Canada silent as Keystone vote nears, Obama criticizes project

Tue Nov 18, 2014 4:38pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA Nov 18 (Reuters) - Canada kept quiet as debate over the Keystone XL pipeline unexpectedly raced through the U.S. Congress because it does not want to inflame a heavily politicized issue, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Canada, which has loudly backed TransCanada Corp's proposed project in the past, also had no response to unusually sharp words by U.S. President Barack Obama who said last week Canada wanted to "pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else."

The U.S. Senate prepared for a Tuesday vote that could send a bill approving Keystone to Obama, who is set to veto it. A version of the bill sailed through the House of Representatives last week.

The sources said Canada's Conservative government realized Obama was under a lot of pressure over what had become a largely domestic issue and should therefore let U.S. legislators make the arguments for the project.

"The best thing (Canada) can do is sit back and not do anything to make the situation more politically fraught," said one of the sources who is familiar with Ottawa's behind-the-scenes campaign.

Canada had dialed back its public hectoring over the issue in recent months in favor of quiet diplomacy, with officials under instruction to raise the matter privately every time they met their U.S. counterparts. In Washington, diplomats have been lobbying influence-makers for months.

The 1,200-mile (1,930-km) pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 barrels a day from the oil sands of Alberta in Western Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

U.S. supporters of the pipeline, as well as the Canadian government, say it will create thousands of jobs and secure a stable source of energy. Opponents say tar sands oil would cause Canadian greenhouse gas emissions to soar and also worry about the effects of a spill.   Continued...