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Interview

Cancellation of Keystone Pipeline is not an irritant in US-Canada relations

Dr. Kathryn Harrison is Professor of Political Science. Her specialities include environment, climate, and energy policy, federalism, and comparative public policy. She is also the author of the book Passing the Buck: Federalism and Canadian Environmental Policy and co-author of Risk, Science, and Politics. In addition, she has edited or co-edited several volumes, including Racing to the Bottom? Excerpts of an interview with Dr Neelam Batra-Verma, correspondent with ANM.

Do you think relations between Canada and US improve with the new administration? Especially with the cancellation of Keystone pipeline.

Yes, I expect a big improvement in relations compared to the Trump Administration, which was unpredictable, bullying, and even insulting to long-term allies, including Canada. The Biden Administration is an opportunity to return to normalcy. And there are just too many areas on which Canada and the US benefit from collaboration for Canada to let disappointment over the Keystone XL cancellation remain an irritant.

Should not the issue have been brought up when Biden called Trudeau? 

Media reports indicate that Trudeau did raise it in a phone call with President-Elect Biden soon after the election. In any case, there is nothing surprising about the Keystone XL announcement.  Joe Biden announced during the campaign that he will cancel the pipeline, and he did so. I’m surprised if anyone in Canada is surprised.

How would the cancellation affect the flow of oil from Alberta? 

Canada is currently exporting just under 4 million barrels of oil per day to the US. That will continue. In cancelling Keystone XL, the president is saying the US doesn’t want *more* Canadian oil, not turning off that taps on current exports.  That said, the measures the new Administration will pursue, including regulation of motor vehicle carbon emissions and pursuing a shift to e-vehicles, have the potential to decrease demand for Canada’s existing exports. 

Should not Canada have been consulted before the drastic action as with just one executive order, thousands of workers will be affected? 

Canada has engaged with the US on Keystone XL for many years, including before President Obama initially rejected it in 2015. Both the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta have been represented in Washington, DC. I would think reached out to the Biden campaign as well.

I do find it odd that Canadian politicians, such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, are representing Keystone XL has a lack of respect for Canada. A more obvious alternative, I think, is that it reveals Joe Biden’s respect for US voters. He ran on a promise to cancel Keystone XL. What would it say about his respect for those who voted for him if he changed his mind right after the election?

How would you view Canada’s relations with the US during the Trump administration? Especially with threatening with tariffs on Aluminum and then counter threats by Canada.

The Trump Administration applied trade sanctions in a bullying way to strengthen its bargaining position. Canada felt a need to answer that.  It would be a very different matter for Canada to initiate trade sanctions, as Premier Kenney seems to be suggesting, since as the smaller party in the trading relationship Canada would lose more than it would gain by starting a trade war.

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