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Saudis punished Canada by halting shipments in ports, denying visas: memo

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OTTAWA — The fallout from Saudi Arabia’s move to punish Canadian companies was felt within a month of the countries’ sudden diplomatic feud last summer, leading to visa rejections, a government ban on food from Canada and a blockage of shipments at the kingdom’s ports.

A newly released federal document provides a close look at Saudi Arabia’s retaliation against Canada, following criticism by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Twitter of the regime’s arrest of women’s rights activists.

Angered by the public condemnation, Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties with Canada last August, expelled the Canadian ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Ottawa.

The kingdom also stopped future trade and investment deals, cancelled grain imports and said it would shut down lucrative scholarships for its citizens to study in Canada. The Saudi central bank and state pension funds started selling their Canadian holdings.

A briefing note to International Trade Minister Jim Carr offers more detail on how events were unfolding on the ground about a month after the start of the dispute.

“It is important to note that over the last few days Global Affairs Canada has been learning of concrete actions taken by Saudi Arabia against Canadian companies across various sectors,” reads the memo, released this week to The Canadian Press under access-to-information law.

The document went on to list numerous measures, including:

— Requests for existing contracts to be replaced by new contracts with non-Canadian suppliers.

— Denial of access to military bases.

— Payment delays.

— Re-routing of flights for product supplies.

— Prevention of a Canadian company from importing and selling medication.

— Government ministries issuing orders to ban food and medication from Canada.

— Various shipments from Canada being completely stopped at Saudi ports.

The note was created last September for Carr in preparation for his meeting with members of the Canada Arab Business Council, who have interests in the kingdom.

The additional details of the dispute with Saudi Arabia emerge as Canada tries to manage other, bigger trade-related challenges with its two largest partners, the United States and China.

Saudi Arabia has previously been a key partner for Canada in the Middle East and, according to a separate internal briefing note, the countries had more than $4 billion worth of trade in 2017. That year, Saudi Arabia had $1.28 billion worth of direct investment in Canada, said the memo prepared for Finance Minister Bill Morneau after the crisis broke out.

Scott Jolliffe, the president of the Canada Arab Business Council, said in an interview that Saudi investment in Canada ground to a halt last August. He also said Canadian firms have been restricted from bidding on new projects in the kingdom.

On the other hand, he said things have mostly carried on as usual for those of his members who already had business in the country. Jolliffe also said he hadn’t heard of any visa refusals.

He said he would like to see the impasse resolved because Saudi Arabia and the region offer billions of dollars’ worth of potential business for Canadian companies — and possible alternatives to the U.S. There’s a deep need there, he added, for the expertise Canada offers in areas like infrastructure, telecommunications and engineering.

“At the moment, it doesn’t appear as if there is much going on to strengthen and rebuild the relationship,” said Jolliffe, who’s had meetings with Carr about the issue.

The feud has had an impact on agriculture. Feed-barley producers, for instance, have been shut out of the Saudi market.

“Any country we lose, even if it’s temporary, hurts us,” said Dave Bishop, a farmer and chair of Alberta Barley.

He said Canada had been shipping about 122,000 tonnes of feed barley to Saudi Arabia every year — amounts that can sometimes reach 10 per cent of all Canadian exports of the product.

This year, the industry has been lucky that feed barley is in short supply worldwide and extra demand from markets like China has helped make up for being shut out of Saudi Arabia, Bishop added.

The memo to Carr last September said Freeland and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, in an effort to resolve the conflict, “have been discussing ideas to de-escalate … including an incremental approach which could include a series of steps.”

Asked about the status of Saudi-Canadian relations now, Carr’s office provided a statement that said he’s still disappointed with the kingdom’s response to Canada’s human-rights concerns.

A few weeks after Carr received the memo, the kingdom’s relationship with Canada came under further strain — as did its relations with many countries — as details emerged about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Freeland, said Thursday that Saudi Arabia’s explanations for the killing have been inadequate and that Canada has called for a thorough, credible and independent international investigation.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Agriculture

City Council urged to get back to the table to vote on future of Westerner Park

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Letter submitted by Lyn Radford (Chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games)

Lack of Council Leadership or Election Posturing?

In this unprecedented time of the pandemic, of polarized political views I have tried to stay out of commenting on decisions our political leaders have to make. We all know there is not usually a clear-cut answer. But this delay situation by City Council regarding the Westerner clearly baffles me.

First, I want to send out a thank you to both the Westerner and City Administration for their hard work and excellent reports and options for this very unfortunate situation. Second, I want to thank the Westerner Board for not running from a situation but rather staying to try to sort out a mess. As a volunteer myself, I know this has not been an easy situation for you and your families. I also want to acknowledge Councillors Wyntjes and Dawe for wanting to move this forward, whatever their decision would have been.

The City’s Vision Statement and Strategic Goals clearly lays out a pathway to help guide Council to make a positive, community benefiting decisions. “Innovative Thinking, Inspired Results, Vibrant Community” are their key words.

Strategic Goal #4 “A chosen destination: We are a four-season destination where visitors and residents enjoy our parks, trails and distinctive amenities, all within our “city in a park”. Centrally located in the province, we attract events that generate investment and enhance our community identity.

My question is how by delaying a decision does City Council justify following their Vision Statement and Strategic Goals.

I add these queries and statements:

  • You have had more than year to gather information, make enquiries, have closed council information sessions, spoke to community members, and should have delved into this. You received the report far in advance of the special session and should have come ready for a decision without delay. Why did this not happen?
  • The City has been locked and instep with the Westerner in the last year. The Westerner has fulfilled all requests and have been measured through two (very expensive) audits by Deloitte.
  • There is over $3.5 million generously donated by a private family, held in trust for the Westerner Foundation, that could be doubled with a potential matching grant that will be dispersed upon a sustainable decision for Westerner Park, if a deal has been reached by May 15th. And our community will most likely lose this because of this delay. Sad.
  • If CIBC closes on the loan for default (community this is very, very real), there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars spent putting this into receivership, of which our community will have no gain or say. And further, we will not have an event center capable of hosting the economic driver our community so sorely needs right now, as we know what the vacant downtown and business parks are looking like today.
  • How much staff time has been spent already? Spend more money delaying a decision, no matter what the cost?
  • Twice, not just once, in your session, councillors questioned the capabilities of the Westerners CEO. Did you not have time in the closed sessions to request a character assessment? Do councillors feel this was the right, very public forum for this? Rather than being able to say you did your due diligence in a professional and respective manner?
  • Through the whole poor decision making by the Westerner Board that brought this terrible situation forward, there were three members of today’s council that actively sat on the Westerner Board. Maybe some ownership needs to happen here and a review of the responsibility process for Councillors to be revisited, giving a level of responsibility to council. If you want to sit at the table, then accept all the responsibility as every other board member has had to do.
  • Further, the initial loan that started this process way back in 2017 and subsequent refinancing all had to be signed through a tri-party agreement by the City of Red Deer, fully knowing that this result could happen. Why is there any hesitation here?
  • The window of borrowing from the province is very small now, missing this will create more costs.
  • The Westerner annually, has been contributing a $150 million/year economic impact to our community. They were one of the largest employer’s, well over 600 employees each year and then add all the employees of the supporting vendors, we can comfortably say that in a year well over a thousand of our community members that pay property taxes are impacted by the Westerner directly.
  • The Westerner has been a volunteer ran organization for 130 years. These volunteers and eventually along with paid staff have contributed so much to our “vibrant community”, building an asset value of over $57 Million dollars. This is a big bump but not a mountain, lets deal with it.
  • No matter who you are or what your interests are, the Westerner has been providing experiences for us for 130 years – concerts, sporting events, rodeo events, fairs, shopping opportunities, cultural experiences, first jobs, first dates, health fairs, Agri trade, a place to first learn to drive, the day you wed, celebrating the season, ringing the New Year……all for our community

In conclusion, what we need right now is Council members to host a special meeting immediately and make a decision one way or another. I sincerely hope the decision will be to support, empower, trust and not control or try to compete with the community run Westerner Board, volunteers, and staff to rebuild a “distinct community amenity”. It can become a strong thriving contributing member of our broken community once again. We are in need of some strong leadership.

Respectfully submitted,

Lyn Radford

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Agriculture

Carbon Tax and Clean Fuel Standard a double blow to Canadian farmers

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This post is submitted by Red Deer Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen

MP DREESHEN TABLES PETITION ON CARBON TAX

AND CLEAN FUEL STANDARD IN HOUSE OF COMMONS

MP Earl Dreeshen tabled a petition in the House of Commons today, on Canada’s Agriculture Day, calling on the Liberal government to exempt all direct and indirect input costs that the Carbon Tax imposes on farmers, while also calling on the government to repeal the Clean Fuel Standard.

“Canadian farmers and ranchers are losing tens-of-thousands of dollars in net income each year because of the Liberal government’s ill-conceived carbon tax and that is simply not sustainable for most of them,” MP Dreeshen said.

‘Our global competitors are not burdened by the huge carbon tax debt. But Canadian farmers and ranchers do not have the ability to add the carbon tax levy to the price of their product. They have to pay this tax as it is levied by their input suppliers. Exempting input costs will put Canadian farmers on an equal footing with their international competitors and allow them to keep producing the world’s best and most nutritious foods.”

The Liberal government announced at the end of last year that the carbon tax will triple to $170 per tonne by 2030 following a commitment made in the last election that the tax would not increase beyond $50 per tonne. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a farm in Alberta with 850 seeded acres of crops can expect the Liberal government’s carbon tax cost it more than $17,000 per year once the tax reaches $50 per tonne in 2022.

The Liberal government is also proceeding with the so-called Clean Fuel Standard, which some studies estimate will represent a total cost to the Canadian economy of $7 to $15 billion and 50,000 lost jobs, including an impact of $389 million to the Agricultural sector. “Nobody needs or wants an extra tax on top of another tax so we need to repeal the CFS before it even gets off the ground,” MP Dreeshen said.

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