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Trudeau, Poilievre trade jabs over Ukraine support as House passes revamped trade deal


A bill to implement the modernized Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement passed the House of Commons on Tuesday despite the Conservatives voting against it, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accuse Pierre Poilievre of "abandoning" Ukraine.

Trudeau and Poilievre exchanged accusations that the other is not doing enough to support Ukraine, as the legislation to implement the two-country trade pact revamp came up for its final Commons vote.

Bill C-57, as it's titled, passed by a vote of 214 to 116, with support from Liberal, Bloc Quebecois, New Democrat and Green MPs. The bill is now off to the Senate for a second round of scrutiny.

Noting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked Canadian parliamentarians to pass this deal, Trudeau said during Tuesday's question period that Poilievre was "choosing to not stand with Ukraine, not stand with Ukrainians, and not stand with Ukrainian Canadians."

After the vote, Trudeau called the Conservatives' opposition "inconceivable."

Earlier in the day, when asked in Montreal about his Ukraine positioning before making his way back to the Commons for the vote, Poilievre attacked Trudeau over the recently-revived acrimony over the embarrassing invitation extended to a Nazi veteran during Zelenskyy's to Canada last year. 

"He embarrassed the Ukrainian president," Poilievre said. "Justin Trudeau is a big talker and a little doer when it comes to Ukraine."

In the two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, Canada has provided billions of dollars in military donations, as well as millions more in humanitarian, development and security aid offerings to Ukraine. Though, not all of Canada's offerings have made their way to the war-torn country, such as the delayed air defence system donation. 

"He's made all these announcements of hundreds of millions of dollars of different equipment that he's never actually delivered," said Poilievre.

These reciprocal jabs also came amid a broader conversation around whether Canadians' views are evolving on the war in light of an Angus Reid survey indicating Canadians' attention on the war, is plunging as is support among Conservative voters. 

On Tuesday, a number of federal cabinet ministers expressed how important it is for Canada to continue to support Ukraine.

"What's most important here in my opinion, is to explain to Canadians and to the world, what the reality of the situation in Ukraine is. Yes, the war is happening in Ukraine. However, it is also a war for us," Freeland said in French, speaking to reporters in Ottawa.

"We need to understand what the goal of Vladimir Putin is. Putin wants to change the world… wants to rewrite the rules that we have established in the world," Freeland said. "He wants a world in which it is the strongest countries with the largest armies that are able to control everyone else. This would not be a good world for Canadians."

Treasury Board President Anita Anand said that Tuesday's vote to pass the trade deal revamp is a signal to allied countries that Canada's support remains steadfast. On that point, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly—fresh back from a visit to Ukraine—said Poilievre "let down Ukrainians."

"Poilievre has been talking a lot about, and crying about the importance of freedom, but the reality we know that he's about freedom for some and not for all," Joly said.

The Liberals have been highly critical of Poilievre's rejection of the trade bill and his stated reasoning is being concerned over carbon pricing promotion and the wording within it, despite Ukraine already having a carbon price.

"You've heard their mealy-mouth excuses for not supporting our brothers and sisters in Ukraine in their fight against a Russian aggressor," Immigration Minister Marc Miller said. "Our government's support will not wane."

Trudeau and his MPs have repeatedly made the case in public and through direct targeted ads in ridings with sizable Ukrainian diasporas that the Conservatives have turned their backs on the war-torn country.

Angus Reid's latest data indicates that "on average" Canadians see the Conservatives voting against the trade deal revamp as a "net negative" for the country's international reputation and for trust in a potential future Conservative government to stand up for allied countries in the future.

Poilievre vowed Tuesday that a federal Conservative government would do more for Ukraine, including by giving Ukrainians missiles that Canada planned to dispose of, and by changing environmental laws to promote natural gas exports to Europe to "break European dependence" on "evil dictator" Vladimir Putin's Russian energy supply.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) expressed disappointment that the vote on the bill was not unanimous.

"The UCC will continue to work to ensure the courageous Ukraine people receive the support they need and deserve," said UCC President Alexandra Chyczij. "We call upon all Canadians and all political parties to do the same."




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