By Sen. Colin Kenny
The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has gone into a princely snit over our refusal to grant it more landing rights in Canada for its airline, and has decided it can bully us into changing our minds. I suggest that we push back, firmly, because the U.A.E. has not realized that Canada has options, too.
Why does the U.A.E. so desperately want more landing rights? Because it has bought a lot of big fat aircraft as part of its decade-long, oil-fuelled spending spree, and needs to fill seats by moving North Americans through Dubai to the Middle East and Asia.
When the Canadian government refused, the U.A.E. proceeded to:
A) kick Canada out of our staging base for Afghanistan that was located on U.A.E. soil; B) refuse our Minister of National Defence and our Chief of the Defence Staff permission to fly through its airspace after they were in the air; and C) introduced the need for expensive visas for any Canadian wishing to visit their country.
Here’s what I think we should consider in response: (A) void the landing rights U.A.E. airlines already have; (B) forbid them to fly in Canadian air space; (C) slow down the processing of visas for anyone from the U.A.E. who wants to visit Canada; and (D) tell them to convince us that nobody connected to any of the Emirates’ royal families is supporting anti-Western terrorist activities.
Why would I want to drop the gloves in dealing with the U.A.E.? Because I think they’re essentially a bunch of pompous thugs behaving like Canadians need them. We don’t, and somebody should show them they can’t treat us like the second-class citizens they hire to do virtually all the work in their seven fiefdoms.
I am well aware that some critics argue that the Canadian government has been heavy handed in dealing with the U.A.E., as though we weren’t properly versed in the delicate ways one must handle trumped up royals.I say we should deal with them the same way we did when they got haughty about the Canadian Forces flight-training program for the U.A.E. Air Force. That program was going fine until some member of a royal family flunked his flight test, and still wanted to be given qualifications to fly an aircraft. Our military wisely cancelled the training program when the U.A.E. told us that members and friends of a royal family should not be allowed to fail.
Wait, you say. Weren’t the seven families who so ruthlessly rule the U.A.E. being jolly good chaps when they offered us a military base on their soil?
Well it wasn’t quite soil — it was unoccupied sand. And let’s keep in mind that our troops were using that stretch of sand to try to defuse terrorism in the region, with only the tiniest military contribution of about 200 “special forces” from the U.A.E..
The U.A.E. argues that denying its airlines more landing rights in Canada amounts to unfair protectionism of our own airlines, most notably, Air Canada. But the U.A.E. itself has two state-subsidized airlines that have bought themselves a bevy of huge aircraft that are eating a hole in the national treasury. They staff the airlines with underpriced help that can be fired at whim, and offer discounts on their visas if you fly on those airlines. Why kill off some Canadian jobs to the benefit of the high-spending U.A.E. treasury?
Finally, it should be noted that five years ago the U.S. Congress decided that it wouldn’t allow the U.A.E. to manage American ports through a state-owned company called Dubai Ports World.
Well, you know what? Dubai Ports World owns the company that runs container and break bulk terminals at the Port of Vancouver.
Note to the princes: “You want to keep that Vancouver contract and your current landing rights? Well then write us a letter within 30 days pledging that nobody connected to the royal families running your totalitarian governments is funding anti-Western terrorists, and we’ll check that out with our intelligence people. And meanwhile, start showing us some respect.”
Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence.
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