I’m sure everyone knows that I am, as John Ivison described Erin O’Toole, pretty much a rock-ribbed Conservative and have been since the 1960s, I really, really want the Conservative Party of Canada to unseat Justin Trudeau’s Liberals next year. I want Andrew Scheer to lead an adult team in parliament and set Canada on a new, better path but I’m a bit worried by an article by Robert Fife and Steven Chase in the Globe and Mail which says that “Federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says the Official Opposition is firmly opposed to any move by the Liberal government to cancel exports of Canadian light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.” That’s arrant nonsense. Who the hell is advising him? Of course the deal should be cancelled, for a whole hockey sock full of good reasons, but the new armoured vehicles should be built and purchased by the Government of Canada for the Canadian Army. The Canadian Army can use hundreds of new LAVs a lot more than it can use Minister Sajjan’s 35 year old Australian cast-off F-18s.
The report goes on to say that “Mr. Scheer told The Globe and Mail he believes Canada could far more effectively signal its disapproval of Riyadh’s murder of a dissident Saudi journalist and its ruinous war in Yemen by blocking all imports of crude oil from the kingdom.” That’s just plain silly; Canada should not be in the boycott business not of Israel and not of Saudi Arabia, either. What the Conservatives should be proposing is what Canada needs: a pipeline to bring Canadian oil to refineries in Eastern and Atlantic Canada so that all Canadians can put Canadian gas in their tanks and burn Canadian natural gas in their furnaces rater then relying upon oil imported from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
Messers Chase and Fife write that “Mr. Scheer said scrapping the armoured-vehicle deal would exert no influence over the conduct of the Saudi regime, one of the world’s biggest buyers of military hardware,” and that is, very probably, correct, but cancelling the deal would put us on the right side of history; leaders do the right thing, Mr Scheer. The Conservative leader adds that ““Cancelling the sale would have an impact on Canadian workers,” Mr. Scheer said in an interview. “To me, that is not the optimal way to send a message to Saudi Arabia.”” Of course we don’t want to cost Canadian workers their jobs ~ that’s why he should rethink his position and say that the armoured vehicles will be built, but they will be used to reequip our own, Canadian Army. Robert Fife and Stephen Chase explain that “The Saudi deal was brokered by the former Conservative government. The Tories when in power celebrated the sale as a coup, calling it the largest advanced manufacturing export deal Canada had signed. It has been valued at as much as $15-billion over 14 years, directly supports about 1,850 jobs in London, Ont., and thousands more indirectly … [and] … General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, the Canadian arm of a U.S. defence contractor which is assembling the combat vehicles in London for Saudi Arabia, went on a public-relations offensive this week, releasing a statement warning that cancelling the deal would incur billions of dollars of penalties for the Canadian government.“
I don’t know who is advising Mr Scheer but his position is utter nonsense and he needs to change it radically and very, very soon.
He is on the right side of policy and logic however when he says “that, if he wins next year’s federal election, he would revive efforts to build the Energy East pipeline to carry oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick and for export to foreign markets.” That’s the right thing to say and to do.
The report says that “The Conservative Leader is not the only Canadian voice calling for replacing Saudi imports with more Canadian oil. So far this year, Canada has imported nearly 115,000 barrels of oil a day from Saudi Arabia into New Brunswick – or about 5.7 per cent of the Canadian oil supply … [for example] … Former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay, now president and chief executive of the Canada West Foundation, says that the commercial and political relationship between Canada and Saudi Arabia is not just about armoured vehicles. Canada pays the Saudis a significant amount for this oil … “We send on average about $4.3-billion each year to Saudi Arabia,” Ms. Hall Findlay said. “That is more than three times greater than the annualized value of the armoured-vehicles contract.”” That’s the right approach to the oil half of the issue.
Steven Chase and Robert Fife also say that “New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, along with some other premiers, is also pushing the proposed pipeline even though Quebec remains opposed and original proponent TransCanada Corp. says the $15.7-billion project is defunct … [but] … Mr. Scheer said he is convinced the project can be viable and is willing to campaign on the issue even in Quebec, where the Energy East proposal is unpopular.” Perhaps one way to make pipelines more attractive to some Canadians is to ‘tax’ imported oil using the same greenish standards the Trudeau regimes advocates for Alberta oil: putting a cost to the imported, Arab, oil’s upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe when Quebecers have to pay extra for their Arab oil they will want Canadian oil instead.
C’mon Mr Scheer … give your head a shake! Stop spouting nonsense! Offer something concrete that serves Canada! New armoured vehicles for our army means good jobs for Canadian workers, and pipelines to bring clean, ethical Canadian oil to all Canadians is in the national interest. Change course, Mr Scheer: promise to cancel the sale of the LAVs to Saudi Arabia and buy them for Canada, instead, and promise that your government will, as a matter of high urgency and in the national interest, build pipelines ~ the plural matters ~ to get Canadian oil to Canadian markets and to the world. Quebec’s leaders will grant a ‘social licence‘ if you tax the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions of imported Saudi oil.
Edited to add:
A colleague has raised an important point. He suggests that while it is true that the Canadian Army needs more, newer and better LAVs it is not clear that it needs or can even productively use all of these LAVs. Neither he nor I know the details of the Saudi Contract nor do we know the exact configurations of the vehicles on order, nor the progress of the project. He suggests, and I agree, that the Canadian Army needs some new, armoured vehicles of the LAV-6 type, which is the type the Saudis ordered and the type that Canada operates, now, but not, necessarily, all of the ones in all the configurations the Saudis ordered. But, my basic notion stands: the only ethically sound position is to cancel this contract; as many vehicles as possible should be taken into Canadian service, the remainders should be purchased by Canada and sold to friendly nations. These are weapons system; we must expect them to be used to harm and kill people ~ that’s how we use them ~ as well as to protect the lives of the soldiers who use them.