Calgary

Keystone XL denial all about politics, says former ambassador

While Alberta's oilpatch wonders what it could have done differently on the Keystone XL pipeline, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada says there is no point in second-guessing since the decision had nothing to do with Canada.

David Wilkins says the decision was not about the merits of the pipeline project

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins speaks at an energy summit in Calgary on Friday. Wilkins said President Barack Obama's rejection of the proposed pipeline was not about the merits of the project. (CBC)

While Alberta's oilpatch wonders what it could have done differently on the Keystone XL pipeline, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada says there is no point in second-guessing since the decision had nothing to do with Canada.

David Wilkins said President Barack Obama's rejection of the proposed pipeline was not about the merits of the project.

"Certainly disappointing to me," said Wilkins in an interview with CBC. "I think it's a classic example of politics trumping good policy. It was all about the president wanting to leave his environmental legacy and placate the environmental base of his party."

Wilkins described the decision as embarrassing at an energy conference in Calgary on Friday.

"It's not good policy, it's not a good way to treat a friend," he said

Not a surprise

Obama's rejection of Keystone XL was not a surprise to most people in the oilpatch, but that didn't diminish the sting when the decision was announced at the White House. Since then, there has been plenty of discussion in Alberta about whether the energy sector should have introduced climate change policies several years ago.

Wilkins says it would not have made any difference because the outcome would not have changed.

"This was not about Canada. This was not about Alberta."

Wilkins' comments were echoed by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who described the decision on Keystone XL as nothing but "crass politics."

Obama made the decision just weeks before world leaders will gather in Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

"He delayed this for seven years. He delayed it just before the 2012 election, then again before the mid-terms in 2014, yet the timing now just before the Paris climate talks, he rejects it. It was all about U.S. politics."

Lobby questions

Critics of Canada's inability to get a major export pipeline built under the long tenure of a pro-energy former prime minister place responsibility for the lack of progress on the Canadian government's mishandling of the file.

Wilkins, however, said there was nothing wrong with how Stephen Harper's government lobbied for the project nor the merits of the Keystone XL proposal.

"We have wells in California that produce higher emissions than in the oilsands."

Wilkins, who was appointed as an ambassador by former president George Bush, says the only way that Keystone XL would be approved would be if the Republicans won in the next election.

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