Saskatchewan premier addresses bi-national working group on Canada’s energy benefits.
SASKATOON: Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has made a blunt appeal to the US to buy Canadian energy, which he says is as clean as that from many American sources.
Wall delivered the keynote address July 16 at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a bi-national working group of state and provincial officials, business leaders and academics.
Wall said he winced every time during the acrimonious debate in the US over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline when he heard Americans use the phrase “dirty Canadian oil” or “extreme energy” to describe Canada’s exports.
“I’ll tell you what I think extreme energy is,” he said, alluding to the Middle East. “I think energy that is secured directly or indirectly by putting the sons and daughters of Americans in harm’s way – that’s extreme energy.”
“Energy you acquire from countries where the majority of citizens just flat don’t like you – that’s extreme energy.”
Wall did not name any particular country, but everyone took him to be referring to the war in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia is a big supplier of American oil.
Wall said that Canadian energy sources are no more carbon intensive than many of homegrown options in the US.
“California thermal oil has about the same life cycle CO2 footprint as (steam-assisted gravity drainage) oil sands oil from Alberta, and larger than any you’ll find in … Saskatchewan,” he said.
No state governors from the Pacific Northwest are attending the four-day meeting in Saskatoon this week, but some 56 state legislators heard Wall’s message.
The Pacific Northwest group has 10 members: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.
Wall said he experienced numerous “frustrations” in recent years when dealing with the US, especially in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands bitumen from Alberta through several states and into Texas for refining.
“In our view the delay was made for political reasons ….” he suggested
Nevertheless, Wall said, he has “a gut feeling” the pipeline will be approved after the November presidential elections – no matter who wins.
Wall called on Americans to curb their “protectionist instincts” and said recent trade headaches have both Canada and Saskatchewan “looking at all options” on the trade front.
At the four-day conference, officials will search for ways to speed up the Canada-US border, reinforce energy and food security, and improve livestock health.
Former Canadian diplomat and bilateral relations expert Colin Robertson said Wall’s blunt tone is often what is needed to get through to the Americans.
“It’s good for them to be reminded in direct terms, because that’s how Americans talk to one another – it’s much more direct,” he said.
Americans must constantly be reminded, Robertson said, that some eight million US jobs depend on trade with Canada, and that Canada is the number one trading partner for 37 states.
“He reminded Americans that they matter to us, but we also matter a lot to them,” he said. “That’s a message Americans need to hear because there’s not always that appreciation.”
Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, a member of the Canada-US Interparliamentary Group, said problems along the border cost Canada between $16 billion and $48 billion a year – the equivalent of 1% to 3% of Canada’s GDP.
Merrifield said there is a newfound appreciation in the US for Canadian economic thinking and he has been invited to speak to the US Chamber of Commerce about Canada’s approach.
“They know what’s going on down there isn’t working – their economy is sluggish and their numbers are weak – and I think they are genuinely looking for some answers,” he said.
© 2012 The Canadian Press