OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to answer China’s ban on Canadian canola shipments by pulling hundreds of millions of dollars Ottawa has committed to Beijing’s multilateral development bank.
Scheer held a news conference Monday to press Trudeau to address the canola feud by cutting off Canada’s funding commitment to China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to which the Liberal government has committed $256 million over five years.
He also demanded Trudeau take several more-immediate steps, including appointing a new ambassador to China, launching a complaint about the canola dispute with the World Trade Organization and increasing financial support for farmers caught in the crossfire of what has become a broader diplomatic spat between the two countries.
Citing unproven concerns about pests, China has rejected Canadian canola-seed shipments in recent months and has suspended the licences of two major Canadian exporters.
“By doing nothing, this policy of appeasement that Justin Trudeau has pursued with the government in China has clearly not worked,” Scheer said in Ottawa.
China’s decision to cut off Canadian canola-seed shipments is widely viewed as an attempt to apply economic pressure on Canada following the December arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the behest of the United States.
In the days following Meng’s arrest, China arrested two Canadian citizens on allegations of engaging in activities that have endangered Chinese national security. Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, are still being held by Chinese authorities in what the Trudeau government has called arbitrary detentions.
Weeks later, Trudeau fired Canada’s former ambassador to China, John McCallum, for going off-script in the government’s efforts to win the release of the two men. Before his posting in Beijing, McCallum was a longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister.
Scheer tried to cast the canola fight as just one example of the Liberals’ failures on the foreign-policy front.
“There’s been no reaction, there have been no consequences to the government of China for detaining our citizens and blocking our exports,” Scheer said.
“I believe that when a country stands up for itself and shows that there are consequences to mistreating our citizens and blocking our exports that that will be when China recognizes that they should not pursue this course of actions.”
The Liberal government has established a working group to address the canola issue and asked to send a delegation of experts to China to examine the complaints and says it has been exploring options to provide financial support to farmers.