OTTAWA — A Conservative government, if elected this fall, would work to fix Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia by trying to build back rapport with the kingdom in areas that it considers of mutual interest.
Erin O’Toole, the Conservative critic for foreign affairs, said in an interview they would try to “win some trust” with Saudi Arabia by focusing on improving commercial ties and by offering more aid, development and refugee support in the Gulf region.
The Conservatives, O’Toole said, would try to re-engage with Riyadh even though it has earned international condemnation over last fall’s killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“Once you have a relationship, you can then work on issues related to human-rights concerns about the actions of Saudi Arabia vis-a-vis the Khashoggi incident, democratic reforms, all these sorts of things,” said O’Toole, adding a Conservative government would seek out common ground in a similar way with China, India and the Philippines.
“If you have zero relationship, we’re basically just yelling into the wind. We’re not having any impact on them.”
O’Toole acknowledged that for some Canadians, re-establishing ties with Saudi Arabia will be a tough sell following Khashoggi’s death.
One year ago Friday, the first of a series of critical tweets about Saudi Arabia’s arrest of women’s rights activists was posted on Canadian government Twitter accounts, including one belonging to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. The messages called for the release of the activists.
Angered by Canada’s public rebuke, Saudi Arabia retaliated within a few days by suspending diplomatic ties with Canada, expelling the Canadian ambassador and recalling its own envoy from Ottawa.
It also said it would halt new trade and investment deals and shut down lucrative scholarships for its citizens to study in Canada. The Saudi central bank and state pension funds started selling their Canadian holdings.
And since last fall, there have been few public signs of rapprochement.
Internal federal documents show that in the weeks after the start of the dispute, Freeland and her Saudi counterpart were “discussing ideas to de-escalate … including an incremental approach which could include a series of steps.” The information was in a September briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
But Khashoggi’s October 2018 death, which drew condemnation from Canada and many others in the international community, presented a new challenge.
Freeland has repeatedly called for an independent international investigation to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice. Canada also imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis linked to the killing, freezing their assets and barring them from entering the country.
Dennis Horak, the former Canadian ambassador who was expelled from Riyadh a year ago, said it would probably be very difficult for a federal government to openly talk about re-building the relationship.
“I don’t think the dust has settled from that sufficiently that it would be easy for the government, politically, to suddenly warm up to the Saudis,” said Horak, who retired from the public service after he was ordered out of the kingdom.
Even with the obstacles, he said Canada should try to repair its strained relationship with Saudi Arabia like other countries have done in the past, including Germany and Sweden.
“It’s not perfect, it’s not a straight line by any stretch of the imagination, but there are positive steps that have been happening over the years and they’re still happening,” Horak said. “If we want this country to change, we need to engage them.”
Some Middle East experts, including Horak, say the dispute could hurt Canada’s chances of landing a coveted United Nations Security Council seat. Ahead of next year’s vote, they say Riyadh could pressure regional allies to ignore Canada on the ballot.
Business and institutions have reported feeling the impacts of the conflict in several areas — from engineering services, to agriculture, to health care.
Andrew Padmos, CEO for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, said thanks to a successful, four-decade-old program, between 20 and 25 per cent of all Saudi physicians in the kingdom had at least some medical training in Canada.
After initially ordering them to return home, Riyadh allowed medical trainees, or residents, already in Canada to complete their work. It has not permitted new students to go to Canada.
Padmos said the program has seen many Saudi families spend up to a decade in Canada, have several Canadian-born children and return to the country with a new perspective.
“We’ll do more in this fashion for human rights in the world by this kind of diplomatic and educational exchange than any number of speeches or tweets would ever do,” he said.
“That’s the sad part of this — is that this one communication, which was handled in an unusual way, triggered a landslide that landed on top of us. And we haven’t dug out of it yet.”
On Wednesday, Rocky Mountain Dealerships Inc., Canada’s largest agriculture equipment dealer, said farmer pessimism over ongoing trade disputes with countries like China, India and Saudi Arabia was part of its decision to abandon its aggressive growth strategy and to trim staff.
Scott Jolliffe, chair of the Canada Arab Business Council, said Canadian businesses and institutions remain on a “blacklist” in the kingdom.
“My sources tell me that from the Saudi perspective, until the Canadian political climate changes, there’s not going to be any progress, which is most unfortunate,” Jolliffe said.
One recent sign that conditions in Saudi Arabia have improved came from Export Development Canada, which acts as a credit agency for firms looking to do business abroad.
A few weeks ago, EDC resumed offering its services on a restricted basis for Canadian companies in Saudi Arabia. It had stopped providing Saudi-related support last September after the dispute began, but re-opened them after initial concerns subsided, EDC spokeswoman Amy Minsky wrote in an email.
Between July 2 and July 27, EDC made 31 separate insurance credit approvals totalling US$7.3 million for existing policyholders that wanted to add Saudi Arabia back into their coverage, Minsky said.
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press
How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand
How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand
Many changes occurred around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Canada, while schools and businesses closed, consumers flocked to the supermarkets to buy essentials.
Perishable goods flew off the shelves, resulting in limits being placed on items like dairy and poultry. The standard distribution system schedule put in place for dairy products could not keep up with buyers’ increased shopping.
While retail demand from grocers skyrocketed, orders from the foodservice industry plummeted. This has resulted in unforeseen fluctuations in the dairy market.
Hotels, restaurants, schools and eateries are closed or operating at limited capacity. As a result, there is now an enormous surplus of milk that has nowhere to go. Farmers are not equipped with storage spaces to accommodate the excess supply. Unlike agriculture products like potatoes, milk has to be sold immediately or risk spoilage.
Cows will continue producing milk, regardless of fluctuations in the market. While farmers have the option to reduce the size of their herd or change diet or nutrition, these things could prove detrimental when the market stabilizes.
The Supply Management System
A supply management system controls production quotas and imports for Canadian dairy, chicken, turkey and eggs. It was established in the1970s to coordinate production and demand while simultaneously controlling imports. By operating under this method, prices are stabilized for both producers and consumers.
A national agency represents each industry, and they are in charge of setting production levels that match provincial demand. Farmers in each province are allocated production quotas that are meant to prevent surpluses or shortages.
The original quotas were based on consumer needs pre-pandemic. As a result of these unforeseen events, farmers must now adjust to the new Canadian dairy demand. Here are four main ways farmers can adapt to the changing times.
- Dump the Milk
Producers say that discarding raw milk is inevitable at this stage. Farmers are reporting that they have been asked to take turns dumping milk. Although they’re paid for it, the waste could amount to as much as 5 million litres every week.
This disposal method is unsustainable and should only be utilized while the market is above capacity. Cows must continue to be milked to keep them comfortable and healthy, and production must continue to ensure product availability in retail stores.
- Donate to Food Banks
Rather than dumping milk, some farmers have begun donating to food banks to support Canadians in need. While this is a positive form of dispersing the milk surplus, it has the potential to overwhelm food banks that may not have the storage capacity to support this influx.
Additionally, the raw milk provided from farmers must be processed, which complicates the standard donation process.
- Improve Operations
Dairy farmers should focus on improving operations to become more efficient and cost-effective. Many producers have begun investing in updated equipment and robotics to save time and money. Competition is set to increase as a result of import growth projected for the next decade. To maintain a market edge, operations should be improved and simplified wherever possible.
- Expand or Retire
In 2019, the Canadian federal government announced an aid package valued at $1.75 billion to compensate supply-managed dairy producers over an eight-year period. The Dairy Direct Payment Program is one part of this aid package and provides $345 million payments as compensation during 2019 and 2020.
The aid package was proposed as a result of import shifts. The Canadian government has opened part of its domestic market to foreign producers as part of several free-trade negotiations. To adapt to increased competition from foreign products, Canadian producers should plan to expand their operations or retire. Larger farms will be able to sustain demand while simultaneously upgrading their methods to be constantly improving.
Smaller producers may not be able to afford the necessary production updates to keep up with competitors.
These are unprecedented circumstances. As schools, businesses and restaurants reopen, dairy demand will increase. With indoor capacity requirements and shifts in consumer trends, consumption levels will undoubtedly continue to fluctuate.
While farmers should take steps to dispose of surplus responsibly, they should not halt production or decrease their operation size.
Read more from Emily Folk
I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation. You can read more of my work by clicking this link: Conservation Folks.
Daryl McIntyre talks Equine health Thursday at 7PM on the “Raised With Care” sessions
“…The more we know about our animals and our responsibilities to them, the better care we can provide. This, in turn, helps produce a better product and a stronger industry…” Alberta Veterinary Medicine Association
The Raised With Care sessions are a series of live-streaming interactive conversations with Alberta livestock owners about stewardship strategies that contribute positively to antimicrobial stewardship and animal welfare.
The sessions will explore four main areas of animal health: Vaccines, Healthy Facilities, Identifying Issues in Animal, and Impact of the relationship with veterinarians, veterinary technologists and the team at veterinary practices.
“We are talking equine health on Thursday with Dr. Greg Evans,” says host Daryl McIntyre. “The focus is on anti-microbial (anti-biotic) stewardship and general horse health.”
Sept 10 | 7PM – Equine
Sept 17 | 7PM– Apiculture
Sept 24 | 7PM– Dairy
Oct 1 | 7PM – Small Ruminant Animals
Oct 8 | 7PM-Poultry
Oct 15 | 7PM– Pork
Oct 22 | 7PM– Backyard Agriculture
Oct 29 | 7PM– Companion Animals
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