The pipeline that might complicate ‘reset’ of US-Canada relations | United States

Montreal Canada – Justin Trudeau bragged this week that he was the first international leader to speak directly to Joe Biden after the Democrat was declared the winner of the US presidential election.

The Canadian Prime Minister said he and Biden had pledged to work closely together to strengthen the Allied Neighbors’ relationship, which political analysts say has been tested by Republican President Donald Trump’s administration over the past four years.

However, a conflict is already looming over a controversial oil pipeline project that the Canadian government is pushing for, but which the elected US president has promised, nothing as soon as he comes to the White House in January 2021.

The Keystone XL pipeline is expected to travel 1,947 km (1,210 miles) from the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta to the US state of Nebraska, transporting 830,000 barrels of oil per day between the two countries.

Environmental groups, indigenous leaders and landowners along the route have spoken out against the construction, arguing that a spill would cause irreparable damage to land and waterways, and have urged both countries to move away from oil production projects in the face of the global climate crisis.

“What we have is a[n incoming] The U.S. government is ready to do all sorts of great things on climate change, including lifting Keystone – and its biggest obstacle could prove to be that [federal] Government of Canada and [the provincial government of] Alberta, ”said Cameron Fenton, Canadian team leader at Environmental Advocacy Group

“These governments have shown that if there is one thing they will step on the mat and work urgently to help out pipeline and fossil fuel projects,” he told Al Jazeera.

A depot storing pipes for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is located in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 2017 [File: Terray Sylvester/Reuters]

Years of delays

Keystone XL was a controversial project from the start, and legal challenges held up its design for years.

Former US President Barack Obama vetoed the project in 2015.

I was against Keystone from the start. It’s tar sands that we don’t (and) need that is actually a very, very high pollutant.

Joe Biden

Speaking to reporters alongside Biden, who was serving as vice president at the time, Obama said the pipeline would not provide long-term boost to the economy, increase US energy security, or aid the fight against climate change.

But in 2017 Trump signed an executive order authorizing Keystone XL to move forward. And last year, he signed a presidential order replacing his prior authorization to expedite the process.

TC Energy Corp, the company behind the project, which changed its name from TransCanada last year, said in March that the pipeline should be operational by 2023 and add $ 8 billion to the North American economy.

“We thank US President Donald Trump and Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney, as well as many government officials across North America, for their endorsement without whom this project, individually and collectively, could not have progressed,” said Russ Girling, President of TC Energy, in a statement on the time.

US President Donald Trump announced approval for the Keystone XL oil pipeline in March 2017 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]However, Biden has vowed to revoke Trump’s approval after he took office, causing concern among Canadian government officials and oil industry groups who were delighted with Washington’s commitment to building the pipeline.

“I was against Keystone from the start. It’s tar sands that we don’t need [and] It is a very, very high pollutant indeed, “Biden said in an interview with CNBC in May, just months before he won the November 3rd election.

The project, said Biden, was “not sensible” economically or ecologically.

“At the top of the agenda”

However, the Canadian government strongly supports the pipeline and Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said last week that convincing Biden of the importance of the project was high on the agenda.

“We will work to ensure that Canada is the most reliable energy supplier for the US,” said Champagne to the public broadcaster CBC.

Ottawa is also under pressure from right-wing Alberta Prime Minister Kenney, whose provincial government invested Canadian $ 1.5 billion ($ 1.1 billion) in Keystone XL last year.

Kenney said this week that Alberta is in a “war for [its] economic future ”, reported local media.

He also said he decided to invest in the Keystone XL project because he did not trust Trudeau to complete construction of yet another controversial pipeline that will move oil from the tar sands in Alberta to the British Columbia coast for export overseas , namely the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The government of Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney invested US $ 1.1 billion in the Keystone XL pipeline project last year [File: Todd Korol/Reuters]Ian Cameron, a spokesman for Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources, told Al Jazeera in an email that the federal government “fully supports the Keystone XL pipeline”.

“This project has already created 1,500 high-paying jobs for Canadians and we continue to work to get it completed,” said Cameron, adding that Ottawa remains committed to fighting climate change.

Fenton of, the environmental group, said nearly 10,000 people signed an open letter asking Biden to keep his promise to cancel Keystone XL, despite statements from the Canadian government.

“We wanted to try to make it clear that … our government and the fossil fuel lobbyists they work with are not speaking for everyone in Canada, where the vast majority of people support increased climate ambition and action. ” Said Fenton.

Political differences

The Keystone XL brewing battle shows that relations between the two countries are likely to improve with Biden in the White House, but “Canada will not get a free pass,” said Donald Abelson, a professor at St. Francis Xavier University and a relationship expert between the US and Canada.

I think there are opportunities for compromise, but there will certainly be some political differences. There are people in western Canada who are concerned about the support to expect from a Biden government.

Donald Abelson, professor at St. Francis Xavier University

Canada and the US still have political differences, including trade and the energy sector, Abelson said.

“I think there are ways to compromise, but there will certainly be some political differences. There are people in western Canada who are concerned about the support they can expect from a Biden government, ”he told Al Jazeera.

Even so, Abelson said that despite these differences, bilateral relations will be better than with Trump at the helm in Washington.

“The relationship between Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau is sure to be much more cordial and civil,” he said. “I think the Canadian government is very happy with the result [of the US elections] and they really see this as an opportunity to hit the reset button on Canada-US relations. “

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