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Liberals say Canada-Ukraine trade deal best for democracy, NATO ahead of vote

OTTAWA — Federal Liberals say a vote today on a bill modernizing Canada’s free trade agreement with Ukraine will test MPs’ commitment to helping the war-torn country nearly two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion began.

President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand says the objective is also to show other western democracies and NATO allies that Canadians collectively support Ukraine. 

But Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, who just returned from a trip to Ukraine, said this morning that she knows Conservatives will let down Ukrainians by voting against the bill. 

Conservatives have so far opposed the bill in Parliament, saying that’s because the updated deal says both countries will promote carbon pricing, though Ukraine already has a carbon price in place.

Liberals have spent months accusing the Tories of turning their backs on Ukraine and trying to pressure Conservative MPs in Prairie ridings with large Ukrainian diaspora communities to stray from the party line.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says if he wins power, he would provide more weapons to Ukraine and send Canadian natural gas to Europe to decrease reliance on Russian energy. 

Today’s vote comes as new polling from the Angus Reid Institute shows support for Canadian assistance to Ukraine is waning, especially among Conservative voters.

The pollster says among respondents who voted for the Tories in the last federal election, the proportion who say Canada is doing too much to help Ukraine has nearly doubled since May 2022, from 19 to 43 per cent. 

The online survey of 1,617 Canadians was conducted at the end of January. Online polls can’t be assigned a margin of error because they are not considered truly random samples. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2024. 

The Canadian Press

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