By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on February 7, 2020.
This month’s ‘From the Hill’ column by MP Rachael Harder
Liberals don’t seem to have a plan to fix fractured relationship
Arguably, the relationship between Canada and China has never been worse. >
The Chinese government has implemented bans on Canadian >products >such as canola, pork >and beef, which have cost the Canadian economy billions, and have had a significant impact on >local farmers. They are faced with significant unpredictability >in the market >and politically motivated >trade barriers >by one of their industries’ largest importers.
The damage caused by the ban on Canadian beef and pork industries has >neared $100 million. In >2018, China accounted for almost 40 per cent of all canola seed, oil >and meal exports worth $2.7 billion. >With very little action from the Canadian government, many of these producers are having to make difficult and costly >decisions as they plan >for the future amidst this market volatility.
The diplomatic dispute escalated when two Canadian citizens, Michael >Kovrig >and Michael >Spavor, were unlawfully detained in what is considered retaliatory action by the Chinese government in response to Canada’s arrest of Meng >Wanzhou, CFO of China’s largest private company and telecom giant, Huawei, in December 2018.
Michael Kovrig was born in Vancouver and is a former Canadian diplomat. Leading up to his arrest, >Kovrig >was working at the Crisis Group >as a Senior Advisor for North East Asia. Although he >has not been charged with any offence, he remains in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer. >The Crisis >Group said they >are >”deeply concerned for his health and well-being in detention.”
Michael >Spavor >was born and raised in Calgary. He went to the University of Calgary and received a degree in International Relations. >In 2010 >Spavor >and Matthew Reichel co-founded the Pyongyang Project, a Canadian >NGO that promotes >peace and dialogue between North Koreans and Westerners, and in 2015 he founded >Paektu >Cultural Exchange.
Both men have been unlawfully detained by the Chinese government for more than a year. They have been denied >access to legal representation and they are prevented from being able to contact their families and loved ones. >
One of the most troubling factors >in all of this is the fact that Prime Minister Trudeau seems to be >without a plan. His feeble attempts >at >negotiating the release of Kovrig and >Spavor and >have proven ineffective. Before handing in his resignation, Trudeau’s hand-picked Ambassador to China, John McCallum, made a number of >embarrassing and inappropriate comments suggesting that Ms. Meng’s arrest was politically motivated. This only added fuel to the fire in an already >heated discussion.
As the Official Opposition, Conservatives are concerned about the prime minister’s indecision and lack of action when it comes to China. Canadians want and deserve better.
After attempting to work collaboratively with Canada’s governing party and being given a cold shoulder, Conservatives decided to take action. In >December, >the Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic, Erin O’Toole, >tabled a motion to “appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada-China relationship including, but not limited to consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations.” We worked >with the other opposition >parties and defeated the Liberals, >who voted against the motion.
To put it mildly, Prime Minister Trudeau’s record on China is terrible. It makes sense that Liberals do not want >us to examine the Canada-China relationship, but we believe >Canadians deserve answers and action. Our economy has taken a serious hit and several of our industries are struggling because China is refusing to >play >fair. >
In the first meeting of the >Special Committee >on Canada-China Relation >the Liberal members spent a tremendous amount of time >delaying the proceedings. >Conservative Deputy Leader Leona >Alleslev >tabled a motion in the >committee asking that the Canadian Ambassador to China appear as the committee’s first witness. This would provide committee members with a >complete and >up-to-date briefing, which seems like a common-sense place to start. >
The Liberals did not agree. When >the Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, MP Rob Oliphant, >was pressed on a media panel about the >necessity >of having the ambassador come early on, he responded by saying “why is it urgent?” >
The fact that two of our citizens are still being unlawfully detained is unacceptable and the retaliatory measures against Canada’s producers are hideous. >This situation demands the immediate and full attention of the Canadian government. My Conservative >colleagues and I >will continue to put pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau to >take action >and defend the rights of Canadians and the well-being of our economy.
Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.