Election results good for Ukrainian community

But expose a giant rift that threatens national unity.

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

On October 21 the ruling Liberals saw their parliamentary majority reduced to a minority, winning 157 seats to the Conservatives 121, despite losing the popular vote to the opposition by a margin of over 1.3 percent. This was due to the fact that the Conservatives racked up huge margins of victory in Alberta and Saskatchewan (up to 85% of the vote in some ridings with five-way races), while the Liberals were able to squeak through with thin margins in a number of other constituencies across the country.

In analyzing the most recent election results we have to examine them from two aspects – first what it means to our community itself, second, what it means for Canada as a whole.

As far as our community is concerned, little has changed – which is good news. All four parties which were included in the Ukrainian Canadian Congress questionnaire on issues related to our community, responded positively, Conservatives taking the strongest positions. Even the Greens, whose leader has yet to clarify the comments made during the Unifier debate in 2017, supported most of the points raised by the UCC.

As far as individual representatives are concerned, our number one representative both in Parliament and in the Government, Chrystia Freeland, coasted to an easy victory in her University-Rosedale riding. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, she has steadfastly stood up for Ukraine in its struggle to become a functional democracy and survive the Russian military onslaught. What’s more, as someone who has earned a reputation as the most competent minister in the Liberal Cabinet, Freeland is untainted by scandal, and has no blackface skeletons in her closet, is poised to become a future leader. In our opinion, had she been the Liberal leader in this election, her party would not only have won a majority, but quite likely a landslide.

As far as other Toronto Liberals are concerned, Yvan Baker can be expected to pick up the mantle from retiring Borys Wrzesnewskyj and continue the pro-active representation Borys was known for. Julie Dzerowicz not only won her Davenport seat, but increased her margin of victory. Terry Duguid was re-elected in Winnipeg South, as was a good friend of the Ukrainian community, Kevin Lamoureux in Winnipeg North. The one casualty was MaryAnn Mihychuk in Kildonan—St. Paul.

As for the Conservatives, James Bezan, who has become the leading spokesman on Ukrainian issues for that party, was re-elected with a landslide in Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, as were several other Ukrainian-origin Conservatives – Tom Lukiwski in Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, David Yurdiga in Fort McMurray- Cold Lake, and Kelly McCauley In Edmonton West. Another possible Ukrainian-origin MP is Gerald Soroka in Yellowhead. We have asked his office to confirm his ethnic origins. Several friends of our community were returned including, Kerry Diotte in Edmonton Griesbach, Ziad Aboultaif in Edmonton Manning, Michael Cooper in St. Alberta-Edmonton and Garnett Genuis in Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

As for the New Democrats, Heather McPherson, who replaces retiring MP Linda Duncan, can be expected to continue nurturing the close ties her predecessor established with our community during her 11-year tenure.

As for Canada as a whole, the biggest challenge from this election will be to heal the massive rift between East and West that surfaced in the results. The Liberals failed to elect a single member in either Alberta or Saskatchewan. Even veteran minister Ralph Goodale, who has represented Regina Wascana since 1993, lost his seat. In terms of the popular vote, Justin Trudeau got even less in those two provinces than his father did in 1980.

There are many reasons for this Western alienation, but the principal one is economic – namely the need for pipelines to carry domestic oil to overseas markets and the perceived inequity of equalization payments.

While the Liberal government has pledged to complete the Trans Mountain Pipeline, it has yet to move on that project. What’s more, while the Trans Mountain pipeline will help bring more Canadian oil to foreign markets, this is only an expansion of an existing route to the Pacific Ocean. What really is needed is a pipeline right to Atlantic Canada, but the obstacle that stands in the way is Quebec, which refuses to let the Energy East Pipeline pass through its territory on the supposed grounds that “there’s no social acceptability for an additional oil pipeline” and that Alberta oil sands produce “dirty” oil. But this argument doesn’t hold water. Since the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline from Sarnia to Montreal in 2015, Quebec has increased its share of Canadian oil from eight percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2017. Another 37 percent comes from the United States, while that coming from Algeria has gone down from 41 to 11 percent. So, 44 percent of Quebec’s supply is “dirty” Alberta oil, while the 37% that comes from the United States is produced through a process known as hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short), which is much more harmful to the environment than oil sands extraction. In 2018 almost half the oil refined in New Brunswick came from Saudi Arabia. That province would gladly replace that with Canadian oil, if it had access to it. Furthermore, transportation by pipeline is much safer than transportation by rail as has been proven by the Lac Megantic disaster in Quebec and the Plaster Rock derailment in New Brunswick. In addition, the Energy East pipeline would provide a boost to Atlantic Canada’s economy and relief for the Western provinces. Quebec, which receives close to $13 billion annually in equalization payments, mainly from Alberta, should be much more considerate regarding the economic crisis facing that province.

It is within the federal government’s jurisdiction to step in and compel Quebec to allow the Energy East Pipeline to go through, just as it did with British Columbia and the Trans Mountain Pipeline. However there appears to be a lack of political will to take such action. That is unfortunate because while pandering to Quebec may be more politically expedient, failure to provide access to the Transatlantic market for Canadian oil will only deepen the alienation that already exists in Western Canada and pose an even greater threat to Canadian unity.