Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Schuler chosen to assist in Ukraine

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HE plans to live on energy bars and almonds and he's already been warned he won't have time to be a tourist and see the place where his father was born.

Tory MLA Ron Schuler heads to Ukraine early Sunday to be an observer in that country's May 25 presidential election. The St. Paul MLA is one of 500 people Canada is sending to monitor it.

On Thursday, his fellow MLAs in the legislature gave him a warm send-off and wished him a safe trip.

Despite what's happening in Ukraine and the threat against its sovereignty from Russia, Schuler said he's looking forward to his trip and learning from it.

"I have more fear -- and I don't wash my own windows because we have a two-storey house -- I have more fear of that than going to Ukraine," he said. "More Canadians injure themselves by climbing on a ladder than they do by flying to Ukraine."

Schuler said his job is simply to observe the election process. If he sees anything untoward, like people being blocked from entering a polling station, he's to report it. He will update his trip on his Facebook profile when possible.

A clean vote would go long way to stabilizing the country and for it to see more in aid from the West, he said.

"You need a stable government to begin with and a stable government needs moral authority," he said.

He's also been given some rules to conduct himself while away.

"We've been told how to be vigilant," he said. "Like, use the washroom and then order your drink. Don't order your coffee and then go to the washroom. That way nothing can be put into your drink while your away from the table."

Schuler understands he won't be staying in five-star accommodations or dining in Michelin-rated restaurants.

"We've been told that we might be living under some fairly primitive conditions. I bought a box of energy bars. If you eat them with a lot of water they expand and you actually have a full feeling. And I'm taking quite a few almonds, which are really healthy, and flashlights. There's rolling power outages. And there may not be hot water showers and there may not be showers at all."

Schuler said a fair election would be the beginning of stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military expansionism into neighbouring countries.

"We have a horse in the race. If we don't stop Putin somewhere, the day might come when he'll start looking at our natural resources (in the far north) a little more hungrily."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 A14

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