The potential fallout from Canada’s lifting of its economic sanctions against Iran took centre stage on Parliament Hill Wednesday, with the minister of Foreign Affairs fielding some tough questions during Question Period.
Stéphane Dion continued to vigorously defend his government’s decision to lift some of the sanctions put into place under the Conservatives, saying it makes no sense for Canada to keep them in place while other countries ease up on the Iranian regime. A recent deal involving Iran’s nuclear program prompted a widespread lifting of international sanctions in mid-January.
That is expected to have major repercussions in international business circles. New deals are already being signed, including some with Germany’s biggest companies and others with Italian firms.
On Wednesday, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier stood in the House of Commons and asked Dion if Canadian firms like Bombardier Inc., which may soon be able to bid on Iranian contracts, were given advance notice of the plan to lift Canadian sanctions. Bernier noted that top executives from Bombardier had already traveled to Iran and that the company “knows when there might be business to be done” in the country.
“We spoke openly about this question during the election campaign,” Dion replied. “The Prime Minister made a commitment to re-engage with Iran. He kept that promise, and all of this has been done openly.”
Dion then accused Bernier of siding with Airbus, the European conglomerate, over home-grown Bombardier. The New York Times has reported that on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set to meet with French President François Hollande to sign a deal to buy more than 100 planes from Airbus.
“Why does he work for Airbus and not for Bombadier?” Dion said of Bernier.
WATCH: Stéphane Dion sells new approach on Iran sanctions
But Bernier pushed back, saying he is the representative for the riding of Beauce and “I represent my constituents, and all Canadians.”
Rouhani has wasted no time re-establishing political and commercial links with the international community since the nuclear deal was signed. The federal Conservatives maintain that he represents a very real threat to Israel and that the sanctions established under the previous government should remain in place, but Rouhani has been openly touring Europe in recent days. The Iranian leader met with Pope Francis earlier in the week to discuss how to maintain peace in the Middle East.
Canadian companies in a wide variety of fields, including the technology and engineering sectors, may be looking to re-enter Iran once the sanctions are lifted. But experts have said they will need to be cautious, as the UN-backed sanctions Dion has been referring to are among several Canada has in place against the Middle East nation.