moving that way, Keystone is moving that way, and we believe we’ll have strong reasons to make to whomever wins the American election.”
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Speaking at a news conference last month, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney too said he is hopeful about the future of the project, regardless of who is elected on Tuesday.
“We are working with many people in the United States who support this project, including many people in the Democratic party,” Kenney said.
“We’re in constant contact with American senators and congressman on both sides of the aisle, governors and state legislators.”
He said it would send a “very, very negative message” if a U.S administration cancelled the project.
“It would really undermine the single most important trade relationship that the United States has in the world.”
Asked what Canada’s plan is if Biden is elected, O’Regan said he doesn’t “want to deal with hypotheses,” adding that the government is “confident of this project.”
O’Regan said he has had a “really good” relationship with U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.
“We’ve been calling each other quite frequently ever since the lockdown, ever since the pandemic hit our shores,” he said, adding that he also has a good relationship with Alberta’s energy minister Sonya Savage.
“We know that that conversation — regardless of who is there after the Election Day in the United States — will continue because it has to,” he continued. “Our energy sector is too intertwined — Secretary Brouillette had a clear appreciation of that.”
Overall, O’Regan said the one thing Canada must maintain is “consistency.”
“We are unwavering in our support for Keystone,” he reiterated.
John Baird, who served as Canada’s foreign affairs minister under Stephen Harper, told The West Block if Biden is elected, it could be “particularly challenging” for the country, saying Democrats are “not a party that endorses free trade.”
“They’re very hostile on protectionism,” he said. “And that should be a real concern for Canada.”
“And it’s not just Joe Biden and the ‘buy America’ phenomenon, It’s that the Democratic party is much more protectionist than Republicans,” he continued. “Trump is an exception to that, obviously. But you know, the key thing to watch will be: is there a Republican Senate or a Democratic Senate that might be one check on Biden and some of his worst instincts.”
Baird said it’s “more likely than not” that the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate after Tuesday’s election.
“They’re facing probably thee losses, but potentially one or two gains, and even on the three losses they’re not under water as much as they were even just few weeks ago,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this year that his administration will “continue to work with whatever government gets elected in the United States, to impress upon them how important Canada is as a secure and reliable supply of energy that they require — even as we move forward to a different future.”
–With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Demi Knight