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Ukraine could be an election issue in MB. Analysis

On Tuesday, Canada signed a historic free-trade agreement with Ukraine. It’s the 43rd free-trade agreement for Canada, but it could be one of the most important agreements politically for this government translating into support come election time.

Canadians head to the polls in October, and according to a recent Probe Research poll, while the NDP is making gains across the country, Manitobans “are not riding the orange wave.” Only 23 per cent of decided Manitoba voters said they would cast their ballot for the NDP while the Conservatives and the Liberals would get 43 per cent and 29 per cent respectively. All federal parties are looking for more support, including support in ethnic communities.

There are more than 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian decent, almost identical to the number who have left their homes in Ukraine to escape the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. Russian violation of the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine is not only a regional issue, it’s a geopolitical issue that needs to be resolved as soon as possible to prevent more deaths and suffering.

All Canadians should be asking federal candidates who come to their door about their parties’ stand on Ukraine.

According to a media report, there are six ridings in the country where Canada’s response to the current situation in Ukraine could make a difference in the federal election, including the Elmwood-Transcona riding in Manitoba. Almost 21 per cent of the riding is identified as being of Ukrainian descent. Conservative MP Lawrence Toet has been a strong supporter of the government’s policies on Ukraine — from hosting meetings in the riding to observing the election in Ukraine in person. The prime minister and his Conservative colleagues have been on the forefront of supporting Ukraine — from providing vital non-lethal aid to sanctioning those responsible for human right violations in both Ukraine and Russia. Canada’s support for Ukraine at the G7 table has been loud and clear.

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal MP for Toronto Centre, has been the leading voice for the Grits on Ukraine nationally. The Liberal party, including Manitoba’s Kevin Lamoureux, supported many initiatives of the government’s actions on Ukraine and called for additional measures earlier this year.

These measures included expanding Canada’s travel ban to include Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close business friends and exploring the feasibility of cutting off certain Russian banks from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network. Yet, leader Justin Trudeau tends to avoid talking about Ukraine after a number of gaffes, including his remark the Russians were in a “bad mood” over Ukraine after “losing in hockey” at the Sochi Olympics, for which he quickly apologized.

The federal NDP initially supported the government’s efforts on Ukraine; however, recently NDP defence critic Jack Harris said he’s worried about Canada sending 200 military trainers to Ukraine, because this move could lead to potential “aggression” and “escalation” of the conflict.

The NDP candidate in Toronto Centre, journalist Linda McQuaig, doesn’t hide her dislike for the government’s policies on Ukraine. In a 2014 webstory, McQuaig states: “with his sabre-rattling over Ukraine, Harper has joined American neocons in comparing Vladimir Putin to Hitler — even as the West props up a government in Kyiv tainted by neo-Nazis.” She echoes the same narrative used by Russian propagandists against a democratically elected president and the parliament of Ukraine.

Canadian voters are facing a number of important domestic and foreign policy issues to consider in this election campaign; the topic of Canada’s support for Ukraine should also be raised when a candidate knocks on the door.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2015 A13

About The Author

Denys Volkov has a master’s degree in public administration and served as director of communications of the Canadian election observation mission to Ukraine in 2014.

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