Justin Trudeau is blaming the MAGA movement and Republican ideology for eroding support for Ukraine.
The Canadian prime minister used a press conference with visiting European leaders to connect a gambit by his Conservative rivals in Ottawa to hard-right rhetoric in the United States and Europe, which he said is “starting to parrot Russian disinformation and misinformation and propaganda.”
Canada is home to 1.4 million Ukrainian Canadians and boasts the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora after Russia. Until now, politicians of all stripes have been united behind Ukraine.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his party turned heads in Parliament earlier this week when they voted as a bloc against legislation that would update the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement. The bill passed anyway with the aid of Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs for study at the committee level.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the new deal when he met with Trudeau in Ottawa this fall. Ukraine asked Canada to fast-track the modernized legislation to help lure investments to rebuild the war-torn country.
In a surprise move, Conservatives voted against legislation that would enact those changes. The party claimed that the new trade deal with Ukraine would impose Canada’s controversial carbon tax which Poilievre has vowed to kill.
No such wording actually exists in the document. In fact, the Eastern European country has had its own carbon mechanism since 2011.
Ukrainian officials were taken aback by the sudden politicization of a trade deal first championed by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Trudeau called the Conservatives opposition to the deal “frankly absurd.”
During Friday’s press briefing he called out what he described as a bigger trend behind the Conservatives’ twist — using the moment to tie his political foes to Trumpian influences.
“The real story is the rise of a right-wing American, MAGA influence thinking that has made Canadian Conservatives, who used to be among the strongest defenders of Ukraine … turn their backs on something Ukraine needs in its hour of need,” Trudeau told reporters in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Support for Ukraine has evolved into a crisis in Washington, with calls from congressional members to pump the brakes on U.S. aid to the country. The position, most evident among a hardline group of Republicans, reflects former President Donald Trump’s “America First” ethos on foreign policy and hostility to foreign aid.
Trudeau was hosting European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the Atlantic harbor city for a two-day leaders’ summit at which a new EU-Canada green alliance was formally announced.
Von der Leyen also confirmed that the European Union will formally join Canada’s global carbon pricing challenge to get all countries on board with emissions trading or a tax to lower emissions.
The rising cost of living has made the Trudeau government’s climate policies — especially its carbon tax — a lightning rod for partisan derision. A wave of growing support for Poilievre has been partly fueled by Conservative calls to “axe the tax.”
While Poilievre has stumped around the country, railing on the tax, he does not acknowledge the federal government rebates that Canadians receive to offset the carbon tax, which was designed to incentivize a dip in fossil fuel use and the adoption of greener energy alternatives.
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