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China is trusting the pandemic will divert the free world’s attention away from efforts to expand its influence in Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
The Trudeau Liberals – along with their willing accomplices in the NDP and Green Party – gave Beijing a helping hand in the House of Commons this week.
The Conservatives brought forward a motion to allow the special committee on Canada-China relations to examine events in Hong Kong, where Beijing has introduced a national security law that has the potential to trample on rights and freedoms that have been protected under the “one country, two systems” formula.
However, the Liberals, NDP and Greens voted against the motion – a result that will have been cheered by the Chinese.
It’s a decision that makes no sense, unless you are a government that didn’t want the committee in the first place and doesn’t relish its irresolute China policy being scrutinized.
Where better to discuss Canada’s response to the momentous events taking place in China than at the committee set up late last year to do exactly that?
Garnett Genuis, the young Edmonton area Conservative MP, offered a fiery little speech that deserved a larger audience than the one offered by the near empty chamber.
He talked about how people in Hong Kong love freedom “with an electrifying and inspiring passion”.
The measures proposed by Beijing would sweep away even the pretence of democracy that currently exists, he said.
“The Canadian government thus far has lacked the strength and moral clarity that is needed. Our foreign affairs minister chose to take a wait-and-see approach, while the prime minister simply called for a de-escalation of tensions and genuine dialogue. It is disgraceful that we have such a mealy-mouthed response from the government on a clear cut moral issues… One wonders if after reading about the American civil rights movement, the prime minister reflected that what was really needed was just a de-escalation of tensions,” he said.
Kevin Lamoureux, the Liberal MP who is as ubiquitous in the House as blackflies in his native Winnipeg, questioned why Genuis wanted to bring up Hong Kong when the House was busy extending its current suspension for another four months, in favour of the special committee on COVID that has been meeting three times a week.
“We are fighting an epidemic,” Lamoureux said.
Genuis could barely contain himself. “That is a bizarre and disgraceful intervention,” he said. “His insinuation is that we should not be talking about what is happening in Hong Kong right now… I think Canadians want our Parliament to be active and engaged with all the issues, including the attempt by authoritarian powers all over the world to use and abuse the coronavirus as an excuse to abuse fundamental human rights.”
The race should go to the swift and the argument to the eloquent but it doesn’t work like that when back-room deals have been struck.
The Liberals want to close down Parliament, in favour of the special committee, which by definition confines itself to scrutinizing the response to COVID. The NDP is backing the Liberal plan, in exchange for the government’s pledge to work with the provinces on a new program for guaranteed sick leave.
That is a bizarre and disgraceful intervention
Thus, when the motion on the Canada-China committee went to a vote, 24 Liberals, four New Democrat MPs and one Green member voted it down.
NDP officials said the Conservatives brought forward an amendment without consulting anyone and the party remains open to calling back the committee in the future. But they had their chance and they blew it. Good luck to them next election when they look to get any credit for the concessions they’ve wrung from the Liberals.
Jagmeet Singh’s predecessor, David Lewis, played a similar game with the current prime minister’s father between 1972 and 1974. In the event, Lewis got the blame for the bad things the Trudeau government did and none of the credit for the good things. He lost half of his caucus at the next election.
Quashing the Canada-China committee means Parliament will not debate events as they unfold in Hong Kong.
Xi Jinping must love it when a plan comes together.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020