Trudeau says he'll make sure 'Canada's views are heard' on Keystone XL

·4 min read
Trudeau says he'll make sure 'Canada's views are heard' on Keystone XL

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he will continue to press Canada's case for the Keystone XL pipeline project with the incoming Biden administration in the U.S., which is poised to rescind the presidential permit allowing cross-border construction tomorrow.

But the prime minister offered few details about his government's next steps as the two countries start a new phase in their relationship.

"We've had a clear and consistent position supporting this project for years. Our government is making sure that Canada's views are heard and considered by the incoming administration at the highest levels," he told a news briefing today in front of his home at Rideau Cottage.

WATCH | Trudeau says he will continue to support Keystone XL

"I'm really looking forward to working closely with the new president and his team to create jobs and build back better together, for us all."

Reports emerged Sunday that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit through executive action on his first day in office. The on-again, off-again project would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas.

Trudeau, Kenney discuss the project

Trudeau spoke about the project this evening with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has said he will seek legal damages if the project is scrapped.

According to a summary of the call from the Prime Minister's Office, Trudeau told Kenney that both he and Hillman have made the case in favour of the pipeline to the incoming administration. The summary said Trudeau made clear that workers in Alberta would always have the support of the federal government.

When asked by reporters if the federal government would support such legal action, Trudeau said he supports the project and he, along with Canadian officials in Washington, will continue to argue Canada's position.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

"We understand, of course, that it is a commitment that the candidate Joe Biden made to cancel this pipeline. At the same time, we continue to demonstrate the leadership Canada has shown in fighting climate change," he said.

"We're going to continue to make that case and I look forward to speaking with President Biden in the coming days."

Trudeau also said he raised the project with Biden when they spoke before Christmas.

Kenney has urged Biden administration officials to immediately meet with Canadian leadership to discuss the project's future, saying a "retroactive veto" like the one Biden is considering could threaten other critical energy links.

Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee for secretary of state, was asked today during a Senate hearing how cancelling the project without consultation would affect Canada-U.S. relations.

"This would be a decision for the president to make. He has — the president-elect has — said that he does intend to rescind the permit," Blinken told senators.

"What I can say with regard to ... my potential role if I'm at the State Department is anything going forward we would address with absolute objectivity and professionalism to make sure that any proposed permit or agreement that comes before us advances the national interest and national security."

WATCH | Antony Blinken is questioned by Republican senator on the status of the Keystone XL pipeline

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has called on Trudeau to reach out to the incoming U.S. administration to ensure Keystone moves forward.

"Keystone XL is a project of national significance that supports countless workers on both sides of the border," he said in an email statement.

The leaders of two of the federal opposition parties have welcomed the news.

NDP, Greens want project cancelled

On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh applauded Biden's anticipated executive action, saying it contrasts with Trudeau's continued support for some natural resources projects.

"I agree with that decision. I do not support the project," Singh told reporters. "This is the direction that the future requires. We've got to fight the climate crisis."

At a press conference Monday, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul called Biden a "climate warrior" and said that Canada's leadership is "not serious about tackling the climate emergency."

Mikaela McQuade, a senior energy and climate analyst at the Eurasia Group, said the fact that Biden is considering cancelling Keystone XL on his first day in office — along with other key actions, including rejoining the Paris climate accord, nixing a travel ban on certain Muslim majority countries and instituting a mask mandate — shows how important climate action is to his agenda.

"It's important to take that signal as significantly as the incoming administration intends it to be," McQuade said.

McQuade said the Canada-U.S. relationship has changed dramatically over the past four years under the Trump administration.

"It's important to understand that the Trump administration — as aggressive as it was with NAFTA — needed Canada at the table ... the same is not true for where Biden takes climate and energy priorities over the next four years," McQuade said.