Trudeau criticizes Conservatives on Canada-Ukraine trade deal in front of European leaders

Conservatives said they could not support the text of the deal because it commits both countries to ‘promote carbon pricing’

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Conservatives of using a “frankly absurd excuse” to vote against the updated Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, and said that “all Canadians should be concerned” about the Opposition turning its back to Ukraine.

Conservatives have dismissed any suggestions that they do not support Ukraine’s fight against Russia or that they do not support free trade, after they voted against C-57, a bill that would implement a revised trade deal between Canada and Ukraine, earlier this week.

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They argued that they could not support the text of the deal because it commits both countries to “promote carbon pricing,” and said that a future Conservative government would amend the trade deal to remove any reference to a policy that they staunchly oppose.

“Ukraine does not need this woke agenda,” said Conservative MP Kevin Waugh on Friday.

Trudeau, who spent part of the week at the Canada-European Union Summit, offered his analysis of the situation Friday during a joint press conference with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council.

“Canada has been one of those countries that has been the most steadfast with Ukraine,” said Trudeau, who said he has boasted to European leaders in the past that Canada’s support for Ukraine had not been a point of contention in the political debate — until now.

He said it was “particularly troubling” to see right-wing politicians in the United States and in parts of Europe starting to pull their support for Ukraine and to “parrot Russian disinformation,” and said that “the danger of the rise of the right-wing influence” was being felt in Canada.

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“That, suddenly, the Conservative Party of Canada would choose to not stand with Ukraine in something that they need, that Ukraine has asked for, and to use the frankly absurd excuse that it’s because Ukraine will be bringing in a price on pollution in the coming years … obviously, that’s an excuse but it’s not the real story,” he said.

“The real story is the rise of a right-wing, American MAGA influence thinking that has made Canadian Conservatives, who used to be among the strongest defenders of Ukraine — I’ll admit it — turn their backs on something Ukraine needs in its hour of need,” he added.

He concluded by saying that he was personally surprised by the Conservatives’ decision to vote against the trade deal, and insisted that Ukrainian Canadians and all Canadians should be concerned about the party’s new position.

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The European leaders standing next to Trudeau chose to remain diplomatic in their comments when asked about Canada’s Conservatives voting against the trade deal.

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“From the European perspective, we are determined to support Ukraine and not use arguments that could resemble excuses to take a step back in our support to Ukraine,” said Michel in French, who made it clear in his preamble he did not want to comment on internal politics.

Von der Leyen noted that the European Union had partially opened their market for Ukrainian goods, and said it made it possible to have a “more seamless, cross-border exchange of goods” on each side while at the same time generating income for Ukraine.

The joint statement from the Canada-European Union Summit reads that both parties will “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes” and “work to address Ukraines immediately military and defence needs.”

Trudeau announced that Canada is donating 11,000 assault rifles and machine-guns, as well as nine million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine sourced from a manufacturer in Ontario.

The joint statement also claims that carbon pricing is “one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to spur related investment and innovation in the interest of the people’s health and well-being.”

Ukraine has had a carbon tax in place since 2011, which it needs to one day join the European Union.

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