Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper hardens stance on pipeline

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NEW YORK -- Canada won't "take no for an answer" from the U.S. when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday as he sharpened his sales pitch for the controversial cross-border energy proposal.

The logic in support of the project going ahead is "overwhelming," and governments at all levels on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border are endorsing it, Harper told a high-powered business audience in New York.

"My view is that you don't take no for an answer," Harper said. "We haven't had that. If we were to get that, that won't be final. This won't be final until it's approved and we will keep pushing forward."

In his strongest rhetoric on the much-maligned project to date, Harper also dismissed the divide between his government and the White House over projections of how many jobs Keystone XL will create.

"It's just politics," Harper told the audience at the Canadian American Business Council event. There is no real "Plan B" for Canada should U.S. President Barack Obama turn down the pipeline, he added.

"The logic here is overwhelming," Harper said.

"I remain an optimist that, notwithstanding politics, that when something is so clearly in everybody's interest -- including (not only) our interest as Canadians, but the national interest of the United States -- I'm of the view that it has to be approved."

A brief editorial that appeared on the New York Times website Saturday accused the Harper government of preventing government scientists from publicly criticizing the project, which is designed to ferry oilsands bitumen from northern Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Harper is bent on ensuring public ignorance by keeping scientists who receive government funding from sharing information, especially climate-change research, wrote Verlyn Klinkenborg, a member of the newspaper's editorial board.

Harper has been pushing the Obama administration to approve the Keystone project, insisting it will create thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.

But American critics of the proposal, including within the White House, have significantly downplayed the economic benefits of the plan.

Supporters of Keystone XL, including Harper himself, tout it as a major step toward making North America self-sufficient when it comes to energy, eliminating the need to import oil from overseas countries that are politically unstable and less environmentally responsible.

Opponents, however, see the plan as an environmental catastrophe in the making. They worry about bitumen leaking into ecologically sensitive areas. They also argue Canada's oilsands are major producers of greenhouse gases and urge less production there, not more.

The Keystone XL proposal has been under study for five years, caught in a maelstrom of clashing political, economic and environmental interests.

Earlier Thursday, during Day 2 of his trip to New York, Harper met a Pakistani teen who became a champion for girls' education after being shot by the Taliban. The prime minister sat down with 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last fall, only to recover in a British hospital and become an international figure.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 A20

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