Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain urged lawmakers to back down calling for sanctions from Chinese authorities last month, according to a copy of a letter obtained from CTV News.
The letter, obtained by CTV Power Play host Evan Solomon, was sent last month from McCain to Senators Leo Housakos and Than Hai Ngo. It was in reference to a motion presented in the Senate by the pair calling for sanctions under the Magnitsky Law for human rights violations against Chinese and Hong Kong government officials in relation to the ongoing protests and treatment of Muslims in China.
“On behalf of Maple Leaf Foods and the entire Canadian beef and cattle industry, I urge you to take this initiative away. In making this request, I am not judging the issue of human rights abuses in Hong Kong or China. But the simple fact is that Canada acting alone in this case has two consequences: (i) Chinese human rights policies will not change and (ii) Chinese retaliation will be directed exclusively at Canada, ”McCain wrote.
After citing his industry's dependence on exports and the jobs potentially at stake, McCain referred to comments by the Chinese ambassador to Canada that the sanctions would result in further trade retaliation. While Maple Leaf made a profit in the most recent quarter, McCain cited global trade as a drag on its performance.
Canadian beef and pork producers were out of the Chinese market for months last year after the country halted imports, a by-product of what remains strained relations between Canada and China due to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver for over a year.
"It's no exaggeration to say that there are thousands of livelihoods at risk if your motion triggers government action," the letter reads.
Copies of the letter were also sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood Marie-Claude Bibeau and Senator Don Plett.
The motion has not yet been voted in the Senate, and while industry representatives often send similar letters defending or opposing parliamentary measures, Housakos tweeted over the letter today, questioning McCain's "consistency."
Referring to the letter, Housakos said McCain “He cited concern about his employees, the impact on their jobs. At the time, he did not seem very concerned about human rights and did not seem very concerned about his employees and their jobs last night. "
This comes after Sunday night when, in a series of tweets published on his company's main account, McCain spoke out against the US government and President Donald Trump regarding the Iranian plane crash.
Inside the thread of what he called "personal reflections" he said he was "livid" because a colleague's wife and son were two of 57 Canadians killed when Iran shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 on January 8 in Tehran. The plane was accidentally shot down, according to Iran, as they prepared for retaliation for archiving missiles while Iraqi bases housed US military personnel.
McCain called this "a series of unnecessary and irresponsible events" and called Trump "narcissistic" and claimed that US authorities "invented a poorly designed plan to divert the focus of political problems."
In a statement, Housakos said that while sympathizing with the "huge loss being felt by McCain's colleague" and "sharing McCain's anger at the atrocity that was committed against everyone on that flight and those they left behind," he believes there were "valid" points raised about the appropriateness of McCain's comments.
(tagsToTranslate) Evan Solomon (t) Don Martin (t) Politics (t) Ottawa