Steven Chase

February 2, 2023

The Globe and Mail

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling on the Canadian government to donate tens of thousands of aging rockets to Kyiv, a recommendation that follows significant criticism of his party for its voting record on Ukraine.  Mr. Poilievre made this proposal Friday as debate resumed on the enabling legislation behind the upgraded Canada-Ukraine free-trade agreement.  He and his party have voted against the legislation during its passage through the Commons because of what the Conservatives insist is a “carbon tax” provision in the text. Both the Canadian and Ukrainian governments, as well as trade experts, have said there is no obligation to impose a carbon tax in the agreement. A final vote on the trade deal is expected as early as next week.


Mr. Poilievre said the Canadian Armed Forces have a stockpile of 83,000 CRV7 air-to-ground rockets slated for disposal. He said it’s his understanding Ukraine has asked Canada to donate the CRV7 rockets instead of scrapping them.  “Instead of making Canadians pay millions of dollars to decommission these weapons,” Mr. Poilievre said in a statement Friday, Canada should “give these weapons to Ukraine who can use them in the defence of sovereignty.” It doesn’t appear, however, that these rockets identified by the Conservatives are intact and functioning.


Department of National Defence spokesman Alex Tétreault said these Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) rockets are not fully assembled and have been marked for disposal. The military does not have all the parts necessary for them to function, he said. “Canada is continuously evaluating the changing requirements of Ukraine, as well as viable options for military equipment donations. Additionally, we are in close contact with Ukrainian officials and allies about potential military equipment donations, including those coming from CAF inventory,” he said.


Conservative defence critic James Bezan, who has been in touch with the Ukrainians, said Kyiv still wants the rockets. “Our Ukrainian allies are aware that these munitions have been slated for decommissioning and some may require work to be usable,” he said on X. “They are saying these munitions are essential in the fight against Putin’s illegal invasion. Liberals should provide them with the rockets immediately.”


Daniel Minden, director of communications to Defence Minister Bill Blair, said the government is currently testing these rockets “to ensure that this equipment is operationally effective and safe to transport to Ukraine.”


He noted Canada has already donated upward of $2.4-billion in military aid to Ukraine, including more than 300 air defence missiles, M777 Howitzers and Leopard 2 tanks and is working with the United States on the delayed NASAMS air defence system delivery.


Mr. Minden alleged the Conservative Leader’s proposal is an effort to distract Canadians from “his weak stance on Ukraine.”


Mr. Poilievre criticized the government for failing to deliver an air defence system that Mr. Trudeau pledged to Ukraine in January, 2023. “The government must fulfill its promises to Ukraine and provide additional munitions and materiel so that Ukraine can win this war,” Mr. Poilievre said.


Plus, he said, Canada must be sure to replace any donated weapons with “new tanks, howitzers, munitions, weapons and other equipment and ammunition for the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada’s defence and security relies on it.”


One of the most prominent Ukrainian-Canadian organizations in December criticized Mr. Poilievre for voting against measures to help Ukraine as it resists Russia’s military assault.

The League of Ukrainian Canadians, founded in 1949, wrote Mr. Poilievre a letter to accuse the Official Opposition of backing Russian President Vladimir Putin.


This past fall, the Conservatives voted against a modernized Canada-Ukrainian free-trade agreement (CUFTA) and against a series of government spending estimates including more funding for Operation Unifier, a Canadian Armed Forces effort to train Ukrainian forces. The Conservative votes did not derail these measures because other opposition parties supported the Liberals.


The governing Liberals, trailing the Conservatives in the polls, have pounced on the issue. Last fall, they ran ads in 18 Conservative-held ridings alleging Mr. Poilievre’s party is “abandoning Ukraine.”


The Conservatives reject the accusation they are soft on Russia and accuse the Liberals of trying to politicize the Ukraine war.


Mr. Poilievre’s party has objected to the text of CUFTA, over its reference to promoting “carbon pricing” – a measure to fight climate change that can include a levy on fossil fuels.

In explaining his party’s voting en masse against the CUFTA legislation in November, Mr. Poilievre said his MPs could not support a deal that imposes a carbon tax on Ukraine. Ukraine’s embassy in Canada, however, denied this, saying that the upgraded free-trade agreement does not contain “taxation instruments” to reduce carbon emissions.


The Conservatives have said that in the December spending votes, the Conservatives were not voting against Operation Unifier or other support for Ukraine, but rather against the economic policies of the Trudeau government. The Ukrainian embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



Steven Chase is a senior parliamentary reporter for The Globe and Mail. He has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper’s Vancouver and Calgary bureaus and originally joined The Globe and Mail in 1998. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun. He’s had ink-stained hands for far longer though, having worked as a paperboy for the (now defunct) Montreal Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Vancouver Sun and the North Shore News. In three instances, Mr. Chase been a member of Globe team that won a National Newspaper award.