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Alberta praises Harper’s hard line on Keystone

Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Energy Minister Ken Hughes are pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline's approval.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

The Alberta government lauded Stephen Harper for hard-line remarks he made on TransCanada Corp.'s controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, with the province's energy minister saying he's "pleased to see the Prime Minister putting a stake in the sand."

On Thursday, Mr. Harper said arguments in favour of the proposed pipeline were "overwhelming," and vowed to continue his campaign to win approval for the project, which would bring crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas, until it succeeds.

"My view is that you don't take no for an answer," Mr. Harper told a New York business audience. "We haven't had that [from the U.S.], but if we were to get that, that won't be final. This won't be final until it's approved and we will keep pushing forward."

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Debate between environmentalists, oil industry representatives and policymakers in the United States around Keystone XL focus on whether a green light from President Barack Obama on the project will lead to increased production, and thereby greenhouse gas emissions, from Alberta's oil sands.

Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes said it stands to reason for the Prime Minister to say that unfettered access to markets for Canadian oil products is "a national imperative" for a country that relies on its natural resource sector for tens of billions in government revenues. Mr. Hughes said the market access issue is not only a concern for oil-producing provinces such as Alberta or Saskatchewan, but is a Canada-wide issue.

"I'm pleased to see the Prime Minister putting a stake in the sand in that way," the Minister said in an interview Friday. "In diplomatic discussions, when a state says this is really important to us, and we cannot take no for an answer, that is an important message to the other side."

Mr. Hughes also said it's important for Americans to understand the benefits that Canadian oil will bring to their country. He pointed out that more than 80 pipelines already cross the U.S./Canada border, and the two countries' oil transportation systems are intertwined.

As part of his pitch for Canadian crude pipelines, Mr. Harper also told the U.S. audience: "If I were an American, the last thing I would want to see is Canada selling its oil anywhere else."

While the controversy over Keystone has raged in the U.S., both Ottawa and Alberta officials have pushed for the pipeline's approval through public speeches and diplomatic channels. Alberta Premier Alison Redford's tenure has sent cabinet-level trade missions to search for new markets beyond North America for the province's vast natural gas and oil resources. Mr. Hughes plans to travel to South Korea, China and Japan to meet with potential buyers next month.

"It's up to us to also ensure that we have access to global markets because we're at this critical juncture in the history of Western Canada where we now need to ensure that we have access to global markets, as opposed to just the North American continental market," he said.

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