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Liberal MP decries ‘political games’ over criticism of Conservatives on Ukraine

OTTAWA — One of the Liberals’ point people on foreign policy says framing the Tories as soft on Ukraine isn’t helping the country fend off Russia’s invasion.

Toronto MP Rob Oliphant is parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, a job that has him travel on her behalf to events at home and abroad.

Oliphant told a House of Commons committee Wednesday that he has no doubt the Conservatives support Ukraine, and “political games” do nothing to help that country.

His comments come months into Liberals’ lambasting of Conservatives for their position on a bill to implement an updated Canada-Ukraine free trade deal, which became law this week.

The Tories said they disagree with language in the deal that says both countries will promote carbon pricing and repeatedly claimed it would impose a carbon tax on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the updated agreement and his country already has a carbon price. 

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress also criticized the Tories for the position, and Liberals launched attack ads about the vote in Prairie ridings with large Ukrainian diaspora held by Conservative MPs.

Despite his party accusing the Conservatives of “turning their backs on Ukraine,” Oliphant said he doesn’t believe that’s true.

“I believe Canadians’ commitment (to Ukraine) is unwavering — and despite the political games we play, I believe the Opposition’s commitment is unwavering,” he said.

“I may get in trouble for saying that, but I really believe that. And we only get ahead if we do that, and don’t play games with this.”

Analysts have repeatedly said that Moscow is seeking to drive wedges between and within Western countries over their level of support for Ukraine.

Asked about his comments, Oliphant clarified that he feels the Tories are still part of the problem. 

“While the Conservatives play politics with free trade and carbon pricing, they likely support Ukraine in its war with Russia,” he said in a text message.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada told MPs that she believes sanctions are having a real impact on Russia, but she raised concerns about Canadian military equipment still finding its way into Moscow’s hands.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2024.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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