I am a big fan of John Baird … I thought he was a fine Ontario PC minister (1995-2005) and an exceptionally able CPC Foreign Affairs Minister from 2011 to 2015 ~ I’m afraid that Chrystia Freeland, who may be the best of the Trudeau ministers, is really second rate compared to Mr Baird.
But, I’m afraid that I must agree with Stephen Maher who writes, in MacLean’s magazine, that Saudi
Clown Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “was so enraged by [a] tweet [from Canada’s Global Affairs Department] that he sent our ambassador home, shut down flights to Canada and ordered thousands of students out of our universities … [and then] … After that, John Baird was quick to speak up—for Saudi Arabia … [and, worse] … Baird, who is pursuing business interests with the repressive kingdom, took to the Saudi airwaves to attack his country for speaking up for the Badawis.“
Mr Maher says “I don’t know how he sleeps at night. When he was foreign minister, he was an outspoken advocate for gay rights. Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries in the world for LGBTQ citizens. Baird closed our embassy in Iran, complaining loudly about that country’s terrible human rights record. Now he is speaking up for a country with a worse human rights record …[and] … Baird was not alone. Former foreign minister Peter MacKay and Colin Robertson, a respected former diplomat, gave interviews suggesting that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was wrong to have tweeted, as if this was some embarrassing gaffe, like using the wrong fork at a diplomatic dinner … [and, further] … Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has said not a single word about any of this. His foreign affairs critic, Erin O’Toole, has been mildly critical, suggesting that the Liberals could have avoided the Saudi temper tantrum if they had worked harder … [and he says] … It has been a study in the way Canada’s conservative foreign policy establishment—with links to the free-spending arms industry—is able to nudge the national conversation away from one question—should we keep selling armoured personnel carriers to the homicidal Saudi maniacs?—to another—were the Liberals really wise to anger our Saudi friends?“
He goes on to pint out that “Several columnists—John Ibbitson and John Ivison—joined the chorus, agreeing that Canada’s intervention on the behalf of the Badawis was regrettably naive … [and, he adds] … The consensus of Canada’s foreign policy establishment seems to be that we should not mess with the House of Saud because, hey guys, there’s a lot of money on the table.“
Much as it pains me, I agree with Mr Mahar up and down the line.
There is, in my opinion, only one correct response to the Saudis: as Shakespeare had Exeter say to the King of France, “Bloody constraint … [followed by] … scorn and defiance, slight regard … [and] … contempt.” We should be glad the Saudis have cut ties and we should take no steps to mend any fences. The House of Saud is a nasty, brutal, corrupt, misogynistic, medieval regime that deserves to rot on the dungheap of history. The correct response is to Crown Prince bin Salman is to bar tankers carrying Saudi oil from entering Canada and to push the Energy East pipeline through to Saint John and Halifax so that Canadian oil can go to markets in Europe and Asia and to hurry the completion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion to Burnaby BC so that Canadian oil can go to Asian markets, easier. We should demand that Saudi Arabia be expelled from the G20 or we should resign from it … no Canadian minister or officials should be forced to sit at the same table with the Saudis. Prime Minister Trudeau is too soft and what Stephen Mahar calls “Canada’s conservative foreign policy establishment,” and which, he says, puts money ahead of principle is even softer.
I’m not suggesting that we go to war with Saudi Arabia … quite frankly they are not worth the effort: think of Bismarck and the Balkans ~ the same things applies to the oil soaked Arabian peninsula. I do not expect that our allies, certainly not Donald J Trump’s America, will support us ~ they will, also, put Saudi money ahead of whatever badly frayed principles they might have … we must all know, by now, that President Trump has no principles that cannot be bought by the highest bidder.
But Canada used to have principles. John Baird enunciated them in 2015 when he asked the Saudis to show clemency to Raif Badawi who “was convicted of criticizing the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious police, and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.” I am not opposed to corporal punishment or long prison sentences … when the punishment fits the crime. Ten years and 1,000 lashes for criticizing the religious police is, of course, madness … and typical of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Caveat lector: I have visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for work, on a few occasions and I was always treated with the greatest courtesy and consideration. I liked many of the Saudis I met, including a couple of minor royals, but I disliked the Kingdom itself. I disliked its governance and it socio-cultural ‘values;’ I still do. Generous hospitality is just putting lipstick on a pig.
So, sadly, I have to agree with Stephen Maher: we, the big, Canadian “we,” which includes John Baird and Erin O’Toole are one the wrong side. It is time for the Conservative Party of Canada to stand up for our liberal values.