As Obama Dithers, Canada Approves Competing Pipeline

While the United States have yet to decide to import more oil from Canada, the conservative government in Ottawa on Tuesday approved a pipeline proposal that would allow more exports to Asia.

Approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline, which will transport some 525,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific coast, came as the Obama Administration has held off approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for more than three years, citing environmental concerns.

Keystone XL could boost Canada’s ability to pipe oil from the Alberta fields to refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico by the equivalent of some 700,000 barrels per day. Read more “As Obama Dithers, Canada Approves Competing Pipeline”

Canada Expands Arctic Claim to Include North Pole

Canada’s foreign minister, John Baird, made a remarkable claim this week: that Canada’s extended continental shelf should include the geographical North Pole.

The news came as an end of the year deadline for the country’s submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf loomed large over its policies toward the Arctic and its neighbors.

Canada has good reason to establish its influence in the Arctic, a region that is believed to hold as much as a quarter of the world’s remaining oil and natural gas resources. The country has always maintained a robust stance in the High North which ranks above all other priorities in its foreign policy. Read more “Canada Expands Arctic Claim to Include North Pole”

European Union Finalizes Trade Deal with Canada

Canada and the European Union cleared the way toward ratification of a comprehensive trade agreement on Friday although France, which is stalling talks for a similar pact with the United States, signaled some reservations about the influx of Canadian beef.

“I am waiting for confirmation from the commission that this accord, particularly in agriculture, does not set a precedent for talks with the United States,” said France’s trade minister Nicole Bricq at a meeting with her European counterparts in Luxembourg.

The deal with Canada, which eliminates tariffs on almost all goods and services and is expected to increase bilateral trade by more than €25 billion per year, will give French cheese makers easier access to markets across the Atlantic. Canada’s dairy industry had resisted raising the quota for European imports but the provincial government of Quebec, which produces half of the country’s cheese, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper had agreed to compensate producers for any losses they suffered as a result of the treaty.

“This is the biggest deal our country has ever made,” Harper said in Brussels, adding that it outstripped the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Read more “European Union Finalizes Trade Deal with Canada”

Canada Suggests Might Support Syrian Air Campaign

Canada’s foreign minister suggested on Sunday that the country might support a Western military intervention in Syria to support its rebels against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

When asked on CTV television whether Canada welcomed discussions about an air campaign in Syria, John Baird said, “obviously we’re talking with our allies.”

Hours later, Baird’s press secretary clarified, however: “Canada is not contemplating a military mission in Syria.” Read more “Canada Suggests Might Support Syrian Air Campaign”

Canada’s New Liberal Leader Boosts Party’s Popularity

Canada’s new Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau, might lead the centrists to return to power in 2015 when the Conservatives will have governed almost a decade. A Forum Research poll released on Tuesday suggested that Trudeau could win 43 percent of the votes in a national election compared to 30 percent for the ruling party, enough to give him a parliamentary majority.

The son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was prime minister for fifteen years, was announced the winner in a party leadership vote on Sunday. He got almost 80 percent support.

Other polls have been less encouraging for the Liberals. An Ekos survey published on Sunday had them virtually tied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. But they lagged 26 to 34 percent if only likely voters were included. A Nanos poll released on Friday gave the Liberals 35 percent of the votes. Read more “Canada’s New Liberal Leader Boosts Party’s Popularity”

Study: No Reason Not to Build Canada Oil Pipeline

A United States State Department study released late Friday afternoon found “no significant impacts to most resources” along the route of a proposed pipeline extension from Canada to Oklahoma, defying environmentalists’ warnings that building the pipeline will degrade underwater water supplies.

The report leaves President Barack Obama, who delayed approval of the pipeline’s construction more than a year ago, with little reason to further obstruct the project.

A previous State Department study, released in August 2011, similarly anticipated minimal environmental impact from building the pipeline.

The $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline is supposed to carry the equivalent of more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day from the tar fields of Alberta to refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico. Read more “Study: No Reason Not to Build Canada Oil Pipeline”

Canada Lures Americans for Oil Sands Industry Jobs

Energy companies in Alberta are hoping to lure tens of thousands of workers to the Canadian province in the next several years to sustain the booming oil sands industry there, among them Americans.

the Los Angeles Times reports that Canadian companies are swarming American job fairs and employing headhunters to lure jobless Americans north. “California, with its 10.2 percent unemployment rate, has become a prime target.”

Due to high taxes and overregulation, California’s own energy industry is in decline. While the state’s population and gasoline consumption have increased nearly 50 percent since the mid 1980s, the number of refineries producing gasoline there has dropped from 32 to fourteen in the same period. Oil companies in the state import an estimated 3.5 million gallons of gasolines every day to meet demand. Read more “Canada Lures Americans for Oil Sands Industry Jobs”

North American Energy Independence Achievable

An hydraulic fracturing station in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, August 12
An hydraulic fracturing station in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, August 12 (Nicholas A. Tonelli)

The Republican Party’s presidential candidate Mitt Romney last month unveiled a plan to achieve North American energy independence in 2020. “This is not some pie in the sky kind of thing,” Romney told voters in New Mexico. “This is a real achievable objective.”

He may be right. Read more “North American Energy Independence Achievable”

Canada Closes Embassy, Joins Isolation of Iran

Canada announced on Friday that it will be closing its embassy in Iran. All Iranian diplomatic staff in Canada will be expelled soon due to ongoing concerns about international security and the safety of embassy personnel currently in Tehran.

The government’s move to affect a political disconnect with Iran came by means of a statement made by the foreign minister, John Baird. It effectively puts Canada on the same level as the United States when it comes to dealings with the Islamic republic — no diplomatic engagement alongside an official position of disapproval.

In the text, Baird lambasted Iranian leaders’ “racist antisemitic rhetoric and incitement of genocide,” a clear allusion to comments directed by religious leaders against the state of Israel. He also cited ongoing support for Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, who is battling an uprising against his regime, and resurgent concerns about restrictions placed on International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors as the primary catalysts of the Canadian decision.

Perhaps most dramatically, Ottawa officially listed Tehran as a state sponsor of terrorism and placed warning based travel restrictions on Canadian nationals seeking to visit the country.

Though it takes away some flexibility of discourse when it comes to Canadian concerns over regional issues concerning Iran, the decision is clearly one that reflects understanding of a broader trend of distancing that is underway in international affairs.

With Iran allegedly closing in on achieving the necessary conditions to build an explosive nuclear device, many countries fear that the security situation in the Middle East may degenerate toward one of instability and crisis. When viewing this potential trend with historical instances of upheaval and anti-foreign assertiveness by Iran, including the storming of American and British embassies at various points in the last three decades, it is easy to see why a country may be inclined to adopt, at minimum, a cautious standoff position.

The wording of Baird’s statement was powerful and indicated strong support of the positions held by Israel and the United States. Most significant, though, is that the move shields Canadian personnel and institutions from political and diplomatic harm in a future crisis to a greater degree than had been possible before.

Canada’s position indicates where the holding point of international actors’ relationships with Iran seem destined to rest.

In recent months, countries across the globe have joined the United States in sanctioning the Islamic regime for its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Neighboring states like Saudi Arabia have indicated a willingness to support Western economic and political action against Tehran, while Asian and European countries have taken the flexible position of counseling for restraint on all fronts.

However, the main question to come out of Ottawa’s decision has to be whether or not protecting the personal security of diplomatic staff is a good enough reason to shut down the lines of communication. Canada’s last ambassador to Iran, John Mundy, asked that very question Monday in a The Globe and Mail piece that challenged the efficacy of the government’s decision.

Mundy argues that Canada has removed itself as a stakeholder in the country, even if it was only able to act in a limited fashion. Following events on the ground in Tehran will become more difficult without dedicated representation there.

Moreover, Ottawa will no longer be able to liaise with new leadership following upcoming elections, something that precludes Canada from being able to offer assessment of issues and candidates to the international community.

Perhaps most importantly, severing diplomatic ties and removing personnel security from the list of concerns that Canada has about Iran merely serves to exacerbate another issue. Officials can no longer lobby for or take action on behalf of Canadian citizens in Iran, including those in prison. And though the country has issued a cautionary statement to its nationals, travel to Iran is still possible and there are a number of dual citizens present in the Islamic republic.

Canada was one of the few remaining Western nations to maintain diplomatic relations with Iran. The choice to isolate it not only removes potential paths for dialogue; it illustrates the international community’s polarization on the issue of Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

After all, since states have historically been reluctant to sever ties with those partners seen as adversarial, Canada’s actions do little to indicate anything other than what many around the world have feared for some time — that the writing, with regard to taking action to stop Iran’s nuclear program, is on the wall.

Tar Sands or Socialism: What’s Driving Canada’s Success?

The average Canadian has a higher net worth than the average American. An Environics Analytics WealthScapes study found that the mean household wealth in Canada was $363,202 in 2011 compared to $319,970 in the United States.

Moreover, Canada is generating more jobs than its neighbor to the south. Its employment rate fell last month to 7.2 percent while the United States’ remains stagnant at 8.2.

What explains the discrepancy? Read more “Tar Sands or Socialism: What’s Driving Canada’s Success?”