Wings Magazine

Baird and Lisee blast Qatar’s bid for ICAO

May 6, 2013, Montreal – Canada's big guns threw cold water on Qatar's bid to lure away the International Civil Aviation Organization on Friday, ripping the Middle Eastern nation's blistering year-round heat.


May 6, 2013, Montreal – Canada's big guns threw cold water on Qatar's bid to
lure away the International Civil Aviation Organization on Friday,
ripping the Middle Eastern nation's blistering year-round heat.

Qatar has begun to woo the United Nations agency to get it to
move its Montreal headquarters to Doha, with one of the country's
main complaints focusing on the city's bone-chilling winters.

Canada's weather riposte came on Friday when Foreign Affairs
Minister John Baird and Quebec cabinet minister Jean-Francois Lisee
held a news conference with Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum to
announce a common front against the Qatari bid.

"For my part, I prefer by far to have four seasons instead of an
excruciating and humid temperature of more than 40 degrees – 12
months a year,'' said Baird.


Lisee also alluded to the Middle Eastern climate.

"If we have to compare between snow and sand, all the
representatives who have families here know that children can make
snowmen, but it's very difficult to make sandmen,'' said the
international affairs minister and the minister responsible for the
Montreal region.

"Winter is something that you can enjoy and it doesn't last all
year – when you look at the heat in Doha all year.''

The Parti Quebecois minister, who is also responsible for the
Montreal region, later explained his comment by saying he always
makes jokes to de-dramatize a situation.

"But the fact that we are all here, all three, shows the
seriousness with which we approach the situation,'' Lisee added.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also weighed in on the ICAO
tug-of-war, saying he doesn't think a strong case can be made to
move the civil aviation authority out of Montreal.

"It's been based in Montreal for a very long time,'' Harper told
a news conference in Quebec City. "Montreal, Quebec, Canada have
been very good hosts from everything I understand.

"I'm certainly not aware of any serious complaints about how we
host the organization. Montreal's a sophisticated city that is a hub
of the aerospace industry around the world.

"There is absolutely no reasonable case to move the centre out
of Montreal."

The Qatari bid, meanwhile, is seen by government critics as being
politically motivated and a reflection of Canada's pro-Israel policy
in the Middle East.

But Baird characterized Canada's relationship with the Arab world
as "excellent."

"I've visited the Arab world eight times (in 10 years) and I've
been warmly received wherever I've gone," he said.

The rift between Canada and some Arab states extends to issues
beyond Israel. The two sides have only just started to patch up
holes in their relationship that were the result of long-standing
aviation issues.

Both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been lobbying Canada
vigorously for more landing rights for their airlines, only to see
their efforts continually blocked by domestic airlines.

Baird said any strategy by Qatar to use the ICAO issue to
pressure Ottawa on landing rights won't fly.

"I'd just be charitable and say that request is on hold while we
put all of our energy into Montreal," he added.

Baird pointed out that Qatar is offering a lot of cash to lure

agency to Doha, but said that shouldn't be a factor.
"Qatar is a small country with a very small population with a
lot of money and they want to build a world-class city," he said.
"We're so fortunate that in Canada, in Montreal, in Quebec, we
already have a great world-class city."

Canada also received a vote of confidence from its neighbour to
the south.

"The U.S. sees no reason to move ICAO out of Montreal and would
not support such a proposal,'' David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador
to Canada, said through a spokesman Friday.

Canada has played host to ICAO since the 1940s. Its current
headquarters were built in the 1990s at a cost of $100 million.

Losing ICAO would be a financial and political blow for Canada.

Montreal is the hub of Canada's aviation industry, and its
international reputation as a major player is reflected in the
ICAO's longtime residency.

The organization also feeds the city's economy; it employs 534
staff and says it generates some $119 million annually and 1,200
direct and indirect jobs.

The economic impact on the city is contained in a study published
last year using data from 2010-2011.

A vote on whether to move the headquarters to Qatar will be held
in September. If at least 60 per cent of ICAO's 191 member states
sign off on the transfer, it would take effect in 2016.


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