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Never mind Northern Gateway, Keystone XL remains the pipeline propagandists' No. 1 objective

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Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver

Never mind the rhetoric about the Northern Gateway pipeline, the main objective of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives continues to be successful completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas.

The Northern Gateway line to Kitimat is not a replacement for Keystone XL in the minds of Conservatives in Ottawa and Edmonton or the corporations that bankroll them. It's an enhancement.

Harper said as much in his interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. yesterday, rattling his sabre at Iran, then attempting to link recent Iranian naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz to his high-pressure XL Pipeline pitch. "When you look at the Iranians threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, I think that just illustrates how critical it is that supply for the United States be North American," the PM told CBC interviewer Peter Mansbridge.

Our prime minister, of course, has a wonderfully Orwellian ability to simultaneously spout contradictory positions, so he slipped seamlessly from that into whinging about how Canada is "dependent or possibly held hostage" on decisions made in the United States -- quite a laugh for a politician who has been striving for decades to tie Canada more closely to the U.S.

Before the prime minister spoke, the Washington Post was reporting that ahead of the Feb. 21 XL-decision deadline imposed on President Barack Obama's Administration by pro-pipeline legislators in Congress, the usual Canadian and American suspects were ratcheting up their efforts to pressure the U.S. government to approve the line TransCanada Corp. wants to build to the Gulf Coast.

Does anyone doubt for an instant that official propaganda from the Harper Conservatives or the government of Alberta Premier Alison Redford defending Keystone XL and denying it will cost Canadian jobs will be back at full volume the instant the American federal authorities approve the southbound pipeline?

But the Stateside news being generated by the noisy Canadian debate over Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway project provides a convenient backdrop to lobbying by official Canadian and corporate backers of the Keystone XL project to increase the pressure on President Obama to make the "right" decision about the U.S. pipeline.

This may be the simplest explanation for the crude McCarthyite tone of the effort by Conservative Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, amplified by the Online Tory Rage Machine, to portray the pipeline's opponents as jet-setting Hollywood celebrities.

As the Dayton News reported Friday, a senior TransCanada representative has also been busy telling U.S. legislators and journalists that "it is clear that the Canadian energy community, the Canadian government, and the provincial Government of Alberta, where most of the oil exists, are looking at other options."

"They are looking at other customers because, right now, they basically have one customer, the United States," TransCanada "project representative" Jim Prescott said. "I don't think any of us can blame them for looking at who else wants their oil: Asian markets, China, India. They are doing the prudent business and political actions to pursue that. I don't blame them a bit, especially in light of what we've seen here."

Prescott doubtless hit the proverbial nail precisely on its head, however, when he added that a Canadian pipeline to Kitimat doesn't mean there can't be a pipeline to the Gulf as well: "Does that mean it is a zero-sum game between either send it to Asia or send it to the United States? No, that's not it. That's not the choice."

Meanwhile, back here in the True North, the fact Keystone XL stalled last year for political reasons south of the border also provided Oliver with his convenient opportunity to vilify pipeline opposition in British Columbia as being guided by radical foreigners determined to interfere in Canadian affairs.

Of course, accusing "foreign special interest groups" of trying "to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda" is pretty rich for a government vigorously lobbying its U.S. counterpart, encouraging the sell-off of a significant chunk of our natural resources to Communist China's state-owned oil company and apparently neglecting the future energy needs of central and eastern Canadians.

As journalist Andrew Nikoforuk reported in The Tyee, energy analyst David Hughes argues the Northern Gateway pipeline will "compromise the long term energy security interests of Canadians, as well as their environmental interests."

Hughes, who is not an environmentalist, a foreigner or a radical asked: "Why does the Canadian government support a proposal to export oil to China when nearly half the country (Quebec and Atlantic Canada) is nearly 100 per cent dependent on declining or volatile reserves from the North Sea and the Middle East?" (Or is Harper only worried about the impact of Iranian manoeuvres in the Straight of Hormuz on Americans?)

Hughes asks a good question, one we're unlikely to hear answered by any of the usual suspects mentioned above.

But the main thing to understand amid all these hypocritical Tory contradictions is that the current emphasis on the Northern Gateway pipeline does not indicate any diminishment in the commitment of the Conservative-corporate axis to see the Keystone XL pipeline pumping Canadian oil south.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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