Canada's U.S. ambassador disputes Obama's Keystone claims

Canada's ambassador to the U.S. is disputing U.S. President Barack Obama's claim that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would generate few jobs.

U.S. president says Keystone will bring only 2,000 jobs

Keystone XL job numbers debate

9 years ago
Duration 15:50
Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer and TransCanada's Alex Pourbaix on the environmental and economic debate over the Keystone XL pipeline

Canada's ambassador to the U.S. is disputing U.S. President Barack Obama's claim that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would generate few jobs.

Gary Doer said he would prefer to rely on a U.S. State Department report that estimates the number of jobs to be created by the pipeline project is 40,000, and not the 2,000 figure used by Obama.

Obama, in an interview with the Sunday New York Times, said only 2,000 positions would be created in the first year or two during the construction of the pipeline, and after that, the job total would dwindle to between 50 and 100 jobs. Obama also told the Times he thought Canada could potentially be doing more to "mitigate carbon release."

However, in a Monday interview with CBC's Rosemary Barton on Power & Politics, Doer said, "I think at the end of the day we'll go with the State Department report. It's his [Obama's] agency in the sense it's the lead agency."

Doer added that the report, at 200 pages, was much broader than what he termed "a little short media interview."

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Canadian oilsands and the Bakken shale in North Dakota and Montana to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Obama has final approval on pipeline

Obama rejected the project last year, but invited the builder, TransCanada Corporation, to file a new application with a different route that would address environmental concerns in the state of Nebraska.

The State Department report Doer referred to is a draft version, with the final report due this fall. However, Obama has the final approval over whether the XL pipeline will go ahead.

Doer also disputed Obama's contention that Canada wasn't doing enough to mitigate carbon emissions. He said that Canada and the U.S. are moving in the same direction when it comes to regulating vehicle emissions, which he described as "the largest source of greenhouse gases."

When it comes to coal, Doer said, Canada is well in advance of the U.S. in relying less and less on the fuel for electrical generation.

But on the issue of oil and gas industry regulations, Doer said the Canadian government is "working on it."

He added, "I suspect at the end of the day we'll again be ahead of the United States or certainly not behind them on modernizing those oil and gas regulations in Canada."

'U.S. is calling Canada's bluff'

Doer's defence of the pipeline was echoed by Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president of oil and energy pipelines. Speaking with Power & Politics on Monday, Pourbaix told Barton the industry has voluntarily reduced emissions per barrel by 26 per cent, even in the absence of government regulations. He also said that the pipeline project would be "keeping the entire U.S. pipeline industry employed over the next few years."

However, Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence told CBC News the Obama interview indicates "the U.S. is calling Canada's bluff on the fact that we're doing very little and really nothing at the federal level to limit the carbon pollution coming from the oil sector."

McEachern said it's significant Obama is dismissing and backing away from some of the key economic arguments around jobs and gas prices.

"He has quite clearly put this decision in the climate realm, and said that his decision will be based on its impact on climate change," McEachern said.

Doer explained Obama's remarks by saying, "There's a fight between Republicans and Democrats right now on the economic agenda." Republican and business groups in the U.S. are pressuring the Obama administration to approve the pipeline proposal because of the jobs they say it will bring.

Doer also said if the pipeline is not approved, "it will come down to trains instead of pipelines." However, he hastened to add, "the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic we are not using. We would never use that. It's horrible, it's terrible. The reasons for it are not fully understood."

Doer also brought up the subject of energy security.

"This pipeline is proposed to displace oil from Venezuela, which I know most Americans would support — oil from Canada as opposed to oil from Venezuela."

A final decision on Keystone is expected later this year, or early in 2014.

With files from Reuters and The Canadian Press