The Canadian government is working to establish a new consumer base for crude oil in light of U.S. opposition to a planned oil pipeline, a scholar said.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in China recently on a trade visit that followed a decision from Washington to deny a permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Harper's government has since put more political weight behind the Northern Gateway pipeline, a project planned by pipeline company Enbridge that would feed Asian markets.
George Hoberg, a forestry professor at the University of British Columbia, told the Los Angeles Times the momentum behind Northern Gateway is to be expected.
"The Harper government's view is that, especially in the Obama years, the U.S. is becoming a less reliable partner for the oil sands," he was quoted as saying.
But Todd Paglia, executive director of advocacy group ForestEthics, said Harper's relationship with the oil industry suggests the government is changing for the worse.
"Canada is not what it used to be," he was quoted as saying. "It's hard to believe but it's tilting toward becoming more of an authoritarian petro state, positioning itself as a resource colony for China."
Canada is one of the top oil exporters to the United States.