Baird, Clinton expect pipeline decision by year's end
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he is concerned about how long it's taking to reach a pipeline deal with the U.S., but one day after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton he has hope that the process is on track.
Baird met with Clinton in Washington on Thursday and discussed a range of topics, from political problems in the Middle East, to drought in Africa, shared-border issues and the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.
The pipeline would carry oil from Alberta all the way to refineries in Texas. But the approval process has been a long road.
"This normally takes six to nine months and it's going to take, if it goes on schedule, over 30, so yeah we are concerned," Baird told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
Baird said he was able to drive home to Clinton the importance of the project and the economic boost it could provide by creating jobs on both sides of the border.
"The United States has an important decision to make: Do they want to take oil from Canada or from people like Gadhafi, in the Middle East. So I was able to highlight the importance of that," Baird said.
Many Americans in the six states the pipeline would travel through are opposed to the Keystone XL project because it would carry so-called "dirty oil."
The project, worth an estimated $7 billion, is being proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada.
Baird said it is important that the pipeline be built in a safe and secure manner, and said the project is vital to ensuring North America has a safe and secure energy source going forward.
Clinton said after the meeting with Baird that U.S. officials are working with TransCanada to develop safety standards beyond those required by law.
She said the safety of the 3,000-kilometre pipeline is "one of our highest priorities," and added that an environmental review of the project is due this month.
"We are leaving no stone unturned in this process and we expect to make a decision on the permit before the end of this year," she said.
Baird said Clinton is also launching a 90-day window to allow other U.S. departments and agencies, and members of the public, to comment.
"Canada and Canadian industry is going to be particularly engaged in this and we'd like to see this resolved by the end of the year," Baird said.
Baird and Clinton also discussed ongoing issues in Syria, where the state has waged a violent crackdown on protesters, efforts to improve the flow of goods, services and people across the border, and ongoing challenges in drought-stricken Somalia, where rebel group al-Shabaab is blocking international aid.
"We called on al-Shabaab to allow the humanitarian delivery of food for the famine relief," Baird said. "It's really unconscionable you'd have a group of people in charge of a large swath of the country and not allowing hungry women and children access to it."