Bit of a tiff among our team in Ottawa, I hear. House leader John Baird insists the Conservative did right by not knuckling under to the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East country that kicked us out of its military airbase known to Canadians as Camp Mirage. Defence Minister Peter MacKay, apparently disagrees, saying that the failed negotiations have set back relations with the U.A.E.
Reportedly, MacKay had been wearing a red baseball cap with the words “Fly Emirates” on it when he was overhead outside the Centre Block on Parliament Hill complaining to two other Tories that the U.A.E. decision was a bad idea and that it would set back relations by a decade.
The Canadian military lost its privileges at Camp Mirage this fall because Canada wouldn’t grant the Gulf sheikdom its request for more aircraft landing rights in Canada, especially Toronto. Apparently, the U.A.E. was seeking more flights, and Emirates Airlines wanted to establish a North American hub in Toronto for its Airbus A380s.
Ministers Baird and MacKay disagreed on Canada’s hard line—Baird, though, seems to have convinced Prime Minister Stephen Harper to resist the Emirates’ request, which would see Canada’s long-haul aviation market being flooded, as the U.A.E.’s airlines apparently have done in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
The government’s decision will cost millions, especially since we have extended the Afghanistan mission beyond 2011—the military will have to use bases in Cyprus and Germany.
Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc said the government has bungled the file and relations with a critical ally are now strained. Critical ally? Hardly that. And what sort of an ally knee-caps our military effort over what is a commercial trade dispute? Better no ally than one who treats us with bully-boy tactics.
In October, The United Arab Emirates closed its airspace to a plane carrying top Canadian government and military officials, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, who were on their way from a visit to Afghanistan and were bound for Europe. A diplomatic slap in the face by this federation of tin-pot dictators.
Readers might remember that right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.A.E. was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers, and that two of the 9/11 hijackers who crashed United Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center were U.A.E. citizens.
The U.A.E. is claimed by some to be a constitutional monarchy. It should be noted, however, that all of the seven members of its federation are absolute monarchies. All of which likely explains the Emirates’ temper tantrum—they’re used to getting their own way and this is how they proverbially stamp their little feet.
But I digress.
Rumours persist that Peter MacKay might be getting frozen out at cabinet and might be seeking a soft landing in the private sector. He’s a smart lad, but after he reneged on his backroom deal/“gentleman’s agreement” with David Orchard at the 2003 PC convention, I could never fully trust him. First MacKay promises to review of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, something clearly not in the country’s best interests, then he goes back on his promise once he got the leadership of the party.
Oh, well, what family doesn’t have a dust-up from time to time, eh?