It seems that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper really decided to take advantage of the current climate of global uncertainty during his meeting with US President Barack Obama a couple of weeks ago in Washington, DC. As talks between the two leaders imminently fell to the looming crisis in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, Harper appropriately maneuvered the discussion to the controversial new bilateral trade and energy security agreement to be forged between the two countries.
It is not surprising that details of Harper’s brief meeting with the US President were extremely hushed-up, considering that the PM’s minority government faces an election call any day. What is certain, however, is that the meeting signals an imminent new phase in Canadian-American trade and security relations. The proposed agreement would include easing border regulations and more vigorous sharing of intelligence and security information.
Underlying this ‘security perimeter’ arrangement is an inevitable compromise on Canadian sovereignty, including an integration of Canadian and American immigration and refugee policy. Knowing the US’s pre-disposition for frequent security-related hurdles at border controls, as well as their overly-rigorous monitoring of migration flows, how much of a role Canada will actually have in these issues is predictable.
Amid this already controversial bid, Harper also revived talks about the TransCanada Corp Keystone XL pipeline project. The $7-billion pipeline proposal had been shelved away by the US State Department since last year in response to the staunch protests raised by environmentalist groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.
Indeed, the impact of the proposed extension of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast along Texas could have serious environmental ramifications, parallel to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year. And as attractive as this deal may seem to the US in light of the current economic instability facing the Middle East, and as much as it may come, as Harper reassures, from ‘he most secure, most stable and friendliest’ region of the world, there is nothing environmentally reassuring about Alberta’s tar sands. They contribute to about 38.4 megatonnes of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, making about five per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions, as reported by Environment Canada. The tar sands are also extremely water-dependent, with crude bitumen requiring large volumes of water during tar sands mining operations, having an adverse impact on natural water resources and animal habitat.
Seeking stability during a time of so much chaos and uncertainty is perfectly justified, but needless to say, it shouldn’t come at the cost of compromising fundamental freedoms and environmental sustainability. Whether this is inevitable for the case of Canada and the US can only be determined as order seeks to be restored on the other side of the world.