Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today in UAE dispute escalation

This one just keeps escalating. In fact, there is a report suggesting that we're into "diplomatic rebuke" territory now according to the Gulf News:
Relations between the UAE and Canada are strained to the point where a strong diplomatic rebuke has been issued to Ottawa earlier this week, Gulf News has learnt [sic].
See further the Sun Media report on it today pointing out that the rebuke is a response to Harper's "give me a break" comment on the UAE/Canada landing rights/Camp Mirage ongoing dispute. Foreign Affairs is presently declining to comment on the news of the diplomatic development but perhaps we might get some talking points answers about it when Lawrence Cannon has that press conference on Thursday.

We should not be side-tracked into the Conservative talking point game on this issue. At its core, this is not about who gets to say what overseas, questions of loyalty, etc. All Canadians want this dispute resolved in the best interests of Canada. What is in the best interests of Canada is something that we are all entitled to have viewpoints on, however, and we're free to express them as we like. Otherwise, we end up in some kind of forced and absurd political lockstep...
...which would have us all become cheerleaders for Canada’s abject failure on climate change or losing the UN Security Council seat.
The Conservative cabinet itself has chafed against Harper's heavy-handed choice on this file which saw the loss of the Camp Mirage base. There is more than enough disparate opinion out there and it is the job of a Prime Minister, a good one anyway, to forge consensus where there are such obvious holes in the government's position and such major pockets of objection to a major policy decision. This Prime Minister seems incapable of taking the high road when in a corner though.

Speaking of holes in one's position, Harper and Baird have apparently been undercut by Air Canada, whose interests they have been defending during this dispute above all other considerations. Haroon Siddiqui is reporting that Air Canada had a prior and much more liberal approach to the Emirates air line situation.
But I have a 2006 document in which Air Canada proposed a partnership with Emirates. It called for a coordinated schedule between Canada and Dubai, starting with a daily Dubai-Toronto flight and expanding to other cities. It asked Emirates to operate its own aircraft on the routes. It even suggested flight times to maximize connections with Air Canada.
But Air Canada demanded 50 per cent of the profits, having made minimal investment and taken little or no risk.
Emirates declined. It continued patiently negotiating with Ottawa to upgrade its thrice-weekly Toronto flights to daily, and also fly to Calgary and Vancouver. Etihad also wanted daily flights to Toronto.
Doesn't that just knock a major leg out of the Harper government's approach to the entire issue. If expanded schedules were good enough then, why not now? This reinforces the sideshow nature of the commercial landing rights in any event. As Siddiqui puts it, regarding Air Canada's role in all this:
Indeed, it is being protected at the cost of the far greater national trade and geopolitical interests.
Yes. And Harper still has to show what it is exactly that he proposes in those regards.