The recent decision by the US government to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline for yet another year only ratifies what has already become obvious: President Obama is not going to OK the pipeline, not now, not ever. Keystone XL makes too much sense (for both countries) for him to come right out and say this, but that is his intent. Partly it is to appease the environmentalist left but partly because of his own convictions: he is an extreme faculty-lounge leftist at heart. By now, this should be obvious.
Needless to say, Prime Minister Harper comes from an entirely different ideological direction than Obama, but at least until now, he has chosen the diplomatic approach when dealing with Obama. The trouble is, at least as far as Keystone is concerned, it is not working.
What should he do now?
As I have said before, he needs to shift gears, radically. He needs to attack Obama publically and loudly. He needs to play the anti-American card. As I have said before, anti-Americanism has domestic advantages, it will make it hard for the Liberals to portray Conservatives as US lackeys, a familiar trope of the Liberal Party in election campaigns.
And, I think it will bring real pressure to bear on Obama. Right now he is a profoundly unpopular lame duck. He has lost control of one house of congress and is about to lose the other in November. One charge against him already is that his foreign policy has been feckless and foolish. With Harper’s attacks, his opponents will be able to press this point home even further: Obama even alienated Canada! Our closest ally! How could he screw things up even more?
It sounds dangerous to antagonize the US but it isn’t. In the twilight of the Jean Chretien era, Chretien openly mocked and insulted George W Bush. He didn’t suffer for it at the polls in Canada, and Canada’s relationship with the US wasn’t much disturbed. Bush’s domestic opponents were pleased and the Bush Administration was patient and tolerant. And even if Obama does not prove to be as understanding as Bush, what is he going to do about it? With his Keystone decision effectively made, he has already used his one effective thumb screw.
What are you waiting for Stephen? You have nothing to lose but your environmental restrictions.