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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, January 22, 2010, 9:00 AM ET

    Press release

    Conservative government finally heeds Liberal calls to substantially increase the number of election observers to Ukraine

    Ottawa (January 15) — A concerted effort by MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre) and Liberal MPs has finally forced the Conservative government to announce a substantially increased number of official Canadian election observers to monitor the second round of the Ukrainian presidential election in January/February 2010.

    Today in a press release issued by CIDA Minister Bev Oda, the government announced it would be sending an additional 200 election observers for the second round of Ukraine's presidential election, a demand that was repeatedly made by Wrzesnewskyj, including a motion he introduced and that passed during the executive meeting of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CUPFG) on December 8, 2009.

    "Finally the Minister who refused to meet with Mr. Yaroslav Davydovych, the former Chair of Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission and hero of the Orange Revolution, who travelled to Ottawa to press the government to increase the observer mission, has succumbed to the pressure brought to bear on her by the Ukrainian Canadian community," said Wrzesnewskyj.

    "Unfortunately, the Conservative government issued its announcement today on January 15, 2010, eight days after it had already cut off prospective applications from Ukrainian Canadians to volunteer for the observer mission. The government sent its announcement to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian media earlier today, yet the cut off to apply for these 200 positions was January 7, 2010. Was this premeditated on the part of the Conservative government to limit the number of so-called 'biased Ukrainian Canadians' or is it so disorganized that it announced this mission already after having cut off any possibility for the Ukrainian Canadian community to, in an organized fashion, put forward its best applicants to serve as observers?" asked Wrzesnewskyj.

    "What is especially objectionable is that the cutoff date to apply was on January 7, 2010, Christmas Day, the day when most Ukrainian Canadians would have been celebrating with their families the birth of Christ and not watching government websites for cut offs with no prior warning. This is just too coincidental and disrespectful," stated Wrzesnewskyj.

    For months along with his Liberal colleagues, including Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs Bob Rae, Official Opposition House Leader Ralph Goodale, and Critic for Infrastructure, Communities and Cities Gerard Kennedy, Wrzesnewskyj has been demanding that the government send a strong contingent of official election observers to Ukraine.

    "I first began raising the need for a strong Canadian election observer mission back in early September 2009 when I participated in the parliamentary delegation to Ukraine. This was followed in late November when fourteen Liberal MPs formally met with Mr. Yaroslav Davydovych. Unfortunately, at that time Conservative Ministers refused to meet with Mr. Davydovych to hear his concerns, and the Conservative Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CUPFG) would not even call a meeting of the association to welcome Mr. Davydovych and to give parliamentarians of all parties a chance to hear his expert advice," said Wrzesnewskyj.

    In response to the Conservative government's tepid announcement of 60 official election observers to Ukraine, Liberal MPs repeatedly raised the issue during Question Period in the House of Commons and in press releases to the media. It was raised in Question Period on December 1, 2009 by Borys Wrzesnewskyj, on December 4, 2009 by Ralph Goodale and on December 8, 2009 by Gerard Kennedy.

    On December 10, 2009 Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff wrote an open letter to Stephen Harper reminding him that "Canadians remember with pride the role that the almost 500-strong delegation of Canadian election observers, led by former Prime Minister John Turner, played in the 2004 Ukrainian elections" and went on to urge him "to commit Canada to sending a delegation of election observers comparable to the 2004 election" to "ensure that Ukraine continues on its journey towards a stable democracy."

    On December 8, 2009 Wrzesnewskyj attended a meeting of the Conservative chaired CUPFG where Canadian election observers to Ukraine were not even on the agenda. Wrzesnewskyj, introduced a motion to send 200 official Canadian election observers for the Ukrainian presidential election.

    "As I explained on the Ukrainian Canadian television program Svitohliad, my motion in the CUPFG meeting was supported by Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie, however all of the Conservative members of the CUPFG voted against the motion or abstained from voting. Despite this non-support of the Conservatives, my motion passed and on December 9, 2009 Conservative MP and Chair of the CUPFG Mark Warawa was obliged to send a letter to CIDA Minister Bev Oda stating that during its December 8, 2009 meeting a motion was passed by the CUPFG to 'ask the Government to substantially increasing [sic] the number of Canadian Observers our Government is sending to Ukraine for the upcoming Presidential Elections,'" said Wrzesnewskyj.

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