U.S. billionaire suggests 'collusion' between Canada, Republican lawmakers over Keystone
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2013 5:00PM EDT
A billionaire Democratic fundraiser continues to press the Canadian government over whether it is working with Republican lawmakers to exploit the U.S. budget crisis to get the Keystone XL pipeline project approved, wondering Wednesday if there wasn’t “some collusion” between the two sides.
Tom Steyer resigned from his hedge fund, Farallon, last year to devote himself full-time to climate-change issues, and has focused his considerable resources on ensuring the Keystone project does not get approved.
He has gone so far as to write a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing the federal government of lobbying Republicans to include the project’s approval on their list of demands for ending the ongoing U.S. government shutdown.
In an interview with CTV’s Power Play Wednesday, Steyer said the impasse over the Affordable Health Care Act was “well-planned,” and accused some Republican lawmakers of “wanting this to happen.”
“So our question was and remains: Was there some collusion here?” Steyer asked. “Did the Canadian government take advantage of the crisis in the United States to get something that they desperately want, which is approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Steyer’s accusation echoed comments from his letter, which he sent to the Prime Minister last Friday. In the note, he criticized Harper for recently telling a business audience in New York that “you don’t take no for an answer” when it comes to a project like Keystone.
Steyer also wrote that Republicans included approval of the Keystone project on their original list of demands in exchange for a deal on the looming U.S. debt ceiling deadline.
In the letter, Steyer asked Harper if "your government, your government's lobbyist and/or agents representing TransCanada communicated with House Republicans about including Keystone in the original litany of demands put to President Obama?"
Steyer wrote that Harper's rhetoric, as well as new ads from TransCanada aimed at getting Keystone approved, raise “questions of whether your office is working hand-in-hand with TransCanada to try to exploit the current situation in Washington, D.C., at the expense of the American people.”
Steyer said Wednesday he has yet to receive a reply to his letter.
Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, dismissed Steyer’s claims as “completely bogus” on the weekend, telling CTV’s Question Period that Canadian officials are working with lawmakers of all political stripes south of the border to tout the project’s merits.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to issue his oft-delayed decision on the project sometime next year.
Obama has said he won’t approve the project if it contributes to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. “And on that criteria, he has to turn it down,” Steyer said.
Steyer said his environmental advocacy won’t stop regardless of what happens with Keystone, because his ultimate aim is to get the United States to change course on energy.
“It’s time for us -- and we’re at a fork in the road -- to decide to generate and use energy differently,” Steyer said. “We need to make a decision as a society to move toward a cleaner energy future for our kids and grandkids.”
Steyer acknowledged that moving away from oil to newer, cleaner energy sources won’t happen overnight.
“But the fact of the matter is, we have to get away from the idea that the status quo is the only way to go,” he said. “We have to get away from the idea that we really have no alternative but to continue down the same road.”
The married father of four has tried to answer critics who accuse him of hypocrisy because his own fortune was partially made with investments in, for instance, rail companies that carry oil and other pipeline projects.
Steyer said when he resigned from Farallon last year, he asked that his portfolio be cleaned of oilsands-related investments. If he inadvertently makes money from the oilsands, he will donate any money to “victims of climate change,” he said.
“But I don’t think it’s possible for individuals to solve this by voluntary good acts,” Steyer said. “I think it’s very important for society together to change this.”