Yesterday, Gary Doer, Canada's Ambassador to the United States, made headlines when he stated that:
“If you ask the question: Do you want your oil from (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez or (Alberta Premier) Alison Redford, I think I know the answer.”
Doer is making the argument that US President Barack Obama should approve the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, so America can get its oil from the friendly North, instead of the much maligned Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.
What Doer fails to mention, or maybe he just doesn't know, is that the largest import commodity Canada receives from Venezuela is crude oil.
According to a 2011 government report [PDF] on Venezuelan-Canadian trade relations:
“Imports from Venezuela are dominated by crude oil. In 2009, Canadian oil imports [from Venezuela] were valued at $778 million, making up nearly 86% of Canada's total imports from that country.”
A May 2011 Natural Resources Canada report [PDF] notes that Canada imported 33,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Venezuela in 2009. That works out to about 12 million barrels of oil that year.
While Venezuela has had issues in the past around their oil industry, Canada imports even more oil from countries with much more serious human rights and environmental issues. Canada's largest source of imported crude is Algeria, which has been mired in an armed conflict with Islamist extremists for more than 20 years. Canada also imports oil from Angola, Iraq and Nigeria - all countries that make Venezuela look like paradise.
Ambassador Doer and the Harper government are working overtime at the moment to convince the U.S. government to green light the Keystone XL pipeline.
This latest Hugo Chavez scare tactic is pretty ridiculous when one considers the fact that Canada is more than happy to receive millions of barrels a year from Hugo Chavez.
An Ambassador's role is typically apolitical, and that is for good reason. An Ambassdor's job is to represent the country, not the Prime Minister and his political party. Making undiplomatic statements to the U.S., our largest trading partner, is what happens when this division between ideology and diplomacy gets blurry, as it appears right now.
A single pipeline is not worth ruining our relationship with the sleeping giant Canada sits above. It might wake up and realize it's being duped into helping Canada reach the highest bidder on export markets, which will be no help to the U.S. consumer as gas prices will go up for many, contrary to the fictitious story that Gary Doer and the Harper government is feeding the U.S. media.