Stephen Harper uncut: The prime minister’s Q & A with an American audience

·Politics Reporter

(Interview starts at 13:08)

In recent months, we've seen Stephen Harper conduct more long-form interviews.

It's actually a smart strategy: In these types of interviews, the prime minister comes across very intelligent, articulate and personable.

In his most recent Q & A interview — at an address to the Council of Foreign Relations on Thursday in New York City — Harper talked about why President Obama should approve the Keystone XL pipeline, about what keeps him up at night and about greater economic integration with the United States.

If you don't have an hour to spend to watch the whole video above, here are some of the highlights of what he had to say.

About balancing environmental concerns with the development of the oil sands:

Oil sands -- first of all, one needs to put this in a global perspective. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of global emissions are in the oil sands. And so it -- it's, you know, almost nothing globally.

We've had a 25 percent reduction over the past decade or so in emissions intensity out of the oil sands -- 25 percent down.

[ Related: Stephen Harper touts oilsands in New York City, environmentalists fight back online ]

About why the Obama administration should approve the Keystone XL Pipeline:

You know, this project -- well, if I can just take a second, four things. I talked about the environment. You know, on the economic side, 40,000 jobs in this country alone over the life of the project -- I don't think, given the growth and job record in North America, we can afford to turn down -- turn up our nose at that. Energy security -- this project will bring in enough oil to reduce American offshore dependence by 40 percent. This is an enormous benefit to the United States in terms of long-term energy security. And finally, of course, I think when you weigh all these factors, including the environmental factors, it explains why there is such overwhelming public support for this pipeline in the United States and why the -- in the -- particularly in the regions affected, there's such broad bipartisan support.

...the only real immediate environmental issue here is that we want to increase the flow of oil from Canada via pipeline or via rail. If we don't do the pipeline, more and more is going to be coming in via rail, which is far more environmentally challenging in terms of emissions and risks and all kinds of other things than building a proper pipeline. I think all the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval of this, but there is a process in the United States.

About general risks to Canada:

Well, as I say, they are -- they are external. That's what keeps me up at night. We've had -- I think there's been some comment on it here. We have had, as you know, growth of household debt in Canada. I think it's -- it -- the assets behind it still speak to the fact that it's well-supported.

You know, there's always risks you can't predict in this world. There are security risks. There are terrorist attacks. As you know, we just have been working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation working to make arrests on a particular incident we had not long after the Boston bombings.

So there's political risks. There's always the risk of -- there's always the risk of people picking the wrong government, but my primary job is to make sure that doesn't happen.

About a national commission on missing and murdered Aboriginal women:

First of all, tend to remain skeptical of commissions of inquiry generally. Not to say they never work or never produce good recommendations, but my experience has been, they almost always run way over time, way over budget and often, the recommendations prove to be of limited utility.

This issue has been studied; the government itself -- the federal government itself -- it's been studied in several different venues -- the federal government itself provided funding or multi-years of study within various branches of our government. We do really think it is time to pass to action.

[ Related: The future of First Nations relations: peace or strife? ]

About NAFTA and further economic integration between Canada and the United States

I think the resistance to this kind of thing's far more in the United States than in Canada, for reasons that -- and maybe, Bob and others, for reasons you would better fathom than me.

Some of it's post-9/11 security concerns, but I've never seen -- the United States in the past decade is -- the sensitivity here about sovereignty and the negative assessments I often read of NAFTA -- completely counterfactual assessments of NAFTA -- I think, are the real barriers. I think the real barrier to making some of these arrangements broader and more systemic in terms of the integration are actually on this side of the border.

And I don't know why that is. In Canada I say the -- there were many people opposed. It was a very close election, 50-50, Canadians' original support, on the Canada-U.S. trade arrangement. Any political party that advocates backing away from this trade relationship or from NAFTA would never a general election in Canada, would never be a serious contender.

The full transcript can be found at the Council on Foreign Relations' webpage here.

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