And the hits just keep on coming!
In the past couple days, Canada has been embarrassed on the international stage twice. One of the incidents was completely avoidable, and still is, should the Harper government act now to salvage the situation. The second incident was unfortunate, but made worse by Mr. Harper not taking responsibility for his government. The first incident will be examined in part one, while the second one will be covered in part two.
The first involves Camp Mirage, the Canadian military base in the U.A.E., from where Canada launches its military operations in Afghanistan. The U.A.E. has allowed the Canadian government to operate the base outside Dubai for the past seven years, and for all intent and purposes, was never obligated to do so in the first place.
The problems arose earlier this year when the U.A.E. government had asked the Canadian government for something in return. They asked that U.A.E. airlines be given more landing rights at Canadian airports, which was denied by the Harper government with advice from Transport Canada and Air Canada. The U.A.E., being understandably upset, told Canada to get the heck out of their desert. Even more embarrassing, a plane carrying Defence Minister Peter McKay and top military brass was not allowed to fly in U.A.E. airspace, and therefore not able to land at Camp Mirage. Oh the irony! They ended up taking a 6 hour detour to Rome. Adding to the craziness is that Harper government will not try to fix the situation, but will simply move the military base out of the U.A.E.
This points to a large domestic problem that creates international problems. The government of Canada sold Air Canada over 20 years ago, and yet we are fighting costly battles to keep them in the air. Moreover, the threat to Air Canada is not as dire as they believe it to be. Air Canada believes its business would be infringed upon if these landing rights were granted.
However, these concerns do not hold water. Air Canada complained about that while the Open skies Agreement was being negotiated in the early 90’s. The agreement was signed and American airlines, as well as Air Canada, received landing rights in each other’s country, Air Canada’s profits and business boomed.
Moreover, this is an opportunity for the Harper government to show that they are free traders. If they were serious about free trade, they would give the U.A.E. landing rights to Canadian airports, and let the chips fall where they may. If you really believe in the concept of a free market economy, then it should be the responsibility of Air Canada to ensure their own survival. It’s not the job of the government of Canada to hold Air Canada’s hand and protect them from larger players within a larger international economy.
Without protection from the government, Canada’s largest airline would be a better airline in that they would be forced to compete. Heck, then maybe they will have to lower their fares to the point where Canadians can actually afford to fly with them! Also, it would improve domestic fares and service.
But instead, the Harper government has decided to put up a protectionist wall at the cost of our military operations in the Middle East. Now, at the cost of millions of dollars and the effectiveness of those military operations, we have been evicted from Camp Mirage. the government will now be forced to find another base, which will most certainly be less effective then Camp Mirage. Some have predicted our new base will be as far away Germany.
And this is all because the U.A.E. was expecting something in return for letting us camping out in their desert for the past 7 years. I mean, the nerve….
Stay tuned for part 2 of this story…..