WASHINGTON - Canadian pleas for a swift decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project have certainly been heard this week in Washington. There's little evidence so far, however, that they'll sway D.C. decision-making.

There were questions at both the White House and State Department daily briefings Thursday about Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird — a rare distinction for any Canadian politician visiting a capital whose list of priorities is inversely proportional to its attention span.

Baird has attracted U.S. media attention during his three-day visit with repeated demands for a prompt answer on the pipeline — any answer at all. He took it a step further Thursday in a speech near the White House, insisting that even a rejection at this point would be better than further delay.

The Obama administration hardly sounded keen to be rushed.

"This is not a political decision," said Jennifer Psaki, responding to a question about Baird at a State Department briefing Thursday.

"This is a decision that has a legal and a policy process with many components. The stage we're at now, obviously, we're waiting to release the final (State Department) review. When that's released, obviously, there'll be a time period before a decision is made. But this is not a backroom decision made between the United States and the Canadians.

"There is a process that's in place that takes into account many different factors, and we'll let that process see itself through."

She said she couldn't predict when a decision might happen.

Asked why the process was taking so long, Psaki said the government is bound to pore through piles of public input: "We also received more than a million public comments. So there are a number of factors and we're going to see the process work all the way through."

For the second day in a row, Baird said he expected the State Department review to be released soon after the president's state of the union address at the end of the month, with a final decision coming shortly thereafter.

He used a speech just across the street from the White House to convey that sense of urgency, following years of uncertainty and "limbo."

"If there's one message I'm going to be promoting on this trip, it's this: the time for Keystone is now. I'll go further — the time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it's not the right one," he told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"We can't continue in this state of limbo."

While awaiting an answer, TransCanada Corp. has already announced that it is changing the way it tackles new projects, after learning a hard lesson that politics can affect construction schedules and costs.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press last year, CEO Russ Girling said the company won't start buying materials or securing land for pipelines until it knows for sure it has regulatory approval in hand. TransCanada (TSX:TRP) said it has already sunk $2.5 billion into its controversial $7.6-billion pipeline.

The long-delayed pipeline would move crude from the Alberta oilsands, and from the U.S. Bakken reserves, toward refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Building the final component of the pipeline, in the northern U.S., is projected to take two construction seasons.

Baird said this season shouldn't be wasted — so a decision is necessary soon.

"With the construction season coming up, I don't want a single unemployed worker sitting at home when they could be getting a knock on the door saying, 'We've got a great job for you,'" he told the chamber of commerce.

Baird informed the crowd that Keystone was just one of multiple ways oil would be shipped, with six major Canadian pipeline projects in the works as well as rail shipment — which he noted comes with a greater accident rate.

Environmentalists have challenged the project, prompting the Obama administration to subject it to additional review.

Baird denied suggestions that he's laying the groundwork for a possible rejection of Keystone XL, and instead repeated now-familiar arguments about why Canada believes the project makes economic and environmental sense.

Back home, Baird's opponents, including NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, said they found the mixed messages puzzling.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Washington, he declared, "'I'm not gonna take no for an answer,'" but now Baird is saying, "'I'm ready to take no for an answer, but give me an answer,'" Mulcair said.

"I'll let you figure it out."

Indeed, there were no answers forthcoming Thursday from the White House.

"I think that once the process is moving forward, we'll apprise you of that," said spokesman Jay Carney. "When a decision is made, we'll announce it."

During his trip, Baird has met with numerous lawmakers and with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Baird was coy when asked whether he'd received a briefing on changes to controversial NSA surveillance policies, about to be announced Friday by the president: "We had a good discussion (with Rice) but I'll leave it at that."

His trip wraps up Friday with meetings with his U.S. and Mexican counterparts.

Will he press John Kerry again on the Keystone project? You bet.

"I'll be making a strong case," Baird said, "that this is an important priority for a friend and ally of the United States."

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Syncrude's Mildred Lake Upgrader, part of The Syncrude Project complex for oil sands processing, is pictured Monday, March 8, 2006 in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a lake reclaimed from an old mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada on October 22, 2009.

  • A disused mining machine on display in front of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta on October 22, 2009.

  • The Suncor oilsands operation uses trucks that are 3 stories tall, weigh one million pounds, and cost 7 million dollars each.

  • Oil sits on the surface at a Suncor Energy Inc. oilsands mining operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. Photographer:

  • A large oil refinery along the Athabasca River in Alberta's Oilsands. Fort McMurray, Alberta.

  • Oils mixes with water at a tailings pond at a Suncor Energy Inc. oilsands mining operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.

  • Fort McMurray is in the heart of the world's biggest single oil deposit - the Athabasca Oil Sands, and the oil is extracted by surface mining and refined in the region. The oil production is at the heart of the economy.

  • In this Aug. 5, 2005 file photo, the Syncrude upgrader spreads out towards the horizon at the company's oil sands project in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • This Tuesday, July 10, 2012 aerial photo shows a Nexen oil sands facility near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands tailings pond at a mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands tailings pond at a mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

  • The Syncrude extraction facility in the northern Alberta oil sand fields is reflected in the pool of water being recycled for re-use.

  • A night view of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta Province, Canada on October 22, 2009.

  • Aerial view of a lake and forests in the vicinity of oil sands extraction facilities near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada on October 23, 2009.

  • Workers use heavy machinery in the tailings pond at the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta , Canada on October 25, 2009.

  • Fort McMurray is in the heart of the world's biggest single oil deposit - the Athabasca Oil Sands, and the oil is extracted by surface mining and refined in the region. The oil production is at the heart of the economy.

  • A large oil refinery in Alberta's Oilsands project. Fort McMurray, Alberta.

  • Next: Alberta Oil Spills

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    A bitumen leak was reported at a Canadian Natural Resources oilsands operation in the weapons range part of the RCAF base in June 2013.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Company officials said the leak - at what it calls its Primrose operation - was caused by faulty machinery at one of the wells, affected an area of approximately 13.5 hectares and released as much as 3,200 litres of bitumen each day.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Preliminary tallies put the death toll from the leak at 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians. Dozen were rescued and taken to an Edmonton centre for rehabilitation.

  • CFB Cold Lake

    As of early August 2013, more than 1.1 million litres of bitumen had been pulled from marshlands, bushes and waterways.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Although CNRL could not say when the leak may finally be stopped, it estimates it will likely cost more than $40 million to clean up.

  • <em>Click through for other recent spill in Alberta</em>

  • Plains Midstream

    Little Buffalo band member Melina Laboucan-Massimo scoops up July 13, 2012 what appears to oil from the pond shoreline near the site of a 4.5 million-litre Plains Midstream pipeline leak detected April 29, 2011. Photos taken at the site and released by Greenpeace of Alberta's second-worst pipeline spill suggest at least part of the site remains heavily contaminated despite company suggestions that the cleanup is complete.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boat passes by a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Debris pushes up against a boom as it stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A photographer snaps a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A worker slows traffic while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A no swimming sign along the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the lake near Innisfail, Alta., Friday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Tracks pass through oil on the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir after a pipeline leak near Sundre, Alta., on Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Enbrige's Athabasca pipeline

    Approximately 1,450 barrels of oil spilled from a pumping station along Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline in June 2012. The spill occurred approximately 24 kilometres from Elk Point, Alta., a village located 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill is seen lining the shore of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    White absorbent boom is seen lining the shores of Lake Wabamun, Alberta, as the clean-up effort from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill continues on Monday, August 8, 2005.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues. Lake Wabamun was severely polluted when a train carrying heavy oil derailed on August 3, 2005, spilling much of it's load into the lake.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Rail cars leak bunker fuel oil, meters from summer homes bordering Lake Wabamun, after a freight train derailed, in this August 3, 2005 file photo, near the town of Wabamun, Alta. Canadian National Railway faces an environmental charge stemming from the train derailment and oil spill at a popular Alberta lake last summer.