Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Canada won’t stop trying to convince U.S. president-elect Joe Biden of the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted Tuesday.

But even Trudeau’s full-throated defence of the controversial cross-border project, which Biden appears poised to cancel on Wednesday, betrayed a note of resignation.

Asked pointedly what he planned to do to rescue the US$8-billion project, the prime minister lingered instead on what he’d done already, including his November phone call with the president-elect.

He said it would be Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s envoy in Washington, pressing Ottawa’s case with what he described as the “highest levels” of the Biden team.

And he acknowledged the elephant in the room: that Biden’s campaign team promised back in May that it would do precisely what transition documents suggest will happen Wednesday.

“We understand, of course, that it is a commitment that … the candidate Joe Biden made to cancel this pipeline,” Trudeau said.

“At the same time, we continue to demonstrate the leadership that Canada has shown on fighting climate change and on ensuring energy security as a priority for North America.”

Those documents, reviewed by The Canadian Press, suggest an executive order rescinding the presidential permit issued by Donald Trump is among the items on Biden’s Day 1 to-do list.

Environmental groups briefed on the incoming administration’s plan also say they have been told it would come on Biden’s first day in the White House.

Advocates for the project, however, are clinging to hope that the ensuing outcry — the Alberta government is already threatening legal action — will prompt the Biden team to give them a chance to change the president-elect’s mind.

The politically fraught project, originally proposed in 2008, aims to deliver more than 800,000 additional barrels a day of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It has long been a linchpin in Canada’s strategy for boosting fossil-fuel exports by delivering Alberta’s landlocked underground energy resources to tidewater.

It has also become a lightning rod in both countries for the perennial debate over climate change, economic growth and society’s long-standing dependence on fossil fuels.

As a result, it never found favour among the Democrats in Barack Obama’s White House, which included Biden as vice-president. That administration slow-walked the approval process for the better part of eight years, much to the frustration of then-prime minister Stephen Harper, until outright rejecting it in 2015.

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has for months framed Keystone XL as a vastly different, more environmentally friendly project than the original.

In a late bid to win favour with Biden, pipeline owner TC Energy Corp. confirmed Sunday an ambitious plan to spend US$1.7 billion on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030.

Canada’s approach to climate change more broadly has also evolved since then, Trudeau said.

“Canada has, in the intervening few years, become a global leader in the fight against climate change and moving forward in transforming our economy in important ways towards reducing emissions,” Trudeau said.

“I trust that we will be heard, that our arguments will be considered.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man shot and killed by Tofino RCMP

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Visitors relax at the natural hot springs located within Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. (tofinohiking.com photo)
Maquinna Marine Provincial Park boardwalk project on track

“The walk down the two-kilometre boardwalk to the springs itself is by far one of the most incredible experiences.”

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
UPDATED: Poster popping up in Island communities falsely claiming COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

Most Read