MONTREAL: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on Tuesday (May 7) kicked off a campaign to unseat Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a foreign policy speech promising a tougher stance on China.
“I will deal with China with eyes wide open,” Scheer told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
“My goal is better relations. My goal is more economic opportunity. But that can only come after we make a stand. And I will,” he said.
Ottawa’s relations with China took a sudden downturn last December when Beijing detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest in Vancouver of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant.
Meng is currently fighting extradition to the US, where she faces charges of violating Iran sanctions and lying about it to US banks.
The diplomatic row recently escalated, with Beijing sentencing two other Canadians to death and banning Canadian canola shipments worth billions of dollars.
Scheer, whose Tories are neck and neck with the Liberals in the latest public opinion polls ahead of elections in October, accused Trudeau of taking too soft a stance with China.
“If this government isn’t willing to stand up to China when two Canadians are unlawfully imprisoned and billions of dollars in trade is under attack, it never will,” he said.
He vowed if elected to launch a World Trade Organization complaint against China and pull Canada’s Can$250 million from the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
He also said he would “not allow Chinese state-owned enterprises, solely focused on the political interests of Beijing, unfettered access to the Canadian market.”
Trudeau’s government has insisted that the courts deal with Meng, while lining up a dozen allied nations to press China on what he has described as the “arbitrary detention” of the two Canadians – a former diplomat and a businessman.
Scheer also pledged to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, join the US ballistic missile defence programme, and bolster Canada’s icebreaker fleet to keep Russia in check in the Arctic.