Canada takes stand against Saudi Arabia

Erika Holt
August 12, 2018

Pinto noted that Saudi Arabia is a big supplier of Irving Oil's refinery in St. John, N.B. and, if the Saudis cut off shipments, Irving would need to replace that production with more crude from its next largest suppliers, in Azerbaijan, the United Kingdom, the USA and Nigeria.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau doubled down Tuesday on Ottawa's message that the federal government will continue to stand up for Canadian values even as it finds itself at the centre of an ongoing diplomatic tumult with Saudi Arabia. In 2017, Saudis made up only about 2 percent of Canada's almost 495,000 global students, according to the Canadian Bureau for worldwide Education.

Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marie-Pier Baril said it would not kow-tow to the kingdom.

"It's definitely concerning", said Jim Reid, a union leader who represents almost 500 workers at the General Dynamics facility in London - an area that's seen major factory closures over the years.

"Basically, the cupboard gets rearranged".

Dan McTeague, a senior analyst at the fuel price tracking website GasBuddy, said any such disruption could easily be offset by alternative supply, as Saudi Arabia's oil continues to represent an increasingly small portion of Canada's crude imports.

"We would encourage the government of Saudi Arabia overall to address and respect due process and also publicize information on some of its legal cases", she added.

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McTeague said the risk of Saudi Arabia causing gas prices to rise is minimal - even locally in New Brunswick - given the "very robust market" globally for crude and Irving Oil's allocation to the USA northeast. "It is now time for other governments to join Canada in increasing the pressure on Saudi Arabia to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, and end the crackdown on freedom of expression in the country", Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns, said Monday. He won Europe's top human rights prize in 2015.

Many folks in London were searching for answers Tuesday.

Mathyssen said it's unclear whether the existing agreement, as well as an additional maintenance contract, will be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department offered a tepid response to the sanctions that took pains to avoid taking sides, saying it is "aware" of Saudi Arabia's actions and considers both countries to be "close partners" of the United States. Ottawa should stop doing business with unreliable partners and stick to conducting trade with its allies, Mathyssen said. National Energy Board data show the kingdom shipped an average of 102,000 barrels of oil per day to Canada previous year, which was also up 17 per cent from an average of close to 87,000 bpd in 2016.

"An aggressive response to Canada's criticism is created to send a broader message to all Western partners that the old structure in which Riyadh would quietly ignore Western demands for political liberalization is long gone", Eurasia Group's Kamel said.

The deal was agreed in 2014 by the Conservatives, who shared the Saudi desire for deeper relations, he said.

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