While Jack Mintz presents a fairly coherent and almost convincing argument for his views on the crumbling condition of Canada-USA relations, he fails to embrace a number of important, if embarrassing truths in his analysis. If these were included, they would serve to give valuable insights into the bilateral decision-making process and the various motivations of U.S. officials, including President Obama. These additional factors, such as the realities of U.S. domestic politics, existing ties to other oil-producing nations, uncertainty over domestic energy policy, and the pending presidential election – offer a less-ominous and more practical explanation for the decision to reject the proposed design of the Keystone XL pipeline. Furthermore, these same realities reinforce the notion that it is simply untrue that any real decline in Canada-USA relations is being witnessed at all, but rather Dr. Mintz’s assertions are more alarmist exaggerations than accurate assessments.
Mintz uses the White House’s decision to reject the current Keystone XL proposal as the launching pad of his stance, in a “last straw” riposte to support the authenticity of his central notion: that this is conclusive evidence of a “downgrade” in the relations between Canada and the U.S. In reality,as with the other instances cited by Mintz, the action is more attributable to domestic American considerations rather than a message to Ottawa.As for the two main benefits of Keystone XL cited by Mintz – energy security and jobs – both are overstated in terms of their importance. With relation to the security of its energy, the U.S. would surely prefer to produce domestically in order to extend full control over supply, but nonetheless has secured long-term supply guarantees from various nations, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq – the “undesired” sources of oil at the heart of the matter. Increasing the current share of Canadian petroleum exports to the U.S. – even to the maximum capacity afforded by Keystone XL – would not have much bearing on Washington’s reliance on Middle-East crude, due to the miniscule increase in supply the pipeline would provide. Keystone XL would increase output by approximately 700,000 barrels of oil per day, which equates to a meagre one-thirtieth of current American daily domestic demand. As such, Mintz’s (and others’) assertions that the pipeline promises to reduce dependence on Middle-East oil and heralds the arrival of energy security are not based on any realistic facts. Likewise, as has been widely documented and reported by non-partisan sources, and analyzed by independent firms free of TransCanada’s influence, the true economic impact of the pipeline has been grossly overstated by the company, its affiliates, and self-serving Republican Party candidates. Their initial estimate of close to 120,000 jobs is more than 17 times higher than the U.S. State Department’s most generous estimate of 5,000-7,000 jobs. The company has since recently revised its official estimate to 20,000 jobs, which is still about three times higher than the government findings indicate. Both of these arguments, therefore, become much weaker when considering the facts, and point to less of a cause and incentive for American decision-makers to approve the project. While it is true that appeasing environmental groups was a consideration in President Obama’s decision, the much more important spectre of a potential environmental disaster that would accompany a contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer, and the subsequent forced relocation of Americans, makes the matter a much larger bona fide political issue. The more one examines the multifarious nature of the U.S. domestic debate on the issue and the far-flung implications of approving the current route, the more it becomes fully apparent that the decision was rooted firmly in consideration of American interests, with Canadian corporate contentment as largely a secondary thought. Rather than being an indicator of U.S. affinity towards the Great White North, the decision was merely a practical one for the U.S., and hardly signals a “downgrade” or referendum on relations. After all, as Mintz stated, Canada is the U.S.’s largest trading partner, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
US and Canada Relations are Strong
Government of Canada, 3/22/11 (Canada and the United States: No two nations closer, The Government of Canada, p. http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/can-am/Closer-etroites.aspx?view=d)
But thetrue strength and resilienceof the relationshipisperhaps bestillustrated when Canada and the U.S. disagree.As sovereign nations, with at times divergent interests, the two countries are sometimes confronted by difficult issues. Disagreements, such as those on softwood lumber and on beef imports,have tested the relationship. Buton every occasion, because they are good neighborsand have so much in common, solutions have been found.At its core,the Canada-U.S. relationship isso strong, so mutually important, thatthe two nations realize the common interests that unite them are far greater than the irritants that may momentarily divide them.