Biden’s rejection of pipeline throws ‘wrench’ in Canada

20 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is eager to turn the page on four years of strained ties with Canada's neighbor, but US President-elect Joe Biden's plan to block a major oil pipeline complicates the reset, experts say.

"It's not a great way to start a relationship," pollster and former political strategist Tim Powers told AFP.

"Given that the Canadian government has said it is very committed to the Keystone XL pipeline, to have the American administration signal that it's going to be scrapped is not helpful," he explained.

Biden is expected after his inauguration on Wednesday to immediately rescind a permit via executive order for the partially completed Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the US, reports AFP.

The $8 billion pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the Alberta oil sands, which Biden has lambasted as producing a "very, very high pollutant," to refineries in coastal Texas. The project was approved by Canadian regulators in 2010 but was then blocked by US President Barack Obama in 2015 due to environmental concerns -- a decision that his successor Donald Trump reversed in 2017.

Ryan Katz-Rosene, a politics professor at the University of Ottawa, agrees that Biden's decision "does throw a wrench in the Canada-US relationship." But more important, he said, "it makes things a little bit more uncomfortable for Trudeau in a domestic context."

"For Canadians, we are talking about $100 billion in (annual) exports," Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Monday. "So this is a matter that touches on Canada's vital economic interests."

He warned that blocking completion of the pipeline will kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the Canada-US relationship and undermine US energy security by making it more dependent on OPEC oil imports.

Trudeau, despite championing climate action, had pledged to get this and other long-delayed pipelines built in order to get Canadian oil -- the third-largest reserve in the world -- to new markets and to get a better price for it.