Chris Christie says Americans don't value Canada enough; pushes for Keystone

CALGARY – New Jersey’s governor says delaying the Keystone XL pipeline sends a bad message to investors, stunts the growth of the Canadian oilsands industry and is no way to treat a key ally of the United States.

One of the Republican party’s top prospects for a run at the White House in 2016, Gov. Chris Christie travelled to Calgary on Thursday to back the controversial TransCanada (TSX:TRP) pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to the Gulf Coast and pan the time it is taking Washington to make a decision on the project.

“Keystone has now languished for much, much too long. I think it also sends a very unfortunate signal,” Christie told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“First, it reduces the willingness of investors to make significant investments in large-scale, capital-intensive projects that are needed to help energy reach its customers,” he said.

“It stunts production. It risks stunting growth as well,” Christie added. “This is no way to treat a friend.”

Speaking to reporters, along with Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, Christie said Americans don’t put enough stock in their relationship with Canada.

His message was similar to the one he delivered on a trip to Mexico earlier this year: U.S. foreign policy should focus on its neighbours first.

“I’ve gotten the impression over time, watching American foreign policy, that Canada has been an afterthought and I believe it should be a first thought,” he said.

“I don’t think we pay enough attention to this relationship as Americans in general. I’ve made a very conscious decision to come to Canada and to come here to Alberta because we should treat our friends with both respect and attention.”

Christie said the regulatory review of Keystone in the U.S. has gone overboard.

“It should be approved,” he said.

“You clearly have my position. The regulatory steps that have gone on here are way overboard. And the fact is that, even with those regulatory steps, the people who have looked at it say that it is something that should be approved, so we should get to approving it.”

The price of a barrel of oil has fallen below US$70 since OPEC decided last week not to cut production. But Christie said that shouldn’t have any impact on Keystone.

“You cannot make major national policy decisions based upon the oil price of the day,” he said.

Prentice said he and Christie see eye-to-eye.

“Quite clearly, the governor is here as a friend of Canada and Alberta,” Prentice said. “We share many things … many values.”

A bid to force approval of the Keystone pipeline made it halfway through Congress, before a bill stalled last month in the Senate.

The issue will resurface in the new year — either through a new piece of legislation when a new Republican majority takes control of the Senate, or through a decision to approve the project by the President Barack Obama.

In either case, however, the final decision is still Obama’s. That’s because even a bill on the pipeline, passed by Congress, couldn’t become law without his signature.

Christie will travel to Ottawa on Friday for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The governor is considered one of the Republican party’s front-runners to take a shot at the presidency in 2016, but he was coy Thursday about any future aspirations.

“I am not a candidate for president of the United States, I am the governor of New Jersey,” he said. “I’m not going to make a decision about that until well into 2015.”

“When I make a decision and announce, it is my instinct on this is that I should probably announce it in the United States,” he said to laughter from the audience.

He’s not the first presidential prospect to visit Calgary this year.

Hillary Clinton, one of the Democrats’ possible contenders, visited the city in March.

Christie didn’t go away empty handed. He received a Calgary Flames jersey emblazoned with his name on the back, although conceded he is actually a long-time fan of the New York Rangers.

Christie and Prentice exchanged cases of beer, with the New Jersey governor receiving some cold ones from Calgary-based Big Rock Brewery. Prentice received an offering from the Flying Fish Brewery Company, New Jersey’s oldest brewery.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter