Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another 2010 foreign policy triumph plays out

This is what you get when you have a government that is incapable of negotiating and playing nicely with others, domestically and here, in foreign affairs: "UAE embassy to charge Canadians steep visa fees."
The United Arab Emirates embassy in Ottawa has announced it will be charging Canadians up to $1,000 for visas starting next week – seemingly punitive pricing that exceeds global norms.
No citizen of any other Western country needs a visa to enter the UAE, which announced months ago that Canadians would lose their favoured-guest status amid an ongoing bilateral row over aviation rights. The policy is to take effect Jan. 2, though the precise details have never been officially spelled out.
The new rates are posted on the UAE embassy site. Just boffo stuff, LC.

They're still clinging to the line that this is all perfectly normal, a visa decision taken in 2009 that is just being implemented now. A Foreign Affairs spokeswoman offers it up in the piece and apparently the diplomatic corps in Dubai has been enlisted to chime in, playing down the notion that Canada is being treated differently. The reporting says otherwise though in terms of the scale of the fees, the cost implications for Canadian visitors and the simple fact of Canadians now requiring a visa: "Canada was among 30 countries whose citizens did not require a visa to the UAE." Just do the math.
The new rules will affect 25,000 Canadians living in the UAE as well as the 200 Canadian companies operating in the country.
So...is that 25,000 x $1,000? $25 million at the high end? That's a pricey imposition on Canadians. But we're told that all is perfectly normal. This is the way this government operates, facts are to be spun to offset political damage.

The costs go beyond those visa charges too. Despite all the camouflage of the airline landing rights that the UAE sought and talk of Canada being blackmailed, this dispute was about things more costly than that commercial dispute. That could have been worked out. This was about Canada's foreign policy skills in action and failing when our rent-free use of an essential military base in the UAE since 2001 was at stake:
"It seems to me a diplomatic dispute that we thought we could brush off became much larger than that," Adam Chapnick, a foreign policy expert and deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, told CTV.ca. "It's quite possible we underestimated the extent to which the UAE would react to more hardball diplomatic tactics."

Chapnick calls the loss of Camp Mirage, which was the vital logistical airbase into Afghanistan, an "expensive blow." "It's a cost we probably could have avoided," he said.

The loss of the base would become even more expensive after it was announced in November that Canada would be staying in Afghanistan until 2014, adding three more years to the total bill. Estimates put the cost of closing Camp Mirage at $300 million, provided the mission ended at the 2011 deadline. (CTV link)
Hundreds of millions in new, unnecessary costs to the military and now, 2011 brings us millions in new visa charges, alone among western nations. Rack 'em up, Canada! Life under Stephen Harper, Economist™.