Former Liberal prime minister intends to let Americans know the benefits of Keystone

CALGARY – A former Liberal prime minister says he plans to head to Washington, D.C., to speak out in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline.

John Turner, who is 83, says he intends to spend time with Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer before meeting with some leaders in both the U.S. Congress and Senate.

“I may be introducing him to a few people,” said Turner with a chuckle while attending a luncheon speech in Calgary on Monday. “I’d like to meet with the president, No. 1, but I doubt I will get to see him.”

Turner said he is working out the details, but intends to go to Washington as a private citizen.

“I think I’ve still got a few relevant things to say,” he said, adding piping in oil makes sense from an American point of view.

“We can tell them, ‘We’re friends of yours and we’ve tried to control this environmentally as best we can.'”

Turner said that with a stable energy source in Canada, the United States would not have to rely on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.

Turner served briefly as prime minister in 1984 before losing to Brian Mulroney. But during his years in government before that, he got to know former U.S. presidents — including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

The pipeline has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate over climate change. Republicans and business and labour groups have urged the administration to approve Keystone as a source of much-needed jobs and a step toward North American energy independence.

Environmental groups have been putting pressure on President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline, saying it would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill and have mounted an aggressive advertising campaign critical of Keystone.

A decision on whether to approve the pipeline, which would carry 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta across six states to the Texas Gulf Coast, is expected later this summer.

Turner says Canada needs to do more to get its message across, but added that he “admired” Alberta Premier Alison Redford for making a number of trips to Washington since her election a year ago.

“I think we can stir up a few more (hornets’) nests. I think we can work harder at it.”