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