Harper takes Republican allies

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Close observers of U.S. politics were surprised to see Newt Gingrich win the South Carolina primary. The prospective Republican nominee for President, a disgraced former congressman from Georgia, had to recover from successive primary defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, and a second ex-wife bent on retribution, to do it. Of equal surprise to Canadians was seeing Gingrich single out Stephen Harper in his victory speech.

At one level there was no need for astonishment in Canada. Links with Gingrich were established by the Reform Party (the Preston Manning-led forerunner to today's Conservative Party of Canada) when Harper was its research director. In those days, Newt Gingrich ruled over the U.S. House of Representatives as its speaker, and he spoke openly about lessons learned from Reform political practices. Based on past contact it was unsurprising to hear Gingrich accurately depict Harper as "a conservative and pro-American."

What was unexpected was the way Gingrich used his victory speech to ally himself with the Harper Conservatives in order to mount an attack on U.S. President Barrack Obama, the opponent for the eventual Republican nominee in the November presidential election.

Gingrich went after Obama for postponing approval of the extension to the Keystone pipeline, which is supposed to take raw bitumen from the Fort McMurray area of Alberta, down to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be refined into motor and aviation fuel. By refusing to take Canadian petroleum, Gingrich said Obama was pushing Canada into an alliance with China, the presumed global rival of the U.S.

While the Americans blocked completion of an already existing pipeline that was to be constructed over level ground, on a direct route south, Gingrich pointed out the Canadians were preparing to build the Northern Gateway pipeline across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast, and so open a sea route to China for Alberta bitumen.

Prior to Gingrich's remarks, the current House Speaker, John Boehner, called a press conference to accuse Obama of killing American jobs by blocking the Keystone pipeline extension. He and his leadership told of being briefed by the Canadian embassy about the China option. Boehner pointed to the Northern Gateway project and the upcoming visit by Harper to China, announced by Ottawa, in anticipation of presidential unwillingness to provide a building permit for the Keystone extension.

Republican leaders have termed Obama the "no jobs" president. The best chance a Republican nominee for the presidency has to defeat the incumbent president is make his economic record work against him. Historically, when the unemployment rate increases in their first term, presidents fail to win a second term.

In the run-up to the election, Obama is understandably attentive to opposition environmental groups. Unsure of the eventual approval of Keystone, Harper has decided to increase the pressure on the U.S. president, by providing ammunition to his Republican opponents about the economic cost to the U.S. in lost jobs of not taking bitumen sands oil from Canada.

The centrepiece in the Harper strategy -- Canada as energy superpower -- is increased exports of bitumen to the U.S. The Harper regime believes it can turn public opinion in favour of the Keystone pipeline. Indeed, he may have a point. While Obama postponed a decision on the extension, he also asked the contractor, TransCanada pipeline, to propose an alternative route that would skirt a Nebraska aquifer.

To counter efforts by European environmental groups to ban "dirty oil" from bitumen sands, the Harper government undertook a major public relations campaign to discredit scientific arguments about the carbon intensity of petroleum product refined from bitumen. That campaign may have flopped, and damaged the image of Canada to boot, but Harper presses on. He feels secure in his alliance with Republican supporters of Keystone.

Just in case Keystone fails, and the Northern Gateway is blocked by Aboriginal groups who have never given up title to the land it must cross, Harper has a third option. Texas giant Kinder Morgan already sends Alberta crude to the port of Vancouver where it is loaded on tankers and shipped to California for refining. It has a proposal to increase capacity. That project does not require presidential approval.

Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Dear rabble.ca reader... Can you support rabble.ca by matching your mainstream media costs? Will you donate a month's charges for newspaper subsription, cable, satellite, mobile or Internet costs to our independent media site?

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.