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CBC | 6 February 2024
House of Commons passes new Ukraine free trade deal over Conservative opposition
by Darren Major
The House of Commons passed an updated free trade agreement with Ukraine on Tuesday over the objections of Conservative MPs, who have attacked the bill for containing a reference to "carbon pricing."
The legislation passed with support from the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP. It will now go to the Senate for review.
The trade deal has become a political flashpoint in recent months after Conservatives accused the Liberal government of forcing "carbon pricing" provisions into the bill.
The Liberals in turn have accused the Conservatives of abandoning Ukraine. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a shot at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
"He is choosing to not stand with Ukraine, not stand with Ukrainians, and not stand with Ukrainian Canadians," Trudeau said during question period.
Poilievre, whose party has maintained a large polling lead over Trudeau’s Liberals for months, has said his party still supports Ukraine and that his only objection is to the carbon pricing provision.
Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer told reporters before Tuesday’s vote that his party can’t support the bill as long as it contains references to carbon pricing.
"In order for this trade deal to be implemented, Ukraine must agree to promote a carbon tax. That is not something we can support," he said.
The trade agreement imposes no such obligation on the Ukrainian government to introduce a carbon tax. It does include a provision saying the two countries will cooperate to "promote carbon pricing and measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks."
Ukraine has had a carbon tax in place since 2011 and is actively seeking membership in the European Union, which has had an emissions trading system since 2005.
But Scheer suggested that the wording would prevent Ukraine from repealing their carbon tax in the future.
"Should Ukrainians ever decide to make a different choice, it would be in violation of a trade deal," he said.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) welcomed the bill’s passage but lamented the lack of unanimous support in the House of Commons.
"We thank members of Parliament who supported this important piece of legislation. We are disappointed that the vote in favour of the bill was not unanimous," UCC president Alexandra Chyczij said in a media statement.
Zenon Potoczny, president of the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics he also was disappointed the vote wasn’t unanimous.
"At a time when there’s a horrendous war — people dying, children being kidnapped and taken to Russia — I think it’s time to stop the politics," Potoczny told host David Cochrane.
The vote came on the same day a poll was released that suggests support for Ukraine is waning among a growing number of Canadians — particularly Conservative voters.
The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, says a quarter of Canadians believe Canada is offering "too much support" to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, up from 13 per cent who said the same thing in May 2022.
The percentage of Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party in the last election, and who now say Canada is doing too much to assist Ukraine, has more than doubled — from 19 per cent in May 2022 to 43 per cent now.
The percentage of voters who think Canada is doing too much for Ukraine jumped from 5 to 10 per cent among 2021 Liberal supporters, and from 5 to 12 per cent among 2021 NDP supporters.