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Keystone XL opponents were quick to seize on Ottawa's latest ad campaign, claiming it amounted to a desperate effort by a struggling prime minister.

"Stephen Harper is just doing the bidding of the oil industry," scoffed Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for 350.org, one of the groups opposed to Keystone XL. "Harper should be spending his time telling the Canadian public the truth – that their government has failed to meet its international obligations" to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Kessler said.

The response from anti-Keystone organizations to the taxpayer-funded ad campaign launched by the federal government was quick and – predictably – derisive.

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"Canada is desperate and doing everything they can to bully, buy and mislead the public in hopes of getting TransCanada's risky pipeline approved," said Jane Kleeb, who heads Bold Nebraska, another group fighting Keystone XL, which would cross the state.

Opponents aren't buying Mr. Harper's claim that the decision facing Mr. Obama should be an obvious approval.

"President Obama must choose between what's right and what's easy, and what's right is to reject Keystone XL," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, noting that the "State Department collected a million comments from Americans who oppose dirty tar sands and want climate solutions right now."

Kate Colarulli, director of the Sierra Club's Tar Sands campaign, said: "Luckily, the U.S. government isn't easily intimidated by Canadian ad campaigns.

She added: "Harper's polling numbers are looking pretty poor, so my guess is that Canadians are more divided on the impacts of tar sands on their water, climate, health and economy than Harper wants us to believe."

Meanwhile, the All Risk, No Reward campaign, a collection of grassroots groups, also denounced Ottawa's effort to sway American opinion-makers.

"No ad campaign can change the fact that Keystone XL is all risk and no reward for American families – and for global climate change," said Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for the coalition.

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It launched its own – far smaller – ad campaign on some of the same sites as the Canadian campaign. The first of a five-day cartoon panel dubbed 'Leaky Business' ran Monday, featuring Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry talking about Keystone XL. Last week, Mr. Biden was reported to have said he was opposed to Keystone, but added he was in a minority.

Ottawa's campaign also came under fire Monday for playing fast and loose with the facts.

"The greenhouse gas stat [claiming a 26-per-cent reduction] is just plain wrong," said Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaign co-ordinator for Greenpeace Canada, who also said there were "some other examples of spin" on the government's website, including the claim that it has strengthened environmental protection.

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About the Authors
Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

International Affairs and Security Correspondent

Paul More

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