Thursday, May 5, 2011

Good ol' Canadian tact

Canada and the UAE have been having a diplomatic row over airline landing rights. It is a really silly tit for tat.

After a five years of negotiations, Canada denied Etihad and Emirates airlines more rights to land in Canada. According to the "Proposed Framework for Commercial Cooperation" which was written in 2006, among the ideas discussed were profit sharing, route coordination and code sharing between airlines. In the end, Canada just wouldn't let the UAE airlines in. In response to this denial of access, in October 2010, the UAE denied a several Canadian diplomats (Ministers Blackburn and MacKay) permission to land in the UAE.

The UAE also imposed visa fees on Canadians traveling to the UAE that began in January. $200, $500 and $1000 bucks is what Canadians will have to pay to come to the UAE for a month, three, or six months. A little hefty if you ask me!

And perhaps most importantly, the UAE chose not to renew the land-lease under Camp Mirage, the not-so-secret Canadian air base in the UAE. Apparently, as Harp notes in the link below, the UAE was using a free extension of the lease as leverage during the negotiations. (At that point it had already granted for three months.)

Over the next few months several Canadians, including the PM Mr. Harpie, accused the UAE of being soft on terror. Perhaps the comments were misconstrued, but that is how the comments coming out of Canada were understood here. (Here's what Herp said, if you care to look.)

Bam! Out goes the base that served Canada's mission to Afghanistan. 30 days to move!

How much has that cost Canada? Hmm? Think relocation, logistics, a new lease in Cyprus (Mirage could have been free!). Think an average of 3.6 million kilograms of cargo being moved by air each year, and as many as 32,500 Canadian personnel passing through annually. Were talking hundreds of millions of dollars.

To be sure, the UAE was trying to strong arm Canada. If the UAE doesn't get what it wants, well, you're not likely to be friends. Then again, the Canadian negotiators at the table were fools.

Were we going to take it lying down? No! Canadians struck back! In the media, pundits were calling the UAE Lilliputian, a spoiled child, a two-year-old in the grocery store cookie aisle, and a bunch of pompous thugs behaving like Canadians need them (search those terms to see each respective diatribe). We sure showed them.

Here are a few quotes that show that neither side really knows the economic impact of their decisions:

House Leader John Baird:  "It would have cost Canada literally tens of thousands of jobs and was not in Canadian's best interest" (bull)

Economy Minister Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri: "Each additional flight would contribute $60 million to the Canadian economy. It will provide job opportunities for the Canadians." (not likely)

Harper: "That's just not how you treat allies, and I think tells us you better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future." (riiiight)

Finally, criticizing Canadian negotiating skills, Foreign Affairs Critic MP Bobby Rae: "I have never seen such a ham-fisted and confrontational approach to a friendly and moderate country in my political experience."

Ham fisted? I am not even muslim and I am offended that he used that word in the UAE.

Ah, good ol' Canadian tact.