Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird
Credits: REUTERS/Patrick Doyle
OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in Washington D.C. Monday pressing the flesh in the hopes of gaining swift approval on key projects left to languish during the U.S presidential election race.
The Conservative government views the Keystone XL pipeline and the Detroit-Windsor bridge as important to Canada's economic future. Both projects need White House approval - and the time is ripe for political salesmanship with U.S. President Barack Obama, sworn in for his second term Monday.
In an interview with QMI Agency from Washington, Baird said he'd spent the weekend meeting with "as many decision makers and influencers here in town both Congressionally and within the administration" as possible to push Canada's interests.
And he's confident both TransCanada's Alberta-to-Texas pipeline and the Detroit-Windsor bridge will get the green light despite past hurdles.
Obama rejected TransCanada's application a year ago, but urged the company to reapply with a new route, and said it needed more environmental study.
Baird brushed off concerns fierce opposition in the U.S. to the pipeline would derail the project, especially with the revised route.
"There was substantial concerns about an aquifer in Nebraska. The proponent has worked well with regulators, with state officials in Nebraska and I think we're going to be able to overcome that obstacle," he said.
On the bridge, Baird said it's received strong support from both the Obama administration and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
"We've come a long way on some of the challenges with this bridge," he said.
In November, Michigan voters refused to allow referendums that would have decided the fate of the project, despite sustained efforts to kill the project by the billionaire-owner of the Ambassador Bridge - currently North America's busiest trade border crossing.
"I'm certainly feeling optimistic, more optimistic now than I have in a long time on that project," Baird said.
Baird also said he looks forward to establishing a "constructive relationship" with his new U.S. counterpart, Sen. John Kerry, who replaces outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The confirmation hearing is expected Thursday.
Still, he's disappointed Clinton is stepping down.
"We had a great relationship, she's been very helpful on a lot of bilateral, multi-lateral issues."
On Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Obama on his swearing in.
"The success of the Canada-U.S. relationship is unrivalled, and I wish President Obama and his administration well as they embark on their second term in office," he said in a statement.