As the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline dominates political debate in Washington D.C., Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that he will soon travel to the American capital to lobby in favour of the pipeline.
Although most politicians in the capital appear to support the pipeline’s construction, United States President Barack Obama has not made public whether he supports or opposes the project, and his final approval will be needed to allow the pipeline to cross the American border.
Demonized by Republicans to the south of the border and Conservatives to the north for not sharing their enthusiasm for the pipeline, Mr. Obama made clear that he would wait until a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling before making a final decision.
The future of the TransCanada corporation’s new pipeline has become enveloped in the larger debate around climate change, the environment and the economic expansion in Canada’s oil sands. While most politicians in Western Canada support the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, the recent decline in the price of oil has raised some questions about its viability.
Pipelines and oil sands are a big reason Alberta MLAs and cabinet ministers have made at least 16 official trips to Washington D.C. since November 2011. Housed in the Canadian Embassy, Alberta has a paid representative whose main focus appears to be lobbying for the oil sands and pipelines. in the U.S. capital Former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield now holds the position, which was previously filled by retired Tory cabinet ministers Gary Mar, Murray Smith and former Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier.
According to publicly available travel itineraries, Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers and MLAs logged a hefty amount of air mileage in 2014, travelling to 13 countries (down from 18 countries visited in 2013).
In 2014, Alberta politicians made a flurry of official trips to the United States, China, Japan, India, Switzerland, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Peru.
Four cabinet ministers visited Singapore last year, where the Government of Alberta opened a new trade office. China remained a popular destination for international trade missions by Alberta’s politicians.
The discovery that Premier Alison Redford hired an international travel scout caused considerable controversy in Alberta, as did her $131,000 around-the-world adventure to India and Switzerland (minus a secretly planned trip to Afghanistan, which was cancelled due to security concerns). But it was a trip to former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013 that triggered a career-ending controversy for Ms. Redford when the $45,000 cost was made public in early 2014.
The whirlwind of international travel slowed to a trickle when Mr. Prentice entered the Premier’s Office in September 2014, with only a handful of MLA trips to the United States and a trip to Peru by Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett, being released on the public itinerary.
Here is a Google Map tracking international travel by Alberta cabinet ministers and PC MLAs since November 2011: