CALGARY—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a successful Keystone XL pipeline would mean a stronger economy for Canada, while hundreds protest outside the White House after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order advancing the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline.
Speaking Tuesday, Jan. 24, in Calgary after a Liberal cabinet retreat, Trudeau said he has spoken to Trump twice in recent weeks.
“In both the conversations I’ve had with President Trump now, Keystone XL came up as a topic and I reiterated my support for the project,” he said.
“I’ve been on the record for many years supporting it because it mean’s economic growth and good jobs for Albertans.”
Trudeau also said that Canada’s plans to protect the environment, which include Alberta’s absolute cap on oilsands emissions, mean that “we can get our resources to market safely and responsibly while meeting our climate change goals.”
Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order advancing Keystone, although he offered few details of what his order covers. He did say he wants Keystone XL details renegotiated and signed another order saying U.S. pipelines should use U.S. steel.
Trudeau said he’ll leave those discussions to the U.S. administration and project proponent TransCanada Corp.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who attended the cabinet retreat, also welcomed the news.
“We have been supportive of this since the day we were sworn into government,” Carr said. “We believe it’s a good project for both Canada and the United States.”
He said the project would be very positive for Canada, creating 4,500 construction jobs and deepening of relations with the United States.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who met the federal cabinet Tuesday morning to discuss the challenges facing his city after more than two years of an energy downturn, said the pipeline is important for a recovery.
“We have the highest unemployment rate of any major city in Canada,” he said. “One of the best ways for us to approach that is to continue to build these projects. These projects create good, decent jobs here in Calgary, as well as in the field and they are a great way to help our economy recover.”
Nenshi said the project is also needed to increase market access for the country as a whole.
“It is important for Canadian energy to have access to global markets,” he said. “It’s important for the prosperity of our nation for that to happen.”
The success of the pipeline is, however, not guaranteed, with significant pockets of local opposition in the United States, and Trump holding out for a renegotiated agreement.
Former president Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, saying it would hurt American efforts to reach a global climate change deal.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered on Tuesday at the White House for an anti-pipeline protest that hints at an aggressive upcoming challenge against Keystone XL, despite its support from the new U.S. administration.
The crowd descended upon the presidential residence hours after Trump signed executive orders aimed at facilitating the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
The protesters chanted slogans, held up signs like, “You Can’t Drink Oil” and “Keep It In The Ground,” and vowed to fight both pipelines.
One organizer said the fight is about to become even tougher than it was in its initial phase, when years of pressure from the left prompted the Obama administration to freeze the project.
Anthony Torres of the Sierra Club said the anti-pipeline movement knows it has no potential ally in the White House now, so it won’t even bother trying to convince Trump, as it did Obama.
He said the resistance will unfold in three places: the street, the courts, and at the lower levels of municipal and state government.
“The tactics are different,” Torres said.
“You’re going to see much more aggressive lawsuits, much more protests and tension on the streets. You’re going to see much more resistance in the communities directly impacted, and also much more attention to other officials and local and state governments.”
He brushed off a suggestion that stalling every pipeline could have unwanted political consequences for his movement; areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania that collect fossil fuels swung massively away from the Democrats, helping to elect Trump.
In Canada, the Liberal government was elected on a promise to take action on climate change, and get pipelines built. In addition to all that, the U.S. State Department has concluded that Keystone could actually reduce greenhouse gases compared to oil transported by rail.
On the political predicament facing Trudeau, Torres was unsparing: “We know that true climate leaders are for all efforts to stop fossil fuels. There’s no such thing as a middle pathway. You have to be against pipelines.”
With files from The Canadian Press