Former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice says the Keystone XL oil pipeline is in the U.S. national interest and that President Barack Obama should let it be built.
The speech by Prentice, now a senior executive at CIBC, stresses the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship and argues the two countries must work together to achieve North American energy independence.
"Stated simply, I am strongly of the view that President Obama should approve the Keystone XL pipeline on the basis that it is in the national interest of the United States," he told the Financial Times Forum in New York.
"I say this because North America is accelerating towards a future of energy independence and the Canadian oilsands are an essential part of the North American energy marketplace.
"That resource will afford both Canada and the United States security of supply and a consequential global competitive advantage for generations. That, in my view, is a prize work seeking."
A draft environmental report into the $5.3-billion pipeline released by the U.S. State Department earlier this month flagged no major environmental concerns with the project and said it was unlikely to affect the pace of oilsands development or U.S. oil consumption.
It will be a few more months before Obama decides whether to sign off on the long-delayed controversial project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels per day of mostly oilsands crude to U.S. markets.
Prentice, who handled the environment and industry portfolios when he was in government, says a rejection would force U.S. and Canadian producers to ship their crude by less efficient means, such as rail, and provide "an artificial competitive advantage for heavier crudes from less democratic, less market-oriented countries."
"In effect, such a decision moves us further away from North American energy security," he said.
Prentice's remarks come days after the New York Times published an editorial urging Obama to say no to Keystone XL.
"A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity's most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department's most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem," it said.
Mulcair treads carefully on Keystone
Meanwhile, a parade of Canadian politicians — from cabinet ministers to provincial premiers — has been through Washington pushing for approval.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, however, has not made the pipeline a focus of his trip to the U.S. capital. He has said it's up to the Americans to decide.
The leader of the Official Opposition has also questioned whether Keystone XL is good for Canada, or whether it will mean high-paying oilsands processing jobs flow south of the border along with the oil. He has spoken out in support of a west-to-east pipeline proposal to bring more Canadian crude to Canadian refineries.
"I would make sure that we took care of our energy security —something the current government's not doing — because whatever else happens with global warming we will have to heat our houses and run our factories," he told reporters.
In a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center Wednesday, Mulcair made little mention of Keystone XL, but called Canada's natural resources a "tremendous blessing," provided they're developed in a sustainable way.
The Conservative government has lambasted Mulcair for his unwillingness to speak out in favour of Keystone XL during his Washington visit.
International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who is also visiting Washington with Treasury Board President Tony Clement and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews this week, said Mulcair is trying to "please everybody by speaking out of both sides of his mouth" when it comes oilsands development.
"They haven't even realized that when you travel abroad, as members of Parliament, they should be promoting Canada's interests, not their own narrow political interests, so it's pretty frustrating for us," Fast said.