OTTAWA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Canada has quietly postponed a summit with the leaders of the United States and Mexico amid tensions over the construction of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline and other issues, sources indicated on Thursday.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been due to host U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto for the annual meeting of the so-called Three Amigos, and a date had tentatively been set for late February, said two sources familiar with the plans.
Canadian officials recently reached out to Washington and Mexico City to say late February would not work, but gave no reasons, the sources said.
Jason MacDonald, Harper’s chief spokesman, said no date had been formally announced.
“We intend to host the meeting later in the year,” he said.
If Obama did come to Canada he would no doubt face a raft of pointed questions about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from the Alberta oil sands to the United States.
Canada wants the project to go ahead and has expressed impatience that Washington is still mulling the fate of the pipeline after six years of study. Environmental activists are putting heavy pressure on Obama to veto Keystone XL.
Canadian Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that he still believed the pipeline would be approved one day - a strong hint that Canada is looking beyond Obama, who will leave office in early 2017.
Ottawa’s relations with Mexico are also strained over Canadian rules that impose visas for visiting Mexicans.
Canada’s official opposition New Democrats said the postponement showed that Harper could do little to move Keystone XL forward and wanted to avoid being pressured by Mexico over visas.
“He really has to roll up his sleeves and do some diplomatic work and he’s not interested in that right now,” said the party’s foreign affairs spokesman Paul Dewar.
MacDonald dismissed the suggestion that Harper wanted to delay the summit because he planned to call a early snap election in March or April.
Although Canada’s fixed date election law stipulates that the next federal vote will be on Oct. 19, speculation is rife in Ottawa that Harper will set the polls early in a bid to catch his rivals off guard.
“There will be no early election,” said MacDonald. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)