Alberta Politics
Kirill Kalinin inside the Russian Embassy in Ottawa a few weeks before he was expelled from Canada (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

An election’s coming and the PM’s treading water – where’s a Russian to blame now that we need one?

Posted on April 07, 2019, 1:20 am
7 mins

It was a year ago Friday that the government of Canada declared Kirill Kalinin and three other Russian diplomats persona non grata and sent them packing for using, in the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy.”

Nobody bothered to commemorate the expulsion on the anniversary except the former First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canada himself.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

With Jody Wilson-Reybould, Jane Philpott, and Mr. Trudeau’s troubles to write about, the Ottawa Press Gallery had bigger fish to fry than bothering to rehash the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from Western countries in response to the poisonings of Russian expatriate Sergei Skripal and his visiting daughter Yulia in the U.K., which remain unsolved and controversial.

However, Mr. Kalinin reposted a couple of year-old Canadian news stories about his expulsion on his Facebook page from Moscow, where he now mans the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Canada Desk.

If you’re a Canadian diplomat in Russia, I guess Mr. Kalinin is now the guy you have to call if you want to get anything approved. That must be awkward!

Mr. Kalinin got into trouble in Canada because he turned out to be a deft hand at social media and tweeted, among many things, an embarrassing factoid about Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s family history, the fact her Ukrainian grandfather Michael Chomiak collaborated with the Nazis in Eastern Europe during World War II.

This may have been what Mr. Trudeau had in mind when he said last year that the interference in our democracy took the form of “efforts by Russian propagandists to discredit our Minister of Foreign Affairs in various ways through social media and by sharing scurrilous stories about her.”

The trouble was, as David Pugliese of the National Post observed, the scurrilous story was true. “It soon became clear that Chomiak had indeed worked with the Nazis, editing an anti-Semitic newspaper in Poland,” Mr. Pugliese wrote. “Photos showed him partying with senior Nazi leaders and files from the newspaper revealed pro-Nazi propaganda and cartoons aimed at denigrating Jews.”

Since Postmedia is something like present-day Canada’s equivalent of Soviet-era official newspapers Izvestia and Pravda combined, this officially makes Mr. Pugliese’s report both the news and the truth, does it not?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former justice minister Jody Wilson-Reybould as portrayed by an anonymous Edmonton street artist (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Regardless, perhaps the reappearance of last year’s stories reminded the beleaguered Trudeaucrats in Ottawa – facing a more difficult fall election than they’d anticipated at this time last year thanks to their own ineptitude – that sometimes it’s handy to have someone like Mr. Kalinin nearby to kick around.

“Our judgment is interference is very likely and we think there has probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy,” Ms. Freeland told a meeting in France of foreign ministers from the nations with the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies, also on Friday.

Of course, if the Liberals manage to lose this fall’s election to a hapless goof like Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer with or without Mr. Trudeau at the helm, it will be pretty hard to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Mr. Kalinin, or any of the other usual Russian suspects for the debacle.

No, it’ll be obvious that this time the Liberals managed to mess things up all by their own sweet selves.

Well, Ms. Freeland – who might very well be a leading candidate to replace Mr. Trudeau if it comes to that – accomplished one thing by kicking Mr. Kalinin out of the country. The Russian Embassy’s social media efforts have pretty well gone to hell in a handbasket since he departed.

This puts paid to the theory last year’s brouhaha was ginned up by an robotic army of Russian trolls using Huawei G5 routers, or whatever, if you ask me.

Just the same, Ms. Freeland also suggested such efforts aren’t just about getting a particular party or candidate to win. “The effort is to make our societies more polarized and to make us, as citizens of democracies, more cynical about the very idea that democracy exists and that it can work.”

OK, but it seems to me that the Conservative Party of Canada and its provincial chapters, not Moscow, are the ones doing the heavy lifting on that front.

Regardless of that, Ms. Freeland assured her G7 counterparts the government is setting up a “critical election protocol,” including five powerful Ottawa mandarins, to decide if any foreign interference in October’s federal election is serious enough to alert the public in mid-campaign. (This would not include, presumably, influence by paid electoral consultants and contractors from the foreign republic immediately south of the 49th Parallel.)

With the fate of the Natural Governing Party in the balance, it’s good to know some of our top people will now be poring over Facebook and Twitter in the defence of the Realm.

9 Comments to: An election’s coming and the PM’s treading water – where’s a Russian to blame now that we need one?

  1. Jim

    April 7th, 2019

    I assume she will be on a plane from there to a Lima group meeting to see how Guaido is doing, no interference there of course. May need some humanitarian bombing in time for the election to show how tough the Liberals are?

    Perhaps if Kenney isn’t too busy trying to extinguish the lake of fire he can help out as the government he was part of did such an excellent job in Libya.

    Do they think the Canadian public is that stupid to not see through this crap?

    Reply
    • Keith McClary

      April 8th, 2019

      Foreign Policy CAN ✔
      @CanadaFP
      Canada is deeply concerned by military operations in #Tripoli. We urge all parties to cease hostilities and support @UN efforts to advance political reconciliation in #Libya. We stand in solidarity with Libyans and supports their desire for peace and a better future for all.
      7:11 PM – Apr 7, 2019

      The US is also now saying “No military solution”. In 2011 that was their only solution, they were all about “Duty to Protect”.

      (I was once in grandfather’s house at an event related to Chrystia’s mother’s campus NDP activities.)

      Reply
  2. ronmac

    April 7th, 2019

    How do we know Preston Manning isn’t a secret Kremlin agent? Sent here to disrupt our oil industry with all this crazy talk about a carbon tax? Think about it.

    Reply
    • Ronmac

      April 8th, 2019

      An even bigger scandal was Canada’s participation in the NATO bombing campaign in 2011 which helped overthrow Ghaddafi in Libya, in effect bringing to end one of the few prosperous stable countries in Africa and turning it into a chaotic mess. The latest news out of Libya now is that it’s on the verge of a full blown civil war.

      We don’t mind so much when we spread death and destruction in distant lands. But when we find out our business people are paying bribes everyone is like OMG! When we find out the sitting govt of the day wants to punish them with a good slap on the wrist everyone is OMG x 2! The sanctity of our democracy is in peril!

      Reply
  3. Hamish McBigot

    April 7th, 2019

    Freeland is pro-fascist as exemplified by Canada’s stance on insurgencies in the Ukraine, Brazil, and Venezuela. Anything that’s Right is right. Anything that’s Left is wrong.
    If the combined incompetence of Trudeau and Singh result in Scheer as PM and Freeland as Liberal leader, God help us all.

    Reply
  4. David

    April 8th, 2019

    I think freedom of the press was rather low on the Nazi’s list of priorities, so if you were in occupied Poland you probably had three choices, get out, play nice with them or die. I suppose we can be critical of Mr. Chomiak, but that was the world he faced, a much more difficult one than we do, so should we be judging him too harshly and what really does this have to do with his granddaughter?

    I suppose memories in Europe are long and World War II was both traumatic and a great victory for the Soviet Union, but it no longer exists. Perhaps it would be better now to look to the future than dwell on the ills of the past.

    Canada as a young country is perhaps freer of these historical conlicts and how they can keep nations mired in an unproductive reliving of the past, but we have our own recurring conflicts and problems. One is the upcoming election grudge match between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

    Last time much to their chagrin “just not ready” did not work as well for the Conservatived as their character assasination of the two previous Liberal leaders. Therefore you might think they would try something else this time, but they seem to be doubling down with “we told you so”.

    Maybe it will work or maybe not, but I suppose if they make the election about Trudeau’s character, it might distract the voters away from say their lack of a climate change strategy or some of their other quetionable policies. It is a distraction worthy of Trump or Putin. I wonder if they will also start going on about Nazi sympathizers in the PM’s family past. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

    Reply
    • Keith McClary

      April 8th, 2019

      “what really does this have to do with his granddaughter?”
      Just that she eulogised him on Victims of Nazism and Communism Day.

      Reply
  5. Patrick Hertel

    April 8th, 2019

    “Of course, if the Liberals manage to lose this fall’s election to a hapless goof like Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer with or without Mr. Trudeau at the helm, it will be pretty hard to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Mr. Kalinin, or any of the other usual Russian suspects for the debacle.”

    Apparently someone hasn’t been paying attention to happenings south of the “Medicine Line” because the parallels just about shriek. I can see Putin rolling his eyes now.

    Reply

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