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What a Disservice


June 11, 2008
By Jim Knisley


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There was a massively important meeting of world leaders to address the world food crisis in Rome last week. More than 60 heads of state are there. Other countries have sent senior cabinet ministers. The head of the U.N. is there. The Pope had a message read to the gathering.
Canada sent its Ambassador to Italy.

There was a massively important meeting of world leaders to address the world food crisis in Rome last week.

More than 60 heads of state are there. Other countries have sent senior
cabinet ministers. The head of the U.N. is there. The Pope had a
message read to the gathering.
Canada sent its Ambassador to Italy.

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This is absolutely appalling.

I understand the government might be embarrassed by its grain ethanol
policy. I understand it might be afraid of international meetings where
the folly of its policies would be exposed and condemned. I understand
that it was deeply embarrassed at an international climate change
conference last year and would like to avoid a repeat.

But sending the Ambassador to Italy to a crisis meeting attended by the
presidents of Japan, Egypt, Brazil and dozens of other nations is more
than embarrassing – it’s pathetic.

It’s not as if Canada doesn’t have things to be proud of. It is a major
contributor to world food aid programs. Canadians are working round the
world to make sure food gets to those who need it.

Canadians have also always been there when more is needed. It has also
always been a strong supporter of the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural
Organization.
But this time, when there is a hunger crisis and the world is casting a jaundiced eye on grain ethanol, it stays away.

Perhaps it knew that the recent passage of the government’s ethanol
bill, which commits this country to five per cent ethanol in gasoline,
would be under assault.

It likely also knew that its defence “it’s only five per cent of our
grain acreage” would be met with the question how many tonnes of grain
does that five percent represent? Is it one million tonnes, two million
tonnes, three million tonnes and how many people would that feed?

We know that this government hates criticism. We know that it likes to
control information and that this is impossible at international
events. But avoiding a very important international meeting on a
vitally important issue is beyond the pale.

It is a disservice to Canadians and the world.