Justin Trudeau launched a blistering broadside against the Harper Government’s foreign policy, tackling everything from Keystone XL to relations with Mexico at a June 22 speech in Ottawa.
“Harper just doesn’t get it. His last contribution to North American diplomacy was to cancel a trilateral summit with the leaders of Mexico and the United States last winter. It was sadly representative of the Harper decade,” said Trudeau in his address to the Canada 2020 Luncheon.
Earlier in his speech, the Liberal leader castigated Harper’s handling of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, saying that such a project would never be approved by the U.S. unless a more robust environmental policy that included carbon pricing was put in place.
He said that one of President Barack Obama’s first foreign policy actions was the signing of an energy and environmental co-operation agreement with Canada, adding that Harper had more than six years to build on this opportunity, but had in his view wasted it by sending ministers to Washington to “lecture” America on Keystone’s potential benefits, also criticizing the Prime Minister’s 2011 remark that US approval of Keystone XL would be a “no-brainer.”
If built as proposed, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels per day of oil sands bitumen from Alberta south through US territory to a refinery on the Gulf of Mexico.
“The simple fact is that in 2015, pretending that we have to choose between the economy and the environment is as harmful as it is wrong, at home and abroad," Trudeau said. "It’s not just a good idea to have sound environmental policy. It’s good business.”
He accused the Harper government of failing to keep up with developing clean energy or “clean prosperity,” as Trudeau called it.
But Trudeau said North America continent was well-placed in this regard, citing Canadian hydroelectric potential, the opening of Mexican energy markets, and major developments in the US clean energy industry.
Trudeau’s words come just four days after Pope Francis’s Encyclical calling for renewed global action on climate change and an end to degradation of natural ecosystems.
In America itself, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that renewables will be the fastest-growing power source between now and 2040, including solar and wind energy, as reported by Scientific American in April.
One example is construction of the 550 MW Desert Sunlight solar complex in southern California that began in 2011, while SolarCity Corp. started trading at $10 per share the following year, rising to roughly $60 by April 2015.
“Indeed, it cannot be stressed enough how fundamental the global energy revolution currently underway truly is. The American economy is adjusting rapidly to take advantage of that change. Its public and private sector leaders are investing deeply in bold strategies to position the US as a leader in this brave new world,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau said that if elected, his government would push for a clean energy and environment agreement, which he described as “the next major step” of the North American partnership.
“North America can and should be the world’s most efficient and responsible energy producer,” he said.
But a truly effective environmental deal, in his view, had to include “a continental co-ordination of climate mitigation policies and alignment of international negotiating positions.”
He later turned his attention to Canada-Mexico relations, focusing on the 2009 measure requiring Mexicans to obtain visas before visiting Canada, where none were needed before.
The Tories introduced new visa requirements six years ago to counter what it said was false refugee claims, even violence in Mexico was running high with thousands of deaths every year that were a result of the Mexican government’s war on drug cartels, first launched in 2006.
Last year, the Harper administration introduced the new ‘CAN+’ program that sped up visa processing for Mexicans who had previously travelled to Canada or the US in the last 10 years, but refused to axe its original policy.
“As with the United States, Harper’s approach to relations with Mexico has been belligerent and borderline churlish. Aside from the overall neglect that has characterized their policy, the Conservatives’ changes regarding visa requirements surprised and needlessly embarrassed the Mexicans, and quite frankly, should have been reversed long ago,” said Trudeau.
He vowed that a new Liberal government would reverse Harper’s visa policy and offer to host a new trilateral summit with the US and Mexican governments in a bid to restore ties.
“Mexico is an important economy with a burgeoning energy industry and a young work force. By some estimates, its economy will rival Britain and France within 15 years. Its middle class is one of the world’s fastest growing. Crucially, it is the only emerging market in the world to commit to reducing emissions that cause climate change,” said Trudeau.
Elsewhere in his speech, Trudeau said that any new Liberal government would remove barriers to trade and commerce across North America, pledging improvements to border infrastructure, streamlining cargo inspections, and speeding up the movement of people, saying that it was vital for Canada’s continued prosperity.
Regarding the U.S., Trudeau said that his government would set up a cabinet committee, including Ottawa’s ambassador to Washington, which would oversee cross-border ties.
Trudeau also promised to give Canadian diplomats in the US “mandate and resources they need,” to perform their roles effectively, accusing the Tories of making cuts in this regard.
“It is time for the absurd spectacle of a hectoring, belligerent Canada – that has defined the Harper decade – to come to an end,” said Trudeau as he concluded his address.