PM’s big oil ‘no-brainer’ an emotional issue in U.S. – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – October 19, 2011)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA – The Conservative government — along with TransCanada Pipelines and the Alberta oil sands — are at risk of being dragged somewhere they don’t want to be.

The politics surrounding the giant Keystone XL pipeline means Stephen Harper and his cabinet have become major players in an issue that is becoming increasingly emotional, an issue that is becoming a political dilemma for U.S. President Barack Obama.

Opponents of the pipeline are determined to make it an issue in the presidential election. Obama has promised a decision by year’s end on the $7 billion, 2,700-kilometre pipeline that would ship Canadian oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, traversing six U.S. states.

The Conservatives didn’t set out to become a player in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. They have been doing what governments are supposed to do.

They are advocating for a Canadian export and arguing for jobs on both sides of the border, a position that has already earned them the enmity of environmentalists here at home.

But to be front and centre in a battle between the environment and jobs in the U.S. as the election season unfolds is something quite different.

A few short months ago, Obama’s approval appeared a slam dunk, the merits of the giant project a “no-brainer,” in the words of Harper.

The project promises 20,000 jobs and the economy has been perhaps the only issue in the U.S. campaign so far.

Now, it is being described as a “defining political issue’’ for the U.S, president as two of his core constituencies, the environmental movement and the U.S. labour movement line up against each other.

Increasingly, the fierce debate is tarnishing the Canadian brand in the U.S.

Opponents are playing the Ugly Canadian card.

On Tuesday alone, readers of The New York Times website could watch a video by Robert Redford and read a story of heavy handed actions by TransCanada.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star website:–tim-harper-pm-s-big-oil-no-brainer-an-emotional-issue-in-u-s