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How Obama lost Canada

by Derek Burney and Fen Osler Hampson

iPolitics
June 25, 2012

Permitting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline should have been an easy diplomatic and economic decision for U.S. President Barack Obama. The completed project would have shipped more than 700,000 barrels a day of Albertan oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast, generated tens of thousands of jobs for U.S. workers, and met the needs of refineries in Texas that are desperately seeking oil from Canada, a more reliable supplier than Venezuela or countries in the Middle East. The project posed little risk to the landscape it traversed. But instead of acting on economic logic, the Obama administration caved to environmental activists in November 2011, postponing until 2013 the decision on whether to allow the pipeline.


Obama’s choice marked a triumph of campaign posturing over pragmatism and diplomacy, and it brought U.S.-Canadian relations to their lowest point in decades. It was hardly the first time that the administration has fumbled issues with Ottawa. Although relations have been civil, they have rarely been productive. Whether on trade, the environment, or Canada’s shared contribution in places such as Afghanistan, time and again the United States has jilted its northern neighbor. If the pattern of neglect continues, Ottawa will get less interested in cooperating with Washington. Already, Canada has reacted by turning elsewhere — namely, toward Asia — for more reliable economic partners.

For the full article at Foreign Affairs, click here.

Derek Burney, an Officer of the Order of Canada, is a senior strategic advisor to Norton Rose Canada LLP. Mr. Burney is a senior research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a visiting professor and senior distinguished fellow at Carleton University. He is also a director of several Canadian companies including TransCanada Corp., builders of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Fen Osler Hampson is the Chancellor’s Professor and Director of The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. He is the author of nine books and editor/co-editor of more than 25 other volumes on international affairs and Canadian foreign policy.


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