Evidence of meeting #25 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was elections.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko

Perhaps I can add just a little bit.

Mr. Putin has already started with the invasion. In Crimea, the Russian Black Sea Fleet is deployed up to 2042. Russian FSB officers, up to 100 people, are back to Sevastopol, again, in Ukraine. Up to 70% of our banking system is dependent on Russia. Up to 75% of Ukrainian media, TV and others, are Russian media.

That's my little contribution to what Mr. Piontkovsky just said.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Very quickly, Mr. Tarasyuk, you're talking about wanting a free and fair election, obviously. Are your election laws favourable to that, or do you need to do something with them? Are your election laws in shape to demand a free election, or to run one?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Borys Tarasyuk

Thank you for your question.

I am of the opinion that the current authorities in Ukraine did their best in order to modify, to tailor, the legislation on elections to their expectations and political will. They diminished the possibilities of the opposition, of democratic forces, through unfavourable conditions. For example, they prohibited parties from running by party blocs. They elevated the threshold from 3% to 5%.

Another point is that they in fact created the conditions, through the constitutional appeal, to remove the provision that allowed, according to the law approved by majority and the opposition, for a candidate to run in two formats—that is, on the majority district and on the proportional system. Most probably, they will modify this provision through the constitutional court, which is in their pocket.

I do not exclude that they will go further in modifying the law closer to the elections. They did it in the 2010 local elections. They modified the law two months before the elections in order to put democrats into a most unfavourable position.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

Colleagues, you have five minutes before the vote takes place, so I am going to suspend the meeting again.

We will be back at quarter after five, I hope, so we will see you shortly.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Welcome back. I guess you never left. It's good to be back.

We're going to continue with questioning. The way it stands is that we won't have bells until 6:40 p.m., so if it's possible to go over time a few minutes we could maybe get a couple of rounds of questions in. I think that would probably work out.

We won't keep you here all night. I promise that.

We're going to move back over to the opposition side.

Madame Latendresse, the floor is yours, for five minutes. Thanks.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

My question is for Mr. Swiecicki. At the start of your presentation, you mentioned the Promethean theory, which dates back to the restoration of the Polish state in the early 20th century. It's pretty incredible to note to what point this old idea is still valid today in the context of the European Union and democracy.

I'd like to know generally what measures Poland has taken to help democracy in Ukraine. Also, would it be possible and desirable for Canada to coordinate its current efforts with Poland's?

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Marcin Swiecicki

If I correctly understood your question, you asked about the measures taken in Poland to assist Ukraine.

First of all, there were a lot of observers—a great number of observers, for example, during the Orange Revolution—and also the great support of the political class in Poland for democratization. Also, as I said, President Kaczynski was invited and took part in the international committee, or round table, trying to find the solution during the crisis of the Orange Revolution.

There are hundreds of Polish universities, institutes, and foundations that find it fashionable to have a program and cooperation with Ukrainian associations, federations, and foundations to invite Ukrainian students and offer them scholarships. Of course, Poland is still a relatively poor country among European Union countries, so therefore we are initiating various actions in the European Union—a fund for endowment for democracy.

It's a partnership. The Erasmus Mundus program is to increase the role of the European Union in assisting civil society in Ukraine, because as I said, the capacity of Poland is too small in comparison to....

Therefore, I think that Canada can also advocate on the global scale in various other institutions to support the Ukraine. It can also increase exchange programs, scholarship programs, and fellowship programs. It can cooperate with financing, and support universities, independent think tanks, and foundations in the Ukraine, and invite people, for instance, just to increase raising human capacity on how democracy works, or how the economy works in free countries.

Of course, Canada could also very strongly support a monitored election process that is right now being started.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Do you think that opening the doors, facilitating access to western countries—Canada in particular—for young Ukrainians, Belarusians and Moldovans would pull the rug out from under dictators and ensure that the situation becomes more democratic? We know that a lot of things change when young people get involved.

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Borys Tarasyuk

May I add to what Mr. Swiecicki said? There is a Ukrainian-Polish interparliamentary assembly. There is also a Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian interparliamentary assembly. Why not a Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian-Canadian interparliamentary assembly? This is one of the options.

As to the access of young people to Canada, I think this is a very important issue. This is the crux of change for the better in all countries—that young people get the possibility to travel easily to other democracies, and Canada in particular.

In this regard, let me tell you a story. While being the foreign minister two times, in 2005 and 2007, I initiated a non-visa regime for all citizens of all EU member states, Canada, and the United States. Now all Canadian citizens enjoy the right to travel to Ukraine without a visa.

For me to travel to testify before this committee took quite a lot of effort to get a Canadian visa. The one who granted all Canadian citizens a non-visa regime received a visa for just one entry—a single-entry visa. I don't think this is an adequate attitude on the part of Canada.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you. That's all the time we have. We'll move back to the government side.

Mr. Bezan, you have five minutes, please.

March 7th, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank all our witnesses for your presentations today. I know you've travelled a great distance to be here. As someone who's proud of his Ukrainian heritage, it's great to see that we have people from Ukraine, Poland, Britain, and Russia advocating for more democracy and freedoms within Ukraine.

I know that my baba and gido left Ukraine almost 100 years ago and never had the chance to feel democracy within Ukraine. They came to Canada to get that. My family is quite proud that one of the family is in the Parliament in Canada today.

I've been in Ukraine as an observer in the election process, and I have great concerns about the laws—whether or not they're even constitutional, and whether or not there's independent jurisprudence within the court systems. You talk about the influence that the government has, that Yanukovych has within the constitutional courts, and how that's going to slant the electoral outcome. You talk about having more election observation.

I was there with a lot of my friends, who are joining us here today, as election observers in the last presidential election. There's only so much we can do, and if they're going to continue to change the laws, how are we going to ensure a fair and open process?

I've always been opposed to the amount of money that's spent on elections in Ukraine. There's no cap. There was as much money spent in Ukraine on the presidential election this last go-round, just between Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych, as there was in the last U.S. presidential election. It was $1 billion. It's atrocious that they're spending that type of money that could have been spent in better ways to stimulate the economy and create jobs and economic opportunities in Ukraine.

How do we change those laws? How do we provide that influence as Canadians? I know there should be increased monitoring and increased long-term overview and oversight of the electoral process and the electoral commission system, which is extremely partisan. In my opinion it should become a government agency that's completely unbiased.

I'm going to ask Mr. Tarasyuk and Mr. Nalyvaichenko to speak to that.

Dr. Sherr, I appreciated your very candid comments about how we can engage with the Russian influence within Ukraine. Perhaps you can talk about the whole role that civil societies may play in influencing what's happening on the ground within Ukraine.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Why don't we start with Mr. Sherr?

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

James Sherr

Thank you very much.

I think anything we can do to develop relationships and institutionalized relationships with the class of small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs in Ukraine will be an immense investment in the future. Those people are best placed to have a direct tangible interest in seeing European standards advance in that country.

We all know many representatives from that group who sincerely would give up 40% or 50% of their income to not live in a country where every single week they are being intimidated, pressured, and harassed by somebody. That combination is needed. I think the efforts that will be most rewarding are those that respond to the direct interests of people in the country and are not purely ecumenical. Sadly, there's very little being done in this area. These people as yet have very little political self-awareness, and I think that is where a new generation of leaders might emerge.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

I'm sorry, we won't have time for both of you, so who wants to speak?

Mr. Nalyvaichenko.

5:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko

Thank you.

Talking about laws, I think the best position now is to be united, as Mr. Tarasyuk mentioned several times, and be in touch and in cooperation with NGOs that would like to support democratic, fair elections. This year for sure, 100%, we know if we support them they'll support us during the elections. I think for the international community to support such NGOs in Ukraine is the best way to invest—if I may use that word—in Ukrainian democracy.

Ukraine needs changes in our legislation—and as many amendments as we can make—in a future Parliament, in a new Parliament, concerning anti-corruption legislation. Fighting corruption in all laws and legislation should be done. That's a priority for a new position in the new Parliament.

Thank you.