Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has made a blunt appeal to the United States to buy Canadian energy, which he says is as clean as that from many American sources.
Wall delivered the keynote address Monday 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 U.S. 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."
Referring to Iraq war?
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 home-grown options in the U.S.
"California thermal oil has about the same life cycle CO2 footprint as (steam-assisted gravity drainage) oilsands 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 Wall's message was heard by some 56 state legislators.
The Pacific Northwest group has 10 members: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.
Keystone XL 'frustrations'
Wall said he experienced numerous "frustrations" in recent years when dealing with the United States, especially in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oilsands 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.
"Its 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.
Top trading partner in 37 states
Americans must constantly be reminded, Robertson said, that some eight million U.S. 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."
At the this year's meeting, officials will search for ways to speed up movement on the Canada-U.S. border, reinforce energy and food security and improve livestock health.
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 one to three per cent of Canada's GDP.
Merrifield said there is a new-found appreciation in the United States for Canadian economic thinking and he has been invited to speak to the U.S. 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.
While his speech was mostly tough talk, Wall did thank Americans for assisting Canada in joining join a new trade alliance in the Pacific rim.
"We're grateful to the U.S. for their help in securing the invitation to participate in the Trans Pacific Partnership."