Trudeau Says Canada's Record to Blame for Obama Dirty-Oil Remark

  • Canada's new prime minister to meet Obama at APEC summit
  • Trudeau, Obama to discuss energy, Syria and Islamic State

U.S. President Barack Obama’s characterization of Canadian oil as dirty is “rhetoric” prompted by Canada’s inaction on environmental issues, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

Before a one-on-one meeting set with Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, the country’s new prime minister responded to Obama’s comments by, in effect, placing the blame on Canada’s past environmental policy.

Justin Trudeau arrives in Manila

Photographer: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

“A less aggressive approach on environmental responsibility in the past led to a ramping up of rhetoric against Canadian oil and against Canadian energy,” Trudeau said Tuesday, when asked about Obama’s comments. He was speaking to reporters on board his plane traveling to the Philippines for APEC, where he is scheduled to meet Obama Thursday.

“I know Canada has to start demonstrating real action and not just words in order for the world to understand we are serious and committed to developing our resources in a responsible and sustainable way,” he said.

Obama rejected TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline on Nov. 6, referring to Canadian oil as “dirty” and prompting Alberta premier Rachel Notley -- who opposed Keystone-- to label the comments as unhelpful. Trudeau, who took power federally two days before the rejection, favors the pipeline and was criticized by political rivals for not adequately responding to Obama’s comments.

Trudeau and Obama are heading to APEC after the Group of 20 summit held Sunday and Monday in Turkey. The two meetings mark Trudeau’s first appearance on the world stage as Canada’s prime minister. He took power on Nov. 4, following in the footsteps of his father, Pierre Trudeau, who served 15 years as prime minister.

Trade Ties

Trudeau has put an emphasis on expanding trade ties with China and India, and on rebuilding relations with the U.S. that have frayed in recent years amid clashes over Keystone, country-of-origin labeling rules and softwood lumber, among other issues.

Trudeau’s platform risked further alienating Obama by pledging to Canada’s withdrawal from bombing campaigns against Islamic State and calling for the restart of bidding on a new fighter jet to exclude the U.S.-made F-35, which the government had previously favored.

Trudeau said he and Obama will discuss energy, Syria, security, refugees and the military efforts against the Islamic State.

“I’ll be pushing the idea of a proper continental approach” to energy, Trudeau said. “The challenge we have is ensuring that the three North American countries are properly coordinated in our energy plans, our environmental plans, and the desire we share to remain competitive in the world economy but also ensure we’re moving toward greater responsibility.”

Obama and Trudeau also will discuss emissions pledges ahead of another summit, the United Nations climate conference beginning in Paris later this month.

“It’s important to push strongly on some of the more recalcitrant countries who don’t seem to be as ambitious in their approach to climate change,” Trudeau said. “We have an awful lot to discuss and I look forward to engaging with President Obama on a range of topics.”

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