There are dumb political hills to die on, and then there’s the one Pierre Poilievre finds himself on right now. Once again, his Conservative Party of Canada voted against an updated free trade deal with Ukraine that has the unyielding support of every other party in Parliament. Why, with a double-digit lead in the polls, would Poilievre choose to put himself on the same side of an issue as Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson and Vladimir Putin?

It’s not like the Liberals sprung this on him by surprise. In November, the first time the renewed trade deal known as Bill C-57 came before the House of Commons, 109 Conservative MPs voted against it. Poilievre and his proxies claimed it was because the deal “imposed” a carbon tax on Ukraine, even though it contained no such language and Ukraine has had a price on carbon since 2011.

They apparently didn’t bother to educate themselves over the ensuing two months, since that was the same lame justification they offered up for their most recent vote against Ukraine — one that involved 116 Conservative MPs this time around.

This vote is perplexing for any number of reasons, not least because the initial free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine was negotiated and signed by Stephen Harper’s government. Harper also led the effort to get Russia expelled from the G8 (now the G7) in 2014 after its first incursion into Ukraine.

Poilievre’s Conservatives are also voting against the clearly stated interests of their own constituents, since virtually all of the ridings with a high concentration of Ukrainian-Canadians are in Western Canada and represented by CPC MPs. With elected representatives like these, who needs enemies?

Unlike Trump and Carlson, I don’t think Poilievre or his senior caucus members enjoy running interference on behalf of Putin’s grotesque war effort. Even so, there’s been an alarming shift within the Conservative movement when it comes to support for Ukraine. As a new Angus Reid Institute poll shows, the proportion of CPC supporters who think we’re giving too much money to Ukraine has shot up from 19 per cent in May 2022 to 43 per cent as of last week. For a party that categorically rejects comparisons to Trump and his MAGA movement, this should be an unsettling data point.

Instead of being a sign of Poilievre’s broader geopolitical preferences, this series of votes against a trade deal with Ukraine offers a window into some of his key weaknesses as a leader. It probably began as a reflexive reaction to the inclusion of a line about supporting carbon pricing that he must have figured he couldn’t let pass. From there, his own worst instincts took over. As The Line’s Jen Gerson surmised, “Now they're just doubling and tripling down on the error because Pierre is pathologically incapable of walking anything back. Better to spin the reasoning of the original mistake and continue on than to cop to it.”

That’s why he keeps trying to pretend his party’s opposition is about the language around carbon pricing, even though Ukrainian officials have repeatedly tried to allay those concerns. “Canadians are against the carbon tax,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m against the carbon tax. Trudeau never should have tried to divide Canadians on Ukraine by forcing the carbon tax into that agreement.”

Again, no carbon tax is being forced into the agreement and Ukraine will have to significantly increase the carbon price it already has if it wants to join the European Union in the near future. But these facts have no purchase on Poilievre’s position here, it seems. “[Poilievre’s] pride is about 80 [per cent] of what's happening here,” Gerson wrote. “He won't take the L — he'll just keep pushing it through and slicing it up until it looks [like] something resembling a W.”

Every time Pierre Poilievre gets a chance to vote against a free trade deal for Ukraine, he takes it. What's behind his continued opposition to Canada's attempt to help Ukrainians, and what does it say about his fitness as a leader?

Is this the sort of behaviour we want in a potential prime minister? Conservatives have long been critical of Justin Trudeau for his willingness to apologize for things, but at least he’s shown the capacity for remorse and self-reflection. Poilievre seems biologically incapable of reversing course on anything, much less acknowledging that he’s made a mistake. That unwillingness to apologize might thrill his more ardent supporters, but it’s not exactly the hallmark of a great leader.

In politics, as in life, it’s OK to make mistakes, even if they’re as dumb as voting against a free trade deal with an ally under attack from a hostile autocracy. What’s not OK is continuing to push ahead with said mistake and trying to pretend it wasn’t one. That’s the stuff of petulant teenagers (and a certain former United States president), not future prime ministers. If Poilievre doesn’t want to be compared to Trump, he needs to stop doing such a convincing imitation of him.

Keep reading

Yes, this rings true with regard to Mr. Poilievre, but perhaps the decline in public support for sending what to most might seem a lot of money - or value in armaments and other aid - to Ukraine reflects the financial stress many Canadians are experiencing.

Fantastic piece Max, Bravo!
Online one can still butt into many of P.P.'s army of uninformed supporters amplifying his bogus "carbon tax" excuse as proof of legitimacy of the CPC vote against Ukraine.
I suspect the poll mentioned also reflects that many of said supporters of P.P. are simply following his lead, and are similarly pulling back their support for funding Ukraine.
Does Canada really need a petulant "divider in chief" nodding and winking to Putin in hopes of potential
election interference?
Given that Mr. Poilievre and his CPC ranks are flaunting their totally unsurprising willingness to oppose a Ukraine / Canada free trade deal, it sure looks like a middle finger to the rest of Canada, Ukraine, NATO, the EU and democracy and a tip of their red baseball cap to Mr. Putin.

It's amazing how uneducated many of PP's followers are in believing his faux "Axe the Tax" nonsense and his excuse for voting against the Ukraine free trade deal. It just seems his conservative followers are nothing but sheep, incapable of fact checking any of the nonsense that comes out of Pierre and his group of misfit MPs. Certainly, many of Pierre's MPs are wack-a-doodles and Trumpers at heart as they have convinced the free-dumber followers that they Truely support them. In reality, the party only cares about grabbing their vote.

I see this as PPs "stop the steal" moment. He just can't quit the lie.

Poilievre is most definitely not, by any definition, a Leader.
He's just a petulant little pissant and living proof that the only good tory is a suppository.

Hahahah, perfect!

This wouldn't be David Adams Richards the writer would it? Smile emoji....

Excellent !

LOL! Two thumbs up. But you know, once upon a time there were some good Tories way back when the Earth was cooling. They've all fled the party now.

Is the extreme novelty of juxtaposing a petulant teenager with the highest office in the country ever going to wear off? I mean "Jackass" is amusing at first but very few of us actually want to join IN on the antics individually, let alone collectively.
Is everything a frigging video game now to placate all the displaced boys crouching in terror at the prospect of their mothers/sisters/nannies encroaching?
Since the lines have been SO deeply drawn now, leaving us with a choice between ADULTS or juveniles, TRUTH or lies, and FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE or denying its very existence, wouldn't our collective clarity and sanity be best served by requiring all media to identify as right or left? Clearly the majority are predisposed toward the simplicity of THIS or THAT anyway when it comes right down to it (and are mentally inclined to flounder or even turn away from the complication of too MANY choices) AND since we ARE now officially "down to it" here, I'd say it's past time to declare affiliation so we can get on with what's needed to survive.
All this waffling is driving us crazy, having to pretend that the jig isn't up, and that most of the elders and/or the wise among us don't all know who's on what side by now anyway.
This very much includes all the media (Globe and Mail, your HEADlines give you away) and journalists, often millennials who, in looking for a job and either a generational or an individual niche have seriously overvalued irony/bothsidesism/false equivalency.
The plain truth is THE thing, always has been, so let's start separating the wheat from the chaff.

Poilievre is being an idiot. And, any reasons he might have for not supporting Ukraine much are quite certainly horrible.

That said, on the separate topic of sending money and military aid to Ukraine . . . it's pointless. All it will do is get many, many more Ukrainians killed and quite a few more Russians killed. Russia is going to win this war no matter what we do, and it isn't even hampering their economy, which has been growing fairly robustly. If we want to help Ukraine, what we should do is push for negotiations and end the war. We won't be happy with the results of the negotiations, because Russia will insist on a Ukraine that is neutral and definitely not going to be part of NATO and will take a chunk of territory. But if we wait until they break the Ukrainian armed forces completely (which is, sigh, probably what we're going to do), they will just dictate the terms and a couple hundred thousand more Ukrainians will die.

The problem is, people tend to think the war is still close because territory has not been shifting fast. But this is largely a war of attrition. Half the reason Russia is pushing forward at all is just to force Ukrainian forces to identify their positions by shooting at the attackers, and move reinforcements towards threatened positions, so they can bombard them. The bottom line is, most of the casualties are caused by standoff weapons: artillery, bombs, missiles, and drones. Russia has some, and increasing, superiority in drones. It has lopsided superiority in missiles and artillery; when you watch channels showing day-to-day action you realize Ukraine has been using less and less artillery, because whenever they use it, Russian counterbattery fire or drones eliminate it. And it has a monopoly on bombs dropped from planes, which it has been using more and more freely as Ukrainian anti-air capabilities are degraded--at the beginning, there was hardly any bombing, but now there's lots. Overall, Russians have overwhelming superiority in standoff weapons, so they cause far, far more casualties and destroy far more enemy materiel. So even though territorial movement is very slow, it is very far from a stalemate. Ukraine will run out of army even if it never gives up another inch of territory before that happens. When Ukraine is no longer capable of effectively defending the whole front, things will speed up rather suddenly. But the map doesn't change fast, so people tend to think things are going not too bad. It's not the case. The faster the West faces up to the real situation and negotiates, the less bad it will be for Ukraine.

I do watch the daily updates and long term analyses and see that Ukraine is NOT losing. Both sides are stalemated, which says a lot because Ukraine is the smaller nation.

Russia has lost nearly 400,000 soldiers, great numbers of which were poorly trained and equipped and sent forward in "meat waves.". Ukraine's casualties are roughly half that figure. Russia fires way more shells with not much accuracy. Ukraine uses precision to great effect. Russia bombs civilians in cities willy nilly. Ukraine precision targets logistics, command centres and economic targets, even ones deep inside Russia. Half of Russia's military has been obliterated over that last two years. Ukraine has taken massive hits but stands strong with superior Western precision weapons and intelligence. Ukraine is motivated to fight for their lives. Russia is fighting for dreams of territory and the vain fantasies of empire.

The West has and will continue to help Ukraine economically. The US House is about to lose its slim GOP majority in the coming weeks and the majority of House Republicans (i.e. non-MAGA) support Ukrainian military aid at least to the end of this year. Despite the noise around Trump, the quiet data behind his campaign indicates his support among even MAGA heads has eroded by double digits, and that's even before more than a handful of his 91 criminal charges have been brought to trial. The EU support for Ukraine is ramping up with France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and other of the wealthiest EU countries pitching in a lot more than before. NATO leadership has also committed to increasing military aid for Ukraine despite the wavering USA.

Ukraine is getting a lot more air power support very soon, including very potent long range missiles. That is Russia's key weakness. And way more top politicos all over the world are saying that Russia cannot be allowed to threaten Europe, and have softened their self-centred talk about trading Ukrainian land for peace. Give an inch, Putin will eventually take 500 miles.

As for any notion of Russia developing more precision weapons, Russia has depended on Western parts for decades, which are now largely cut off through sanctions. Some chips and optics are making it through via third parties, but they are subject to sanctions too once the West wises up. Iran and North Korea are little players in this light, but China is potentially a bigger player. All of them risk access to the Western economy they so depend on if they keep it up.

Likewise the Russian oil and gas industry, which was literally built by the West, including Canadian companies. The refineries being damaged by Ukrainian-built long range drones cannot be rebuilt easily or quickly without Western technology, and if China steps in they risk economic sanctions they cannot afford due their high indebtedness.

Moreover, the EU, Russia's biggest market for fossil fuels is moving headlong into renewables and energy independence, something Putin certainly did not foresee. Russia's economy and workforce have been severely damaged by the war, and even if it wanted to, it couldn't pay for a much wider war.

As for the nuclear threat, Putin and his minions have tried nuclear blackmail probably 200 times in the last two years. It knows it cannot ever follow through with ceasing to exist, and that could well be before NATO ever uses a single one of its own.

"...without ceasing to exist."

It IS true that in the longer term, Russia's economy is going to have problems due to the shift to renewables. Much like Canada's, which relies on fossil fuels to a similar extent. But that isn't going to happen during this war. As to whatever Russia needs to import, first, the sanctions have in some ways been good for Russia's economy precisely by pushing it towards import substitution, and second, pretty much everything it can't start producing itself, it can get from China. Western economic indispensability is largely over; some American oligarchs decided they could make more profit having China make the stuff than paying a North American workforce, and the Chinese turned out not to be dupes, and here we are.

This is rah rah nonsense. It's just extremely factually incorrect, and relies on a weird mythology of Russia somehow being intensely incompetent because reasons. The idea that because someone is your enemy they must necessarily have all possible negative qualities, including being radically incompetent, is stupid and pernicious and leads people to self-defeating actions. So for instance, Russian artillery has been effective for decades and what they have now after years of modernization programs is definitely modern and effective, and I've seen lots of video of it hitting stuff. Claiming it doesn't do anything is ridiculous.

There are two places on the entire front where Russia has ever done anything remotely close to "meat wave" attacks--Bakhmut, where they spent a lot of Wagner force, many of them recruited from prisons, but not a lot of actual official military, and Vuhledar, where the general in charge was sacked. In Vuhledar, they did indeed spend a bunch of lives and armoured vehicles for nothing--which is why they sacked the general. Even in Bakhmut, however, casualties favoured the Russians, mainly because they established a situation where Bakhmut had Russian forces on three sides of it, with fire control over the roads the Ukrainians needed to use to resupply and reinforce Bakhmut itself. They were roads of death; Ukraine would have saved a ton of lives and materiel if they'd decided to pull back earlier from an untenable position.

So no, Russia has not lost twice as many soldiers as Ukraine. In terms of competence, the two forces seem fairly well matched. But weight of metal tells, pretending otherwise is a fairy tale. In addition, because Ukraine is in a worse strategic position, they have been forced into actions that cost a lot of troops because their available options are lousy--like the failed summer offensive, which was always at best a very risky gamble, but they felt like they had to do SOMETHING or they'd just keep getting slowly nibbled away (and the West would get disheartened and stop sending weapons). Because of all this, in fact Ukraine has lost about five times as many. That's why Russia is still relying on volunteer recruitment of military age men, while Ukraine is conscripting men of all ages and women, increasingly by grabbing them off the street.

"...rah rah nonsense...weird mythology of Russia...stupid and pernicious..."

Wow. I thought you were better than that.

I'm not at all sure what your sources are, but they are certainly questionable. You forgot Avdiivka, which has been the hot spot on the front for the past six weeks, but was won by Russia just today. That town is a scant few km from Donetsk, the largest city in Donbas. Two years of war and 10,000+ Russian soldiers dead in six weeks to gain a few hundred metres from the front line. That is not success; it is a front that is largely stalled.

Ukraine's stated objectives of defending Avdiivka for six weeks of very intensive fighting was: (i) because Putin wanted it won before the Russian "election" next month, but Ukraine decided to pull out to conserve it's personnel and ammunition and not expend them on a town with no strategic value other than to try to puncture Putin's ego; to inflict as many losses on the Russian army as possible before pulling out, and that worked at a cost far less than what Russia paid through - yes - "meat wave" attacks, a tried and true Russian tactic.

If Russian weapons are so "modern" then why has it lost 5 very expensive fighter jets in the last two days, with another three a couple of weeks back in Kherson? Some military estimates have Russian SU 24 and SU 30 jets down to about 15 for the entire nation. How was Ukraine able to hit multiple $100m mobile Doppler air defence radar facilities far behind the front line in the last couple of months, with very few similar losses of their own even without the F16s that haven't been delivered yet? How is it able to destroy so many strategic centres and ammunition depots with precision missiles and guided bombs when Russian missiles are mainly inaccurate, with a few exceptions? Why is the Russian land force now down to the last half of their tank supply with poor quality WWII and 1950s era tanks now on the line? Why are the most expensive million dollar Russian tanks (T90s) being defeated by $500 drones and 30 mm cannon fire? Military analysts document this stuff every day.

The only way Ukraine's total losses can equate with Russia's -- let alone the ludicrous claim it's 500% more -- in this stupid and needless war is if you add civilian losses in Ukraine through Russia's indiscriminate bombing over two years, likely well over 150,000. One estimate about a year back put a figure of 89,000 civilian deaths in Mariupol alone.

It's depressing to write about this stuff, but even more so when critics get it so wrong.

There are between two and three million Canadians with Ukrainian heritage, like me. I see Poilievre's anti Ukraine jabs not in the light of old Eastern European history, but as a Canadian branch plant MAGA-lite trend machine pumping out cheapo MAGA fashion accessories by the thousands.

Poilievre et al are first and foremost kneejerk anti-Trudeau. Trudeau's Ukraine policies make the Conservatives automatically anti-Ukraine. Ditto carbon taxes, climate policy and everything else.

Millions of Ukrainian Canadians will no doubt come to a dead stop if Russia overruns all of their ancestral land and practices yet more mass murder and war crimes on their relatives in Western Ukraine, and not for the first time in history. From there Russia will be poised to infiltrate then attack Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Baltics. At least that is the imperialistic fantasy Putin has been publicly outlining for two years now with some of the most delusion historical revisionism ever spoken in modern times.

Canada is demographically and economically a child of the world. It is a mature (if imperfect) democracy. To let Ukraine be overrun by a totalitarian nation with dreams of empire is letting a substantial number of our own people down. It is letting down the very democratic allies we should be strengthening ties with. Even if the US pulls out of Ukrainian aid (it will thankfully pull though IMO), Russia has been weakened enough so far in this disastrous war to constrain Putin's Czarist expansionism dream for years. Russia has exposed its intentions, and they are most definitely an enemy of democracy and human rights and therein must be driven out of Ukraine by NATO and the economic forces of the world's democracies to protect Europe and democracy itself. Bringing Ukraine into the EU while rebuilding its cities will require a long term commitment that every wealthy democracy can well afford, no matter what ideologues like Poilievre say.

Ukrainian Canadians would no doubt find it personally rewarding to do a little genealogical research into their roots and do some Google Streetviewing around their ancient villages and towns. Mine is Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine, part of the old province of Buchovina where the language was a mix of Ukrainian and Romanian.

I have an ethnographic map of Buchovina that indicates just before WWI Chernivtsi was a muti-ethnic community on a trade route where about 30% of the city was Jewish. Of course, the Nazis took care of that stat once they were through with warmongering there. There is no possible way for Ukraine to be in need of "deNazification" given that history, even if the Wermacht appeared as liberators from Stalin's reign of terror in Ukraine in the 1930s, notably by starving millions of Ukrainians to death in the Holodomor.

Putin's delusions of grandeur do not mesh with history except for one thing: Russia's standard use of ultra-violence to take over smaller countries.

Those who doubt that history or excuse Russia / Putin should face another important historical fact: Kiev is centuries older than Moscow.