On Keystone, the Conservatives made one fatal blunder – by Tasha Kheiriddin (National Post – February 26, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Between price drops and presidential vetoes, Canada’s oil-fuelled future is looking more and more like a mirage. The latest blow came on Wednesday, when U.S. President Barack Obama vetoed Congress’ endorsement of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Obama’s letter to the Senate was both fulsome and blunt: “Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.”

The move was not unexpected. For years, the White House had repeatedly delayed its decision on the project. In an interview given to The New York Times in July 2013, Obama pooh-poohed Keystone’s job-creation potential, and warned that he would insist that environmental standards be the ones that prevailed. And now, with crude prices hitting rock-bottom, oil sands projects shutting down, and U.S. petroleum inventories growing, it’s hard to argue the pressing need to pipe in more oil from Canada.

Why did this happen? It’s not like Canada didn’t try: The federal government threw everything at the Keystone file. Yet despite heavy lobbying by Ottawa and Alberta, despite the fact that Canada produces “ethical” oil untainted by gross human rights violations, despite our nation’s military engagement in Afghanistan and now Iraq, despite paying for the U.S. customs plaza at the new Windsor-Detroit bridge, in short, despite being a damn good neighbour, friend and ally, all Canada got is a sharp stick in the eye.

Through all this, however, the Conservative government made one fatal blunder: It underestimated the importance of the environment to the Obama presidency. Throughout his time in office, Obama has struggled, and mostly failed, to achieve his promises on education, health care, the economy, foreign policy and even race relations.

As he looks toward his legacy, all that’s left is the mantle of the “environmental president,” a fittingly fuzzy title for a president who excelled at rhetoric, but delivered little in reality.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in contrast, has displayed near-zero interest in the environment. The Tory base doesn’t care much about the issue, making it a loser at the polls. In contrast, slamming the Suzuki crowd was a winner, even a way to raise money.

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