Former PM Brian Mulroney speaks at the 25th anniversary of NAFTA at the ROM in Toronto, Oct. 3, 2012. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - The Keystone XL Pipeline will likely be approved, but a timeline depends on who wins the upcoming U.S. presidential election, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters before giving the keynote address at the St. FX National Dinner at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary, Mulroney said both Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are likely to OK the project that will see Alberta oilsands bitumen sent south of the border for processing.
The difference, he said, is one will do it faster than the other.
"I think if Romney is elected, it's approved right away," he said "And if Obama is returned, it will be approved in the fullness of time.
"This is no-brainer — it has to be approved and I think it will be."
Asked who he thinks will win the election, Mulroney — ever the sage politician — simply smiled and offered an ambiguous reply.
"If I knew that, I wouldn't be standing here and neither would you," he said with a laugh. "We'd be down in New York celebrating our brilliance.”
On the issue of foreign investment in the Canadian oil and gas sector, which is centred in Alberta, Mulroney said it is badly needed.
"Canada and Western Canada cannot function without foreign investment," he said.
"The oil and gas industry requires massive foreign investment to develop the oilsands and other major projects, so obviously I am very much in favour of foreign investment because it also gives the opportunity to Canadians to invest elsewhere around the world, which Canadians do in huge degrees and vast sums, so you need that freedom of movement."
With major decisions pertaining to foreign investment pending — the biggest being Chinese state-controlled CNOOC's multi-billion dollar bid to buy Calgary-based Nexen — Mulroney said he expects the current Conservative government will introduce new legislation before any announcements are made.
"The government has two things going on as I understand it," he said.
"First, the government is following the net benefit rules of Investment Canada to see if this meets their criteria and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the government appears to be looking for a little running room so as to bring in a new piece of legislation that would cover the new circumstances that have developed in the last 25 years in respect to foreign investment.
"Given those realities, the government is proceeding with deliberate speed and with care and concern and I'm sure we'll have answers to these matters in the near future."
Mulroney, former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, was Canada's prime minister between 1984 and 1993.