Canadian lawmakers will be called to explain return of Nord Stream turbines

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Two federal ministers and three ambassadors will be asked to appear before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee to discuss the Canadian government’s controversial decision to return six Nord Stream 1 turbines to Germany.

During a meeting Friday, the committee agreed to call on Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to explain why the government decided to waive sanctions on Russia and return the pipeline parts to Germany, where they will be used to help deliver natural gas from Russia. The ministers will be asked to appear by July 22, subject to their availability.

The committee also wants to hear from Ukrainian Ambassador Yulia Kovaliv, German Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser and EU Ambassador Melita Gabrič, as well as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

— Key context: The federal government’s decision on Saturday to issue a “time-limited and revocable permit” for Siemens Canada to return the repaired turbines to Germany earned a rebuke from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and criticism from the opposition Conservatives and New Democrats.

“I’m very worried about the precedent this sets,” NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson told the committee Friday. “We’re allowing the Russian Federation to weaponize energy around the world, which is extremely, extremely dangerous.”

— Pipeline woes: Russia’s Gazprom reduced the gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline last month by 60 percent, citing technical problems involving the turbines that had been sent to Canada for repair. The pipeline was shut down completely this week for annual maintenance, but German politicians have accused Russia of playing politics and have expressed concern that Moscow may not restart the pipeline as planned.

“The government’s decision to suspend their own sanctions is a slap in the face to the Ukrainian people in their darkest hour,” Conservative international development critic Garnett Genuis told the committee. “It’s important that we are firm in our resolve. If we aren’t, then Russia will simply continue to escalate their pressure.”

— Committee plans: Both the Conservatives and the NDP had proposed similar motions to study the government’s decision at the foreign affairs committee. The Liberal committee members supported the plan to hear from the ministers, but attempted to limit the duration of the study and the number of witnesses to be called.

Meanwhile, Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong tried to add several witnesses to the list, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. When the Liberals objected, the Conservatives suggested she may not have agreed with the decision.

“She’s been completely silent and invisible regarding the government’s decision around these turbines,” Genuis said.

Robert Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, responded that it is “just simply inappropriate to go on such a fishing expedition.”

In the end, Freeland didn’t make it onto the initial witness list, but committee members will be able to add more witnesses as the study gets underway.

— Support and opposition: The United States and the European Union have both thrown their support behind Canada’s decision to return the turbines. In a statement Saturday, Wilkinson said Germany would suffer “very significant hardship” without a stable supply of natural gas.

But the decision is already facing a legal challenge from the Ukrainian World Congress, which is seeking a judicial review in Federal Court.

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