08/28/2015 01:28 EDT | Updated 08/29/2015 12:59 EDT

Alberta Government Accused Of Trying To Blow Off Oilsands Visit With U.S. Politicians

The Wildrose opposition accused the NDP of blowing off the delegation.


EDMONTON — Alberta's environment minister is refuting opposition allegations that she wouldn't meet with a delegation of U.S. lawmakers who toured the oilsands.

Shannon Phillips says she met with the delegation, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who wants to become the party's presidential candidate in the 2016 U.S. election.

Phillips says it was a productive tour and they all agreed that Canadian energy and the oilsands are part of a strong relationship between the two countries.

The Wildrose opposition accused the NDP of blowing off the delegation.

Phillips says the final details of the meeting weren't confirmed until Wednesday after the U.S. politicians had toured a carbon capture facility in Saskatchewan.

Wildrose member Tany Yao says the NDP didn't agree to meet with the delegation until after he offered to play host on behalf of the Alberta government.

Phillips said the stalled Keystone XL pipeline wasn't part of their discussions during the oilsands tour.

"We really didn't touch on Keystone specifically,'' she said Thursday.

"We talked about market access more generally. And certainly what we heard from the United States is that leadership on climate change forms part of our ability to gain access to markets.''

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann said he is disappointed Phillips didn't use the opportunity to engage the U.S. lawmakers on Keystone.

"I think the government had an obligation to advocate for this important project, and seek to understand any concerns. I'm disappointed this opportunity was lost,'' Swann said in a release.

Off the three members of the U.S. delegation, Senator Graham and Republican Congressman Tom Rice are on record as supporting Keystone.

Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse opposes the project.

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