OTTAWA – Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) said Friday it did not lobby the Harper government to keep a Russian executive off Canada’s list of sanctioned people with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A company spokeswoman said Bombardier officials discussed Russia and other foreign policy issues in meetings with the government, but it didn’t discuss specific individuals.
Bombardier spokeswoman Marianella Delabarrera said the company remains in negotiations on a $3.4-billion deal that would see the company sell more than 100 of its Q400 turboprop civilian aircraft to Russia.
“Our meetings were centered around a broad range of issues,” Delabarrera said in an interview Friday.
“It was a broad range of issues that included a number of foreign policies around the world. Of course Russia would have been part of that, but it was not specific to any one individual.”
Delabarrera spoke after the NDP and Liberals demanded answers from the Conservative government over a decision not to sanction two Russian men with connections to Canadian companies, a development first reported by the Reuters news agency.
Ottawa has imposed sanctions on several dozen people with ties to Putin, as part of a broader package imposed by Western countries in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the continuing unrest in eastern Ukraine.
The NDP asked in the House of Commons why Sergey Chemezov and Igor Sechin were not among those on the Canadian sanctions list.
Chemezov is the head of Rostec Corp., currently in negotiations with Bombardier. Sechin, a former chief of staff to Putin, is the head of the Russian oil company Rosneft. Reports say Sechin’s business connections to Canada may include a major investment in Canadian oil fields.
“When I asked the government last week on this very issue, specifically why these two individuals weren’t on our sanctions list, they dodged the question,” NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said after raising the issue during Friday’s question period.
“These two individuals are very close to Putin.”
Delabarrera said Bombardier is abiding by all laws, which allow it to deal with Rostec. She said that while Chemezov may be on the U.S. sanctions list, Rostec is not.
“Of course we’re very mindful of the situation and we’re aware of the U.S. sanctions regarding Mr. Chemezov,” said Delabarrera.
She said negotiations are continuing, but suggested the current turmoil could slow progress.
“It would be unrealistic for us not to account for potential movement in that project timeline.”
In the Commons, Dewar accused the government of bending its foreign policy to suit commercial interests.
“The government’s rhetoric is very tough, so why will Conservatives not implement strong and co-ordinated sanctions against Russia? Why will it not put Putin’s buddies on our list?”
Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, brushed aside questions saying Canada’s sanctions are intended to punish the Putin regime.
“Canada has one of the strongest sanction regimes in the world which has been co-ordinated with our allies to target key individuals and entities to isolate Russia politically and economically.”
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler said he wants both men to face sanctions because “those decisions should not be guided by our commercial interests or our commercial relationships.”
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