Liberals and Conservatives clash over future of Canada-Ukraine trade deal

Conservative MPs on Thursday attempted to amend the text of the deal, which they say commits both countries to ‘promote carbon pricing’

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OTTAWA – Liberals were working overtime on Thursday trying to portray Conservatives as being against Ukraine after they voted against a free trade deal that they claim would promote the carbon tax, while Conservatives attempted to find a path to amend the text of the deal.

On Thursday morning, Conservative MPs Kyle Seeback and Shannon Stubbs announced in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, that they would be putting forward a motion to the House of Commons to expand the scope of the review of the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement to allow for increased munitions exports to Ukraine to help the country fight its war against Russia.

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“We’re not going to take no for an answer. Conservatives support Ukraine. We’re bringing the fight today to the House of Commons and we’re going to see if the Liberals actually do support Ukraine,” said Seeback, who was wearing a blue suit and a yellow tie, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, while Stubbs, wearing a tradition Ukrainian blouse, was nodding along.

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That motion was later introduced in the House by Conservative MP Garnett Genuis but was rejected with a resounding “no” from the Liberal benches.

“The Conservatives just demonstrated just how dumb they can be. They tried to move a unanimous motion to, in essence, kill the free trade agreement completely,” said Kevin Lamoureux, parliamentary secretary to the leader of the government in the House.

House Speaker Carol Hughes reminded Lamoureux that he should not be using “derogatory words that show a lack of respect” and he was asked to apologize to the Conservatives.

“I’d like to apologize for calling them Dum Dums,” said Lamoureux.

Bruce Christie, assistant deputy minister for trade negotiations at Global Affairs Canada, has previously said that the text of the free trade deal has been finalized and it would be “too late” to amend the agreement. “But down the road, further to implementation, we could look at improving any aspect of the agreement,” he told a parliamentary committee meeting on Nov. 7.

Conservatives voted on Tuesday against the second reading of C-57, a bill to implement a new free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine, because it commits both countries to “promote carbon pricing and measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks.”

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused the Liberals of wanting to impose their “carbon tax ideology” on a country at war. Liberals shot back by saying Ukraine has had a carbon tax in place since 2011, which it needs in order to one day join the European Union. When reporters asked him about this, Poilievre said there is “no reason to promote a carbon tax for Ukrainians or for Canadians.”

Ukraine’s embassy in Canada put out a statement saying that the trade deal does not contain a carbon tax, arguing it “does not include any specific instruments on decreasing carbon footprint, including specific taxation instruments.”

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The Conservatives’ vote against the Canada-Ukraine trade deal comes as the Trudeau government is seeking a lifeline after sinking in the polls for months and struggling to pinpoint an issue on which to attack Poilievre’s surging popularity.

On Thursday, government House leader Karina Gould held a press conference to say that Poilievre was “too risky to be a leader in the country.”

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She accused Conservatives of following the steps of Republican politicians south of the border, many of which have turned against Ukraine and are now opposing providing more aid to Kyiv.

“This is something that we’re seeing from across the United States from right-wing Conservative politicians. I didn’t believe that we would necessarily see that here, in Canada,” said Gould.

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault later said during question period that the Conservatives are “not worth the risk.”

“They made a brutal, political calculation that they would have more support from their far-right base here in Canada, in Russia and their friends in the United States, than if they would abandon Ukrainians. Cold, calculated, cruel,” he said.

“Behold, Mr. Speaker, the new Conservative Party and their MPs … what a disgrace.”

Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer doubled-down on his party’s stance.

“What is disgraceful is and cruel is using Ukraine’s vulnerability while Russian tanks are on its soil to shove a carbon tax permanently down their throats. Don’t be fooled by their outrage, they are desperate to talk about anything except for their terrible budget,” he said.

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