FIRST READING: Will Canada save Ukraine if the Russians invade?
For weeks, Europe has been fearing that any morning could be the one that sees Russian tanks roll into Ukraine. For eight years, Ukraine’s Donbas region has been the scene of fighting between the Kyiv government and Russian-backed separatist forces. But recently, Russia has escalated tensions by stationing more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and is reducing its Ukrainian embassy to a skeleton crew. Also, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeps issuing strange tweets about how Ukraine and Russia are “fraternal nations” whose destinies have been “intertwined for centuries.”Article content
Right now, Ukraine is the closest thing that Canada’s military has to a conflict deployment. Since 2015, Canada has maintained a permanent military presence in the country, with a standing contingent of roughly 200 military trainers. Ottawa has also sent more than $700 million in aid to Kyiv, including shipments of non-lethal military equipment. Since 2017, Ukraine has been approved to buy lethal arms from Canadian manufacturers.
And on Monday, Global News reported that this was being stepped up with the deployment of an additional contingent of Canadian special forces. The unit was part of “an attempt by NATO allies to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine,” sources told the broadcaster.
However, Canada may not be readying itself to hold the line against Russia so much as it is doing the exact opposite. Thus far, the new deployment has all the hallmarks of a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation; the military’s name for an emergency operation to hustle Canadian nationals away from “threatening circumstances in a foreign nation.” When Canada evacuated its Kabul embassy last summer, for instance, diplomats were shuttled to a safe haven by a 17-member Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations team.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly remains in Kyiv for meetings with European and U.S. allies. “The amassing of Russian troops and equipment in and around Ukraine jeopardizes security in the entire region,” she said in a Sunday statement. “These aggressive actions must be deterred. Canada will work with its international partners to uphold the rules-based international order and preserve the human rights and dignity of Ukrainians.”
IN OTHER NEWS
An Alberta cabinet minister has been sent to the backbenches after allegedly using his position to dispute a traffic ticket . Last March, Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu received a $300 distracted driving ticket for using his cell phone in a school zone. He then rang up Edmonton’s Chief of Police, Dale McFee, to discuss the infraction. Madu has said he wasn’t trying to get the ticket thrown out; in a statement to Postmedia he said he just wanted to make sure that he wasn’t being “unlawfully surveilled” or otherwise targeted because he is black. On Monday, however, Premier Jason Kenney said the incident carried the whiff of “interference in the administration of justice” and asked for Madu’s resignation.
( Regarding the unlawful surveillance part, however, it was only a few years ago that an Alberta police force was found to be doing just that towards an MLA serving in the cabinet of MLA Premier Rachel Notley. In 2017, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips was having a meeting in a Lethbridge diner when a Lethbridge Police officer photographed her and performed an unauthorized check on the license plates of her lunch colleagues.)
Columnist Warren Kinsella recently noticed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been making himself scarce in the first weeks of 2022. Thus far, Trudeau’s public appearances have consisted of just two COVID-19 updates where he didn’t say much. The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, has been unusually stingy with the press releases and official statements. Kinsella suspects this is all intentional: With more than half of Canadians now openly hating his leadership, the Liberals may have strategically decided to keep Trudeau out of the sun for a while.
Speaking of unpopular prime ministers, the National Post’s Kelly McParland took an envious look at the U.K., where a scandal-plagued Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces the prospect of being hustled out of office by his own caucus. With Johnson’s personal foibles easily matched by those of Trudeau, McParland writes that Canada may have a systemic inability to ditch bad political leaders. “Canadian political parties have abandoned the notion that MPs are elected to represent their constituents or participate in policy formation, replacing it with the expectation of loyalty to the leader and the party at all costs,” he wrote.
There’s an economic measure known as the “Misery Index”: It effectively lumps together a country’s inflation and unemployment to figure out how many people are simultaneously out of work while watching the cost of living go up. The Fraser Institute crunched the numbers and concluded that Canada is the sixth most miserable among industrialized nations. But don’t worry, because Sweden, Iceland, Italy, Spain, and Greece are more miserable.
When Canadian athletes arrive in China for the Beijing Games, they will be required to upload a My2022 app to their phones that, among other things, will perform COVID-19 contact tracing. When security analysts examined the app, they found that it was rigged to flag politically sensitive words typed into the phone such as “Tiananmen Square” and mentions of the Uyghur genocide. That’s why athletes are being advised to bring “burner phones” stripped of any personal information.
Canada’s insistence on protecting its dairy sector from foreign competition risks plunging the country into another trade dispute. While Canada is generally pro-free trade in every other aspect of its economy since the 1970s the dairy sector is subject to strict import quotas and prohibitive tariffs in order to allow domestic producers to charge higher prices. New Zealand is now taking this up as a violation of Canada’s membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Earlier this month, the U.S. won a trade dispute on similar grounds in regards to Canada’s refusal to import American cheese in defiance of the USMCA.
Get all of these insights and more into your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET by signing up for the First Reading newsletter here.