Joe Biden’s decision to cancel a controversial pipeline project hit Canada “like a punch”, according to a political leader, and left the country to weigh the future prospects of its oil and gas industry by difficulty.
On January 20, one of the President’s first executive orders was to reverse the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, keeping an election pledge to kill the project as part of a broader strategy to deal with the crisis. climate.
Environmental groups in Canada have applauded the decision, but the cancellation left the western provinces of the country in disbelief.
“The Biden administration refuses to give this country enough respect to come to an agreement on this pipeline. In this political context, yes, there absolutely has to be retaliation, ”Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told CBC News. “We have to defend ourselves.”
The outspoken provincial leader, who called the move a ‘punch’, has largely linked his province’s prosperity to the success of oil and gas projects – and demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau act quickly to return on this decision.
“Obviously, the Keystone XL decision is very difficult for workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who have had many tough hits,” Trudeau told reporters last week, adding that it would be a top priority at the time. of her first call with Biden. But Trudeau did not approve of Kenney’s calls for “economic sanctions” against Canada’s largest trading partner.
TC Energy has long pushed for the completion of the 1,700-mile pipeline expansion project, first proposed in 2005, to transport 800,000 barrels of oil per day from eastern Alberta to Nebraska . Former President Barack Obama canceled it in 2015, but Donald Trump relaunched it in 2017.
Along the way, the project encountered stiff opposition from environmental groups in Canada and the United States, who feared Keystone would further encourage development and investment in the oil sands of the United States. High emission Alberta.
“It is very positive to see the new administration making this a priority,” said Alex Speers-Roesch, climate activist at Greenpeace Canada. “And it’s really a sign that organizers and indigenous communities have helped shift the dial of climate policy.
For nearly a decade, the province of Alberta – dubbed “Canada’s Texas” – has struggled to relaunch the heyday of its oil sands boom, which has raised billions in provincial coffers and created hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Yet a sustained decline in oil prices has left the province desperate to find new ways to transport oil.
In March, Alberta announced plans to invest nearly C $ 1.5 billion (US $ 1.18 billion) in Keystone XL, promising the project would generate C $ 30 billion over the next two decades.
“We are disappointed” with the choice of Biden, said Doug Jones, mayor of Oyen, Alta. “But we hope this decision will be overturned.”
The small town east of Calgary, which saw its population double to 2,000 when workers moved to labor camps, was until last week the construction site for the pipeline. With the project canceled, hundreds of people left the community.
While a number of indigenous groups on both sides of the border fought against the project, First Nations investors were also keen to secure a share of the revenue from the pipeline, highlighting the complex relationship between indigenous communities. and the natural resource projects that dot their traditional territories. In November, a group of five First Nations announced plans to invest up to C $ 1 billion in the Keystone project.
“Thousands of First Nations are waiting behind the scenes for jobs in the industry,” said Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Leaders for Development. “There is no second economy that many of us can count on tomorrow. Show me where these green energy jobs are. “
Nearly 14,000 Indigenous people work in the oil and gas sector, according to a 2019 labor market survey. “These jobs pay at least 50% more than other fields,” said Swampy, who considers the jobs to be essential to fight against poverty in its community. .
Other prominent leaders disagree.
“I absolutely believe the writing is on the wall for the oil industry,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, leader of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, told The Canadian Press. ” [Energy industry] jobs are transitory in nature … It’s a myth that pipelines represent an economic boom for a particular region.
Biden’s decision to quash also put Trudeau in a political stalemate. As the Premier has campaigned to invest in renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, his government has invested billions to ensure Alberta’s TransMountain pipeline extension project ends .
Trudeau also faced repeated accusations from Western premiers that he was not sensitive to the deteriorating economic and social situation – which cost him a number of seats during of the last elections.
According to an Angus Reid Institute poll released Tuesday, two-thirds of Canadians felt Keystone’s end was “bad” for Alberta.