Obama and Harper: United by indifference

Paul Wells on the Keystone XL pipeline and a cross-border disconnect


Aul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

It always comes as a relief when a doomed relationship finally sours into real animosity. Enough of frosty grins and forced bonhomie. Let the hostilities commence. Take Stephen Harper and Barack Obama. You may have to, since apparently neither can take much of the other.

On Sept. 26 in a New York City hotel ballroom, the Prime Minister sat onstage in front of a business audience and took questions from CNBC TV anchor Maria Bartiromo. When the questions turned, inevitably, to the possibility that the U.S. President might reject the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta into the U.S., Harper’s answer amounted to an assertion that Obama has no say in the matter.

“My view is, you don’t take no for an answer,” he said. Which is odd, because the decision to approve Keystone lies, ultimately, with Obama. That’s precisely why the U.S. opponents of oil-sands development have pressured him to reject the project: because it’s one of the few decisions in the messy U.S. system that is the President’s alone. So “no” does indeed seem to be one of two possible answers on Keystone.

What if Obama says no? “We haven’t had that,” Harper said, “but if we were to get that, that won’t be final. This won’t be final until it’s approved and we will keep pushing forward.”

It was an astonishing statement, and I’m sorry Bartiromo didn’t come back to push Harper to explain his answer. It was oddly familiar, and it took me a while to place the precedent. In 1997, when Lucien Bouchard was the premier of Quebec and Stéphane Dion was the Chrétien Liberals’ lead anti-separatism enforcer, Bouchard finally decided he had had enough of Dion’s impertinence. “I am not listening to Mr. Dion,” Bouchard said. “As far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t exist.”

It has the virtue of novelty, this strategy of publicly proclaiming that a presidential no doesn’t mean no. Harper’s words were echoed, indeed amplified, by Chris Alexander, his new minister of immigration. “There’s a logic to our energy policy that is more powerful than any political leader,” Alexander told CTV’s Question Period.

There may indeed be a logic to the government’s energy policy, but it’s not easy to discern. Or rather, once discerned, it tends to mutate. At the end of August, Harper’s staff said he had written a letter to Obama offering to tailor emissions regulations for the Canadian oil sands to suit U.S. preferences. It’s not the sort of letter one normally sends to someone whose answers don’t matter.

And not that long ago, at the end of 2011, Harper’s line was not that Keystone would proceed no matter what; it was that it didn’t matter whether Keystone went ahead or not, because the real action was elsewhere. Harper told CTV anchor Lisa LaFlamme he was going to ship oil-sands oil to clients who were grateful for a change. “I ran into several senior Americans, who all said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get Keystone done. You can sell all of your oil to us,’ ” Harper said then. “I said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to, but the problem is now we’re on a different track.’ ”

So in a few years, on Canada’s most prominent export resource file, the Harper government’s position has turned a triple somersault. From “Exports to the U.S. are optional,” it has evolved to, “Exports to the U.S. are vital, and how can we work to make them happen?” And then yet again to, “Exports to the U.S. follow nature’s law and no mere Chicago president can block them.”

A few things are going on here. First, the “different track” that so strongly appealed to Harper at the end of 2011 was China, and that turned out to be harder than it seemed. Sustaining the attention of China’s leadership would have required frequent visits and reciprocal access to the Canadian market. But nobody on Earth gets frequent visits from Harper. And the reciprocal access provoked a major political backlash when state-owned Chinese companies started buying into the Alberta oil patch.

So Canada is stuck, one way or another, with the United States. He would prefer that didn’t mean he was stuck with Obama, and indeed for most cross-border trade he isn’t. Only on Keystone does he need Obama’s personal attention.

And there are many competing claims on Obama’s attention. These include a frontal Republican assault against health-care reform that has shut the U.S. government down; mass murder by the Syrian regime, compounded by Obama’s rash claims that he would do something to stop it; and the endless fun hours he must spend deciding whether the new regime in Iran can be trusted to reform. It’s an imposing list. It’s hard to imagine how far down that list any Canadian file must fall.

Two other leaders might have a personal relationship to fall back on, but Harper and Obama have this much in common: Neither is big on personal relationships. Neither is wired to think, in any consistent fashion, about foreign affairs. Their relationship had been characterized by growing mutual indifference and incomprehension. But even that was too good to last. Fox News tells Harper Obama is a clown, or worse. Obama hardly ever hears about Keystone except in the context of the polarized battle for control that has defined his relationship with Congress, and the messages he gets from Harper are indistinguishable from the messages he gets from his Republican tormentors. No wonder each has come to wish the other wasn’t there.

On the web: For more Paul Wells, visit his blog at macleans.ca/inklesswells


Obama and Harper: United by indifference

  1. Well, obviously, Harper is now playing 3D chess.

    This is what happens when you pick a winner, or put all your eggs in one basket. Hero or bum. No in-betweens.

    • Perhaps Harper is playing 3D chess and playing it rather well indeed. However, he is certainly not putting all of his eggs in one basket wrt pipelines. Harper is the only leader on record as supporting every pipeline proposal. He supports them unreservedly, immediately and unconditionally. The dippers of course oppose all pipelines. Young Turdeau thinks he can pick and choose, hiding behind some fancy expert scientist.

      The NDP & Liberals worry about pipeline leaks. Well guess what, pipelines sometimes leak. Oil that came out of the ground goes back into the ground, big deal. Harper knows that the real issue with pipeline leaks is economic… you have to shut down the pipeline to fix it. The correct response: build them all. North, south, east and west, that way no matter what happens the oil is always flowing somewhere.

      • The sarcasm gig is dangerous, SS. Especially here.

      • [The correct response: build them all. North, south, east and west, that way no matter what happens the oil is always flowing somewhere.]
        Mmmmm…I think it might be best if there’s something connected at the other end of the pipeline. Like a customer.

        Oddly, other than shared stakes in the XL (most of which are now being written off, Valero for instance) there are no customers signed for any pipelines.

        Odd that….did someone mention “Market Forces”?

  2. If only Patrick Muttart had gotten hold of the Democrat’s CIMS…

  3. For once I have to say the author is pulling his punches. The right word to describe Chris Alexander’s comment to CTV is “delusional”. Harper and co have messed up this file from the start, choosing short term political expediency (we’ll sell to the Americans, no, to the Chinese, no, the Americans, well, how about the Martians, all the time painting the opposition as traitors) rather than thinking long-term.

    • Is that Martians or Martins, as in Paul’s Canada Steamship Lines, flagged and crewed in a third world country to avoid taxes, that can be counted on to ship our Canadian oil to markets around the world, as soon as someone figures out a way to get it there. That’s what we need the Martians for, because it seems no one on earth can figure it out, except perhaps the many scientists (who have published the facts in highly respected peer reviewed journals for the last 50 years) that our governments have treated as green headed Martians, while thousands of miles of pipelines that carry NH3 have operated for decades moving hundreds of millions of tons of hydrogen energy in the ammonia. In the event of a spill, it would almost never be catastrophic or cause any long term harm because it does not contain the carbon or other chemicals, is lighter than air, and would evaporate quickly, unlike any hydrocarbon shipped by pipeline, barge, ship, or rail would. We can refine it ourselves and make twice as much money on every ton than we do now or will get in the future for the raw materials, because it is not only fertilizer, it is fuel and liquid electricity. According to a Nov. 2012 IEEE report;

      As early as 1967 Leon Green, Jr., writing in Science magazine [1], formulated a concept for the large-scale use of ammonia as fuel. He observed: The long-term consequences of the greenhouse effect due to CO2 buildup in the atmosphere are of serious concern. . . . To remove the offending elements (carbon and sulfur) from the fuel prior to combustion is a much more efficient and less expensive procedure than trying to clean up the combustion products. . . . Outlined below is a concept for energy generation in which the fossil fuels are not burned directly but serve as raw materials for the synthesis of a clean fuel. . . This clean fuel is ammonia. . . In commercial high-tonnage production of ammonia, natural gas is used as raw material for steam reforming to generate hydrogen for the synthesis reaction. In the course of this process sulfur is removed and recovered in elemental form, and CO2 is scrubbed from the stream and may be recovered for sale or use. Although current practice is to discharge this CO2 to the atmosphere, the point is that the CO2 is under control and can be condensed or caused to react so that the carbon is tied up in some useful form (in manufacturing fertilizer, char or other carbon based chemicals). . . large amounts of CO2 are recovered per unit of ammonia produced, and the commercial value of this CO2 will have a major bearing on the economic attractiveness of the concept.

      Green’s concept, published nearly half a century ago, is stunning in its prescience. Why has it received so little attention? Over three decades ago the U.S. Department of Energy conducted a comprehensive study of liquefied
      gaseous fuels, including LNG, LPG, hydrogen, and ammonia. The latter
      alternatives were studied because of the extreme explosion hazard associated with LNG and LPG. Bomelberg and McNaughton coauthored the report on ammonia [2], published in 1980. After a careful comparison of hydrogen and ammonia, they wrote:

      It is not understandable why hydrogen as a future fuel is widely promoted, whereas ammonia is presently not considered at all. The most likely explanation appears to be that the potential use of ammonia as a substitute fuel is just too unknown, even within the technical community.

      The Nov. 2012 report, “The Dual-Fuel Strategy: An Energy Transition Plan”,
      published in the IEEE Journal concluded 80% of all renewable energy (and 100% of petroleum energy) can be converted into ammonia and carbon based and other chemical commodities, thereby capturing the CO2 and substantially reducing Nitrogen based emissions (in many situations for less cost than simply emitting it).

      In 2012, the potential use of ammonia as fuel remains just too unknown. Why is this? Perhaps it is because the well-known hazards of ammonia cause its use as fuel to be dismissed out-of-hand. There is also a widely held (but erroneous) notion that nitrogen-based fuels must necessarily produce excessive NOx in their
      exhaust. These misconceptions must be dispelled; one objective of the present essay is to do so. At the same time, the validity of these concerns must be acknowledged. Ammonia is a hazardous substance, and NOx is found in the exhaust of ammonia combustion processes. We argue that ammonia can nevertheless be safely used as fuel if it is not required to serve all purposes. We outline a plan, the dual-fuel strategy that supplements ammonia with a complementary substance, methanol, well known as an alternative fuel.

      [1] L. Green, Jr., Energy needs versus environmental pollution: A reconciliation? Science, vol. 156, pp. 1448–1450, 1967.
      [2] H. J. Bomelberg and D. J. McNaughton, Ammonia as a fuel, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE/EV-0085, Report X in Liquefied Gaseous Fuels Safety and Environmental Control Assessment Program: Second Status Report, 1980, vol. 3.

      The Dual-Fuel Strategy, Summary & References:

      Download a pdf of report:

      • [Our 20 vessels operate under the Canadian flag and are fully crewed by Canadians. ]


        I couldn’t be bothered reading the rest of your diatribe, but you might enjoy this:


        […][Suncor Energy, Canada’s biggest oil and gas producer, shipped one cargo to its refinery in Montreal, Quebec in late February; privately held Irving Oil has also imported some crude from the Gulf Coast to its plant in St. John, New Brunswick, according to analysis of export data gathered by port intelligence group PIERS.
        The average cost for a Jones Act compliant vessel to sail from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast is around $70,000 a day, according to shipping sources, almost four times the $16,000 a day it costs for a foreign-flagged tanker sailing to Newfoundland, scarcely a day’s longer journey.][…]

        Not one Cdn company importing US oil by maritime uses a Cdn, let alone US carrier.

        I think you have some reading to do Mr Vezina. You might wish to start here:
        [Texas oil sails to Canada, refiners fume over tanker law]

      • “We can refine it ourselves and make twice as much money on every ton
        than we do now or will get in the future for the raw materials, because
        it is not only fertilizer, it is fuel and liquid electricity. According
        to a Nov. 2012 IEEE report;”

        couldn’t help but agree with this part.

    • I was just thinking that even before reading your post. If I were ever to meet Alexander at a party or event, God help me to prevent myself from smacking the guy.

      What an obnoxious little guttersnipe.

  4. “My view is, you don’t take no for an answer,” he said.”

    America isn’t a dictatorship, President Obama will be gone in a few years, and PM Harper reckons he will still be PM in 2016 when there is new President/Congress. ‘Not taking no for an answer’ is salesman talk for I am going to wait until you change your mind.

    • P.J. O’Rourke says:

      “It is also child talk for ‘I am holding my breath until I get my way’. The proper response is to honk his nose.”

      • Except this isn’t a parent-child relationship here… unless you’re referring to Harper as the parent, in which case I’m mistaken.

        • Well, Obama seems to have all the power right now, so there is minimally a difference in power that is not in Harper’s favour. A parent-child relationship seems to be an apt analogy.

    • It’s salesman talk…that explains why 7 years in and counting Harper has yet to “sell” a single pipeline to anywhere.

      • Whereas under a Liberal government, oil sands crude would be zipping all over the place now in nice new shiny pipelines.

        • You point being? I couldn’t say what the libs would have achieved, but one thing they wouldn’t have done is go out of their way to label every dissenter a traitor or radical, nor would they have called FNs adversaries. Just common sense innit!
          And, if they ran into the same roadblocks they’d have a plan B. But they wouldn’t have had nearly the same problems because they’d have addressed the problem head on with a BC style national carbon tax, or helped AB toughen up theirs. It’s called being proactive.

          • Yes, Liberals are just dreamy. They are paragons of virtue and wisdom. Under a Liberal government, everybody would be happy and nobody would be pissed off about anything, nobody would be objecting to everything, and nobody would be protesting anything at all. Oil sands crude would be flowing down brand new shiny pipelines, while first nations and environmentalists would be smiling and nodding their heads in approval.

          • Hey where you Bean ole chap. Finally recognized your spoor. It’s the turgid overdone sarcasm that gives you away every time OB.

        • Is that the best you can do? You remind me of Joke Oliver.

      • Most important part of a sales? Closing the deal. This guy hasn’t the brains.

        • He’s a complete amateur. Even the heads in Alberta are realizing he’s sinking any opportunity they ever had.

    • Hester: Sir, in all due respect, you completely miss the point. The *Demand* is evaporating. The *Economic Model* has disappeared.

      Think *Market Forces*…or is that too radical for Conpologists?

  5. The author misses the obvious point that Harper is not stuck with Obama and his politically-inspired “no” forever. Obama will be gone in three years, but the logic behind Keystone XL will not. In fact, it will probably be stronger. Inevitably, the U.S. will approve it. As for Harper, he could govern as long as Mackenzie King, in which case he may be around for presidents #45, 46, and 47. Surely not all of them will be as stupid and feckless as Obama.

    • Except Harper will be gone in two years.

      • keep on believing that

        • I will thanks!

    • [ but the logic behind Keystone XL will not.]
      “logic”? The only logic is the *MARKET*! Why is that so difficult for Con-stipators to understand? The world is becoming awash in cleaner, sweeter, lighter oil. Not one signed customer for the Energy East pipeline. Not one…why is that?

  6. “There’s a logic to our energy policy that is more powerful than any political leader,”

    Benjamin Jowett – Logic is neither a science nor an art, but a dodge

    • Anything but a Dodge.

  7. Harper and the oil executives have always believed that their opposition was weak. As a consequence, they did not have to take seriously the objections and demands of the other side, they only had to do some PR work. This is why they continued to gut and destroy environmental laws and ignore or even deny concerns about climate change – all they would have to do was pay for some slick TV commercials to overcome the weak opposition. Harper was always sure that the American business elite would take Obama aside and “make him see reason”. The reality is that the opposition is not weak, PR campaigns will not suffice, and even the American business elite is not completely onside. After all, the only American elites who will profit are those associated with the refineries in the Gulf. The lack of an Keystone pipeline is giving current American purchasers of Alberta oil a 20% discount relative to world prices.

    • Exactly. He was complacent, thought he could get away with labelling this group, demonizing that one; shutting this voice down, suppressing inconvenient evidence. All signs of a man who doesn’t respect or tolerate opposition. Harper’s tough approach has been a disaster on this file – he’s had to retrench and back peddle on almost everything. I still think after all this he still doesn’t get it.

  8. Logic dictates that this will get done, unless the US gets run by an enviornmentalist commie… which seems to be the case. Wait until the Americans regain their senses here, forget about the current Administration… their destroy America policy is in full-swing.

    • A friendly message brought to by the Tea party The party that has America’s best interests at heart, whether Americans voted for them or not.

      • That’s absolutely true. Democracy isn’t infallible, compared to the reality of the economy.

    • Kook.

    • Yes. And in the meantime, there are rails and the Mississippi.

  9. “What if Obama says no? “We haven’t had that,” Harper said, “but if we
    were to get that, that won’t be final. This won’t be final until it’s
    approved and we will keep pushing forward.”

    “It was an astonishing statement,…”

    Indeed. How much harder then it already was will it now be to build any kind of middle of the road consensus on Gateway, or indeed any route to the pacific for AB’s gold? People have ears in BC also [ and Churchill and QC] For many the subtext will be, if Harper will not take no for an answer states side, where he has little leverage, what are the chances the no side will get a fair hearing in this country?
    This guy’s amazing. He’s his own worst enemy, sucking and blowing almost in tandem at times.

  10. Why is Harper seen to be the only Canadian political party leader capable of running the economy? He claimed, in April, to have created 900, 000 jobs. Yes, says StatsCan, but StatsCan also says Canada’s population grew by 1, 200, 000 during the same period. So, the number of jobs per 100, 000 dropped under Harper. Harper is only willing to meet with business leaders on his current overseas trip – not the UN General Assembly, he even didn’t want a reporter on his plane. Harper is hardly inspiring as a global leader. Oh well, he cut the GST (of course it is the top 1% who benefit the most from that), maybe that is why he is seen as good for Canada’s economy. I just cannot see it.

    • In addition of the 900k jobs, 600k were self employment jobs and the remaining 300k jobs were foreign worker jobs. Amazing Con jobs!!!!

    • I strongly believe the movers and shakers behind the CPC curtains are realizing that Harper has become a huge liability for re election in 2015. Therefore he will be turfed in 2014 and a more warm and fuzzy person put in his place. Time will tell.

  11. Harper is taking a page out of Robert Redford’s playbook. The environmentalists aren’t giving up and neither is he. He has offered to do what Obama has asked and still he is rebuffed. Should he just give up? No, he will do exactly what the environmentalists did when they got Obama to change his mind on the pipeline in the first place….he will keep working at it.

    • You are likely correct that Harper will not ‘give up’. And nor will environmentalists like Redford. The difference, of course is that the latter has nothing to lose. The former, however, is playing chicken with and generally thumbing nose at our largest trading partner. A less confrontational tone on Harper’s part is probably in our greater interest.

  12. Harper meant it when he said ” I make the rules” problem is no one told the Americans or the rest of the world.

  13. I have a feeling Justin Trudeau and Hillary Rodham Clinton are really going to hit it off with one another.

    • Justin is dreamy. And I know Hillary will be enchanted by his dreaminess.

      • can you say Cougar?

    • With Hilary? Monica Lewinsky, maybe.

    • And our world will be the better for them!

    • Is Hillary’s professional expertise in high school drama-lessons, too?

  14. If Harpo won`t take “no” for an answer, maybe he`ll get his
    pipe-line when hell freezes over.

  15. Being in conflict with Obama is good domestic politics for Harper. At least for that part of his base that hates Obama as much as they hate “Turdeau”.

    • Most Canadians liked Obama better than Harper, last I heard, but they don’t likely count.

      • There was a poll that came out a few years ago that said that 75% of Conservative supporters had a generally positive view of Obama and favoured him over McCain-Palin in terms of whom they wanted to win the US election. I think if Igarvin thinks that there’s some significant slice of the Canadian population that loathes Obama like US Tea Party nuts do, he’s mistaken.

        • I suppose it depends on how you define significant. In a country where only 60%-65% of people vote, and where 40% of those make a majority, then a slice as small as 2-3% can be very significant indeed. 40% of 65% is 26%.

          Harper knows about the politics of polarization and he practices it quite effectively.

          • I think the pitch, on the same side of the issue, which would be more effective for Harper and would influence far more people, would be a pro-oil industry, pro-development and pro-jobs pitch, which is by and large the pitch that Harper and the industry are making. I think your average Canadian who doesn’t have a congenitally negative view of the oil industry would be far more influenced by that pitch than some demonization of Obama, whom most Canadians (including most Canadian conservatives) have always had a generally positive view of.

  16. “And there are many competing claims on Obama’s attention. These include a
    frontal Republican assault against health-care reform that has shut the
    U.S. government down; mass murder by the Syrian regime, compounded by
    Obama’s rash claims that he would do something to stop it; and the
    endless fun hours he must spend deciding whether the new regime in Iran
    can be trusted to reform. It’s an imposing list.”

    Don’t forget Obama’s busy golf schedule.

  17. I don’t know what is so tough to understand. The PM said he would not take no for answer and that probably means he would continue to pressure the American administration including Obama and future administrations (assuming he is PM) until he gets the answer that is in Canada’s best interest.

    • And barring that, simply wait for the next president to approve it.

    • And if an American Prez, regardless of party, were to make the same comment on this side of the border…you’d be cool with that too?

      • Yes! It’s called politics.

        • Maybe so, but there’s a smart way to get what you want, then there’s Harper’s way.

          • We shall see. Harper could cure cancer but people like you would say what about MS.

          • If Harper cured cancer it would only be because he was trying to suppress all the research into a cure for MS, and got lucky. But he’s a master at dividing people, i’ll give him that.

    • And what form does “pressure” take when the answer is already “no”? Are we going to say ‘pretty please’? Are we going to say ‘or else’?

      What exactly do you think Harper can do to persuade that he hasn’t already done?

  18. Re: XL Pipeline … oil from Canada …!

    This is the Gavin Newsom for President 2016 campaign …! Gordon
    Getty has the Sierra Club; President Obama and Sierra Fund in his pocket.

    Gordon Getty does not care about the American consumer – he’s
    already cashed out of the oil industry!

    Tom Steyer; another supposed billionaire environmentalist is
    managing director at Hellman and Friedman LLC; who owned Getty Images — which
    is now owned by Carlyle Group LLC.

    Canada is building pipelines from Alberta
    to British Columbia to ship oil and natural gas to China since they have
    already put about $40 billion into the Alberta oil sands project. Also there is
    a pipeline recently authorized from Alberta to Irving Oil in Saint John, New
    Brunswick. United States; may want to play political gamesmanship – but it
    seems the Canadians are the winners after all.

  19. Harper loves to flip around the world trying to hustle business for his corporate buddies, but so far it looks like he hasn’t the brains or the acumen to close a deal. This government has a wonderful track record of shooting themselves in the foot.

  20. The liberal/NDP/environmental socialist cabal have never built-up anything…they only know how to destroy…using other people’s money, naturellement.

    It’s all futile anyway, because America won’t be recognizable in 2016.

    • EDL, are you kidding me ?????

  21. There’s really nothing that Canada, Australia, NZ or the UK can do about Obama’s latent — and sometimes not so latent — hostility toward them. Our leaders will just have to wait until the US electorate chooses an adult to run the country. Until that happens, mutual indifference is about as good as it’s going to get.

    • Judging by the last candidate the GOP threw up, we’ll be waiting a while yet.

    • A negative feeling about Harper certainly doesn’t equal a negative feeling about Canada, thank God.

  22. Frank Herbert in Dune “The spice will flow.” Even in Dune, the spice flow gets shut off sporadically, but because it is so important, it always begins to flow again.

    Harper is merely stating the obvious. He is not threatening anyone, or making ultimatims, or getting angry. He is merely stating that “the spice will flow” eventually, just like it does in Dune.

    There is still no alternative to oil for the foreseeable future. And the unspoken truth is the more oil used, the less coal is used in the world, which is a net benefit to the environment. Battery technology isn’t advancing remotely fast enough for alternative energy. And wind and solar are not really as environmentally friendly as they are claimed to be. And the climate is only warming at half the rate predicted five years ago, and the scientist can’t explain why it isn’t warming as fast as their models say it is supposed to.

    Obama is President for only three more years. His “no” has a time limit.

    • Yes, Obama has a time limit, but his “no” is transferable. Regardless of who next occupies the Oval office there is a universal tendency to resist presumptuous little prigs. The American people – just like any people – do not like to be told what they must do.

      • Most Americans are on Harper’s side as little Barry is discovering.

        • People will think that I made you up to prove my point.

  23. harper is a idiot he’s the guy you see running around doing things for people on 5spot.ca i agree with the exl pipe line owner canada and the us are just crazy right now government wise” wow

  24. Harper, His Most Introvertness, thought he could get away with saying anything ’cause he was with “friends” (business men). But he’s too thick to realize he was in another sovereign country where these same business men hold their hands over their hearts during the national anthem. His Most Introvertness callously assumed that the almighty dollar would trump their patriotic heart. That assumption may be true but to call them out in such a public venue will have them scurrying to the exits. If His Most Introvertness thinks the 80 or so Tea Partiers are his Keystone salvation, his economics degree hasn’t served him very well. With his poorly worded threat he may have and very probably has brought the weight of not only the Democrats but the non Tea Party Republicans.. and that Mr. Introvertness will be a majority in the House. For a reported to be superior tactician, this isn’t your finest hour.

  25. Keystone may be delayed. Obama will be gone in a little over two years, the likelyhood is that Harper will not, unless the Liberals get a real leader.

  26. Harper know’s that Obama is the most unpopular president in recent history(running at 23%) because he cannot make a decision on anything. He just wants to poke him because he will never make the decision because he is milking the system for support dollars from the environmental lobby and keystone will have to wait for a president that has the capacity to make decicions.

  27. The pipeline shouldn’t even be an issue. Its a routine business deal that is good for everyone.

    Its past time everyone realizes that Obama is a malicious narcissist. His obstruction on this issue is not rational.

  28. Obama probably wants to approve the proposal, on the merits, and for political reasons but he would probably also like to appease as many people who are concerned about the environment as possible. He’s not going to win over hard core environmental activists to this proposal, but he could hope to satisfy the more moderate types who have concerns but are open to persuasion.

    Harper’s approach to environment, and generally, is about confrontation, not appeasement. His political pitch includes appealing to the hard core “anti-environmentalists” among his supporters, and the same sort associated with the Republican party, and dismissing people with string sympathy for environmental causes since they probably don’t vote for him anyway.

    I bet this proposal will be approved at some point, and when it is, Harper will crow and claim victory over dark forces, but in reality, it will be more in spite of his attitude, and his government’s image than because of it.

  29. Apparently, cheating an election win is easier than actually governing…who woulda thunk?

  30. “Obama hardly ever hears about Keystone except in the context of the polarized battle for control that has defined his relationship with Congress, and the messages he gets from Harper are indistinguishable from the messages he gets from his Republican tormentors.”

    Canada typically does better with Republican Presidents than Democrats, perhaps because Republicans are free traders and capitalists whereas Democrats are left-wing ‘progressives’ and social activists.

    For Canada’s economic wellness’ sake, we should hope for a Republican House and Senate in 2014 and a Republican President in 2016.

  31. Wells’ examples are depicted as alternatives to each other. But they’re not. They coexist and continue. Efforts to transport more oil to the U.S., especially heavy oil to U.S. refineries capable of refining heavy oil, will continue (Keystone XL, Alberta Clipper expansion). Efforts to transport more oil to offshore destinations, China included, will continue (Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain expansion, Energy East, Line 9 reversal, rail access to Prince Rupert or Churchill). Foreign investment in Canadian oil, even if not controlling stakes, will continue. The timeframe for these projects and potential projects exceeds their time in the news cycle. The projects are not Harper projects. They are financed by private capital. So long as there is a market opportunity capital will seek a return on its investment. So, now or post-Obama, if there is surplus of Canadian heavy oil in Canada and a demand for heavy oil at the U.S. Gulf Coast (or any other refining centre), efforts will continue to unite the two. Being in Canada’s strategic interest, presumbly the Canadian government (Harper or otherwise) will continue to lend its support to such efforts.

  32. To those who think that oil can only be sold to the US, by Canadians, chew on this: The oil can be sold elsewhere.

    I am willing to see an improved scene to the status quo, thanks to the overly politicized windbag in the Oval Office, thanks to oil being sold to South Korea, Japan, and other places that currently import oil from Russia and OPEC.

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