U.S. President Joe Biden’s first days in office were tranquil compared to the weeks preceding his inauguration, but his administration has already made some major moves with implications for Canada.
Here’s a look at what Biden’s young presidency has meant — so far — for this country.
One of Biden’s first moves was cancelling the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline was supposed to transport oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas. And Alberta was counting on it to get its oil to markets. But Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order said that continuing with the pipeline was “not consistent” with his administration’s economic and climate goals.
This was predictable, according to experts. Cancelling Keystone is a sign of what the Biden administration prioritizes, Leblond said.
“It should not be the defining element for Canada-U.S. relations,” he said.
But it was not well received in Alberta.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has suggested sanctions on the U.S. But that’s “not a realistic or viable option,” said Kristen Hopewell, a Canada Research Chair in global policy at the University of British Columbia. “At this point this is a decision that Canada will need to accept.”
The pipeline cancellation is a “wake-up call” for Canada’s oil sector, said Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia. “My only surprise is that anyone is surprised,” she said.
Biden announced a new ‘Buy American’ policy for U.S. government spending on Jan. 25. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce called such restrictions a “perennial problem” for Canadian businesses. Hopewell agreed that it’s “concerning.”
“It’ll all come down to the details and whether Canadian companies will be exempt from these new restrictions,” she said.
Leblond called it “somewhat symbolic” as it’s a way “to reassure Americans that their government … is behind them.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested that after dealing with the Trump presidency, Canada can find a way to work with the Biden administration on these measures.
- Climate change and international co-operation
The U.S. is back on board with the 2015 Paris climate agreement, an international treaty on climate change that aims to rein in global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adopted by more than 190 countries. Under Trump, the U.S. had pulled out of the treaty in November 2020. Biden has also resumed American support for the World Health Organization.
All good news for Canada, according to Hopewell and Harrison.
Canada is a “committed multilateralist” invested in international institutions and agreements, Hopewell said. “It’s really important that the most powerful player on the international stage, the U.S., is a party to them.”
“Everything gets easier with the U.S. back in and back engaged,” Harrison said.
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