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With four million members in the United States and Canada, Sean McGarvey, president of the building and construction trades unit of the mighty AFL-CIO, is the type of Keystone XL pipeline backer the U.S. president cannot ignore.
Trade unions such as the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations — the United States’ largest union federation — had a big hand in Barack Obama’s re-election, much like the environmental movement that opposes the Alberta-to-Texas oil sands pipeline.
And their patience with the anti-XL camp is wearing thin. Unemployment in the U.S. construction industry is running at 16.1% or higher, Mr. McGarvey said in an interview, and his members and their families are “desperate” for the 20,000 construction jobs that could be had with the TransCanada Corp. project.
“We are telling the president, and have been telling the president, that a thorough review was appropriate, that following the proper protocols needed to be done to make sure that this was going to be a secure, safe pipeline … that it’s going to be constructed with the most highly skilled people in the world.” With “all those reviews completed and the reroute around the aquifer in Nebraska done, the time is now to issue the permit.”
The U.S. environmental movement’s nasty campaign against the pipeline, the oil sands and Canada’s fossil-fuel dependent economy have left many Canadians wondering about the future of their relationship with the United States.
What’s received less attention is that there is a broad and diverse swath of Americans — from organized labour to the U.S. oil industry, from Democrats to Republicans, from big manufacturers to small businessmen — who support the project, want the energy security that it assures and want a stronger energy partnership with Canada.
Those supporters include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable.
Then there are the other large unions that signed project agreements with TransCanada to participate in the construction of the pipeline.
Indeed, the fight over Keystone XL is surfacing a rare display of affection for Canada in the United States.
“We believe our closest ally is Canada,” Mr. McGarvey said. “Canada has resources that we are currently importing from around the world, and we are spending huge amounts of blood and treasure for those imports. If we can save money, lives and blood by working with our closest ally on their natural resources that we desperately need, that is what we should do.”
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/02/13/u-s-support-for-keystone-pipeline-stretches-well-beyond-industry-insiders/?__lsa=71eb-db89