What can Ukraine expect from Canada’s federal election?

EDMONTON, Canada — As Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21, the Ukrainian government may be wondering how a potential change in leadership could alter relations with Kyiv’s closest overseas ally.  

Among the numerous parties represented on ballots across the country, there are six with enough legitimacy and reach to take part in nationally televised debates, and only three — the Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic parties — which will almost certainly garner the overwhelming majority of votes. And the real contest comes down to only two: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party and Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party, which have been exchanging leads or tied for almost the entirety of the parliamentary campaign. 

While the candidates are competing on an array of issues ranging from climate change to economic policy, this time foreign policy has played an even more substantial role than usual in how the parties have defined themselves. 

The 2019 campaign is different from previous ones due to an increasingly dangerous international environment and uncertainty over U.S.-Canadian relations. But no matter the election outcome, there is unlikely to be any significant change from Canada’s current political stance vis-a-vis Ukraine, experts believe. 

The ruling Liberals put “democracy, human rights, international law, and environmental protection” at the heart of their foreign policy. In their campaign, they are calling for the establishment of the Canadian Center for Peace, Order, and Good Government, which will lend expertise and assistance to those seeking to build peace and advance justice. 

They also call for a continued increase in Canada’s international development assistance every year until 2030 and want to ratchet up the Magnitsky sanctions regime on foreign human rights offenders. However, the Liberals do not have any specific points geared towards Ukraine. 

The Conservatives’ promises are more detailed. They want to cut 25 percent of all foreign aid spending, strengthen ties with Japan, India, and Israel and deepen their commitment to Canada’s democratic alliances — NATO and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). 

Under the Liberal government, international assistance in 2018 stood at $6.1 billion and accounted for almost 1.8 percent of federal budget spending. And $57 million of that aid went to Ukraine. 

In its campaign, the Conservative Party has promised to refocus aid away from middle-income and higher-income countries, a category which would seem to include Ukraine. However, Scheer says a Conservative government would increase military and other aid to Ukraine.

Other Conservative platform positions include supplying the Ukrainian military with lethal defensive weapons, restoring the practice of sharing RADARSAT-2 imagery with the Ukrainian army and providing additional humanitarian assistance to support internally displaced people. 

Fen Hampson, an international affairs expert and professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, says both candidates “are and have been strongly pro-Ukraine” and will continue to apply sanctions against Russia and provide economic assistance to Kyiv.

In fact, the biggest risk to Canadian support for Ukraine is likely connected not to which party is victorious, but to the absence of a winning party. 

“If we have a minority government as many are now predicting, which is to say neither party wins a majority in parliament and has to work with other parties, this may mean a government that is focused on internal as opposed to international issues,” Hampson said in a written comment to the Kyiv Post. “That could have an impact on the government’s ability to do things proactively, including in foreign policy.”

Other experts interviewed by the Kyiv Post share Hampson’s take. 

Andrew Rasiulis, a former director of military training and co-operation at the Department of National Defence and a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, agrees that the two parties have “pretty much the identical position on the issue of Ukraine.” 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky shifted the world’s focus toward Ukraine by calling for peace in Donbas and opening negotiations with Russia in the so-called Normandy format peace talks. Canada might have a specific role to play in it, Rasiulis argues, but the new Canadian government will be very cautious in this realm. 

“They would not want Canada to be caught outside the game, because if there is a Normandy format summit — possibly in November — Canada has a choice to make,” Rasiulis told the Kyiv Post. “We can either be on the sidelines and won’t talk to the Russians unless they leave Donbas and return Crimea. But on the other hand, if there are negotiations, then Canada could play a role in terms of offering a peacekeeping force. That force hasn’t been discussed yet but I believe it will come up.”

Rasiulis believes that if Ukraine implements the Steinmeier Formula as a potential way to reinvigorate negotiations with Russia over the war, which has killed more than 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine, Canada can offer its peacekeeping force to help secure the Russia-Ukraine border during local elections in Donbas and convince Russia that “this force can be objective.”

Over the past four years of the Trudeau government, Canada’s armed forces have been present in Ukraine as part of Operation Unifier, which runs until 2022. About 200 Canadian troops working in six-month cycles have trained over 13,000 members of Ukrainian security forces to date.

Though Canada is not a major military power, its troops are efficient and well-trained and “have passed on some of their knowledge to those engaged in security issues” and the war in Donbas, argues David R. Marples, a historian and professor at the University of Alberta. 

Liberal Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland — who is of Ukrainian ancestry on her mother’s side — has also been a consistent and outspoken supporter of Ukraine, and is banned from entering the Russian Federation as a result. “It seems clear, therefore, that Ukrainians will not be worse off if Trudeau and the Liberals are granted a second term in office,” Marples said. 

The historian stresses that the Conservative government’s policies might be a bit harder to predict. 

“Though Scheer is unlikely to make any conciliatory moves toward Russia, the bigger question is whether Ukraine is on his horizon at all, insofar (as) his major focus is on China — he has demanded a much stiffer response to the recent actions of the Chinese government, which have included the arrest of three Canadian businessmen,” Marples said. “On the other hand, he has expressed concern about the lack of unity among NATO allies, with an implicit sideswipe at President Donald J. Trump and his nebulous policies and apparent kinship with dictators.”

Moreover, Scheer is close to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was a fervent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“Though the extent of Harper’s influence in a future Conservative government is unclear, he has often appeared alongside Scheer at public events,” Marples told the Kyiv Post. “For Harper, the priority was dealing with Russia — which he often equated with Communism — rather than China. Scheer appears more reticent, even distant from such an ideological stance.”

(c) KyivPost


  1. On paper it looks like the Conservatives could be the best bet for Ukraine, maybe our Canadian friends have more info on this.

  2. Recent polls suggest that Trudeau will lose to the conservatives. The conservative party’s base is in the western part of Canada which is home to many ethnic Ukrainians. I don’t see much of a change in Canada’s policies regarding Ukraine. As for the possibility of a minority government, they don’t usually last.

  3. Interesting fact: Ukrainian Canadians are Canada’s eleventh largest ethnic group; Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population behind Ukraine itself and Russia. Slightly more than 110,000 Ukrainian Canadians reported Ukrainian as their mother tongue, and more than half live in the Prairie Provinces.

    • Big ethnic Ukrainian population in the Toronto area also. Turdo bringing in muslims who have somehow obtained voter registration cards. Also sent to muslims, “How to Vote” pamphlets. Judeo Christian immigrants got nothing. Explains daesh Dustbin Turdo and Lieberloon accomplises moral and ethical prerogatives.
      Big shit in the pipe on this. That shit Soros had his rectal stained fingers in this also! Albertans along with Saskatchewan and Manitoba citizens are pissed!

    • I am sure that they realize that legal weed is probably the biggest reason why Trudeau won the last election.
      They also know that it would be almost impossible to put that genie back in the bottle.

  4. Canadian virtual museum has the real history of the waves of Ukrainians,180.000 in the early 1900s.

    Unlike the Mennonites,
    Icelanders, and Russian
    Doukhobors, the early
    Ukrainian settlers received
    no financial assistance from
    the Canadian government. In

    fact, the government dumped
    trainloads of Ukrainians in
    the prairie wilderness and
    abandoned them to survive as
    best they could. The youngest
    suffered most. In the NWT
    colony, 40 per cent of
    infants under two years of
    age died.


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