Canada is ready to bargain in its efforts to dissuade the United States from opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, says Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale.
"The Canadian point of view is that there are alternatives," he told a Canadian Energy Research Institute conference. "We can point to the potential of the Alberta oil sands, the East Coast offshore and the High Arctic."
Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Jean Chretien told Bush that Alberta's oil sands, with reserves exceeding those in Saudi Arabia, offered secure affordable supplies, easing U.S. dependence on the often tumultuous Middle East.
He urged Bush to explore the opportunities presented by the oil sands, which are seeking C$34 billion in investment over the next 20 years.
Canada has argued that opening up ANWR could threaten the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou herd which migrates into the Yukon and Northwest Territories where it is a food source for aboriginal communities.
"This issue is sensitive to Canada," Goodale said. "While the land involved is on the American side, we have consistently made it clear that we have reservations."
Goodale said he will discuss President George W. Bush's campaign to allow exploration of ANWR when he meets U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in Washington, D.C., next week. He will then travel to Mexico.
He said Canada and the United States signed a non-binding agreement in 1986 to protect ANWR's caribou herd as it moves across the Canada-U.S. border.
"The Americans will consult with us, but at the end of the day the decision will be made in the U.S.," he said.
However, Goodale indicated Canada may have some added leverage because of Bush's call for a continental energy policy with Canada and Mexico.
He said Canada is willing to discuss the policy, but wants to know more about what Bush has in mind.