Alberta’s premier has offered another sharp rebuke of the U.S. president’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, going so far as to accuse him of showing “disrespect for America’s closest friend and ally.”
In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney criticized newly inaugurated president Joe Biden’s decision to block the US$8-billion cross-border energy project on his first day in office.
“Look, we didn’t start this dispute,” Kenney said. “It was the president, who on day one, decided to show disrespect for America’s closest friend and ally.”
Biden’s decision to block the pipeline fulfilled one of his campaign promises and was one of several executive actions he made to reverse policies that were put in place or green-lighted by Donald Trump’s administration.
News of the pipeline’s cancellation sparked a wide admonishment of Biden from several leaders across Canada — including the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are in charge of economies most likely to be negatively impacted by its blocking.
For Alberta, the implications of Keystone XL’s cancellation cuts even deeper as the provincial government has invested about $1.5 billion into several phases of its development.
On Thursday, Kenney called for retaliatory sanctions against the U.S. unless Biden revisited his decision.
A First Ministers’ meeting on Thursday was also dominated by discussions on the president’s order, with some aides who attended the call saying that “some premiers wanted to go to war” with the U.S. over the Keystone XL decision.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his first official chat with Biden Friday, expressed his disappointment over the decision.
Speaking on The West Block, however, Kenney called the president’s actions a “bad starting point for that administration,” and said that they have to stand up for Canada’s economic interests despite the close alliance between the two countries.
“Just like when Donald Trump ran on a commitment to tear up NAFTA and to impose tariffs on our steel exports, we didn’t say ‘that was his campaign commitment, we accept, let’s move on,’” Kenney said. “Our federal government, quite rightly with Alberta’s support, fought back to renegotiate NAFTA and to impose countervailing tariffs in response to their action on steel.”
“A close friend and ally, doesn’t just rip up approval like that and cause a multi-billion dollar loss without at least offering compensation and without our own national government responding in a meaningful way.”
According to the U.S Chargé d’Affaires in Ottawa, Katherine Brucker, the Biden order comes as one based on a larger agenda to tackle the issue of climate change.
The Keystone XL project attracted fierce opposition from environmentalists both in Canada and abroad. The pipeline, which would run from Alberta to refineries, oil tank farms and distribution centres across several U.S. states, was either delayed or pushed towards completion depending the current White House administration.
Former President Barack Obama took steps to delay its completion in 2015, while Trump permitted its completion in 2017.
“It’s very important for us, the president has said that the world faces a climate in crisis and he is looking to be bold on climate,” Brucker said, also noting Biden’s pledge for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.
Asked whether Canadian companies should fear being excluded in a “Buy America” agenda that Biden campaigned on, Brucker said that such a platform was designed only for government procurement.
“Now most American and Canadian citizens, we’re really interested in consumer goods and so here, I think you can’t really talk about ‘Buy America’ unless you’re also talking about ‘Buy North America’ — our supply chains are obviously very integrated.”
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