By Paul Wells - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 0 Comments
The CBC has its hands on a late draft of the super-secret foreign-policy master plan the government has been mulling for more than a year. The CBC story is fascinating. And oddly familiar.
“We need to be frank with ourselves — our influence and credibility with some of these new and emerging powers is not as strong as it needs to be and could be,” the document says. ”Canada’s record over past decades has been to arrive late in some key emerging markets. We cannot do so in the future.”
And while the document uses similar language to announce the discovery that Asian countries are growing (“The situation is stark: Canada’s trade and investment relations with new economies, leading with Asia, must deepen, and as a country we must become more relevant to our new partners”), it also notes that some African countries are in the early stages of growth curves that could end up resembling India’s and China’s.
I’m tickled by the language. “We need to be frank,” and “The situation is stark,” and dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer. The prime minister’s remarks on foreign affairs often have a similar why-does-nothing-get-done-until-I-show-up tone. Whoever held the pen on this policy document is adept at writing what the boss likes to read. In fact, as Greg Weston points out, the potential in Asia and the potential for potential in Africa is not a well-kept secret to this government, nor was it unnoticed by its predecessors. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 2:34 PM - 0 Comments
What to expect at tonight’s foreign policy showdown
In the lead-up to tonight’s third presidential debate, taking place at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., macleans.ca has polled the newsroom for previews and predictions. The debate, on foreign policy, happens at 9 p.m. EST, and the ‘folks’ below will be liveblogging.
Luiza Ch. Savage: “Tonight’s final presidential debate focuses on foreign policy. Earlier in the campaign this would have been a hands-down strength for President Obama, but now there is enough concern about the administration’s handling of the deadly attacks on U.S. diplomats in Libya, that Mitt Romney has room to score points. The president has to address the concern that his administration is having trouble getting its arms around the uprisings in the Middle East—that he has some strategy for dealing with the fallout from the uprisings in the Middle East. Romney has suggested arming the rebels in Syria, for example.
Meanwhile, Romney has an opportunity to answer the concern that his more hawkish conception of American power won’t turn into a recipe for more wars in the Middle East. I’ll also be watching to see what Romney has to say about the planned 2014 drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He has previously said that he supports Obama’s deadline, but has criticized Obama for announcing it publicly. But Romney’s most recent statements on the subject seemed to suggest that he would not necessarily stick to the deadline if commanders on the ground advised against it. And a wild card for this debate is a report that the Obama administration may be planning to engage in direct negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program.”
Jonathon Gatehouse: “Polls give Obama nine-point lead among women, same as Romney among men. Debate is up against Lions/Bears on MNF. So only one number will move.”
Charlie Gillis: “Benghazi attacks obvious acid test in tonight’s U.S. debate. Obama might be right, but Romney’s ‘passivity’ talking point seems stronger.”
Brian D. Johnson: “The final round of Presidential Idol will have a looser format than before, so it could turn into a slug fest. Foreign policy shmolicy—this is an acting job. Romney’s challenge is to be cool (more presidential, less snake-oil); Obama has to find passion and bring more of that Bin Laden-killing heat. Both need to master the reaction shot—knowing how to look while the camera watches you pretend to listen to the other guy.”
Michael Petrou: “I’d like to see whether either Romney or Obama remember there’s a massive and worsening war going on in Syria.”
Jaime Weinman: “I’m interested to see whether Romney can make the Benghazi story comprehensible to the average voter. Fox News and other outlets have constructed a massively complicated story arc about how Obama knew this or didn’t say that about Benghazi, but like any complicated TV story arc, it’s hard to understand if you came in in the middle. The question is if Romney can create a version of this story arc that actually makes it sound scandalous to someone who isn’t a regular viewer of his network.”
Paul Wells: “In 1960, Kennedy and Nixon spent much of their debate arguing about the fate of the islands of Quemoy and Matsu. It turned out to have almost nothing to do with the next four years. I’ll be looking for the candidate whose argument about America’s role in the world extends beyond cases that will be forgotten before Inauguration Day.”
By Aaron Hutchins - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
The former enemies are big trading partners. Could military co-operation be next?
Americans used to burn Vietnamese shirts; now they buy them. They also buy shoes, wooden furniture, nuts and leather goods. Vietnam isn’t only a seller’s market; it also imports merchandise from the United States, everything from machinery to cotton and cars. Who knows? Perhaps some of those cars are built by some of the one million Vietnamese-Americans living in the U.S.
It’s hardly the same relationship that existed when Marc Leepson returned home to New Jersey after a year-long tour in Vietnam in December 1968. “For so long Vietnam was a war,” the U.S. veteran says. Today, in some ways, “it’s like any other country,” he says. “But of course, it isn’t.”
Nearly 40 years after a war that lasted decades and took more than three million lives, the once bitter enemies are now financial buddies. Two-way trade hit US$21.5 billion last year—more than 10 times what it was a decade ago. And trade continues to thrive this year, despite growing concern over Vietnam’s human rights abuses. Indeed, the U.S. has become the largest importer of Vietnamese goods.
By Ken MacQueen - Monday, March 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
A new poll funded by the Donner Foundation finds Canadians have increasingly polarized views on world affairs
America’s best days are behind it; the future belongs to China and India. On that Canadians can agree, but not much else. An assessment of Canadians’ world view finds a country riven by fault lines of politics, ideology, education and age. We can’t agree whether our foreign and environmental policies leave us embarrassed or proud, or whether the country is headed for salvation or perdition. We’ve put fears of terrorism behind us, but we can’t agree which threat takes its place. “On issues of international relations, foreign policy and our place in the world, we really have two different Canadas here now,” says Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, which surveyed 2001 Canadians between March 6 and 11. “We don’t seem to have the same level of unanimity or consensus that would have existed a decade ago, when Canadians were relatively common-minded, thinking, ‘Okay, we’re good guys, everyone likes us out there.’ ”
The poll, Rethinking Canada’s Place in the World, was financed by the Donner Foundation. The full results will be released March 20 at the Walter Gordon symposium on public policy, organized by graduate students at Massey College and the School of Public Policy and Government at the University of Toronto. The symposium’s theme is multilateralism and global governance, and in these areas the poll discovered a profound loss of faith. Just 14 per cent had confidence in the International Monetary Fund, and only one in four were confident in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Most telling are hardening views on the United Nations, where blue-helmeted peacekeepers were long a source of national pride. While 49 per cent of Canadians called the UN “the best current option available for ensuring world peace and security,” 39 per cent agreed it was a “toothless” institution with little relevance to global security. Yet in a 2003 poll, three-quarters held the UN in high regard. “Canadians have always been big fans of the UN and of multilateralism in general,” said Graves.“Very little of that seems to have survived the last decade.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 10, 2012 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Dewar has outlined his foreign affairs priorities, including a vow to oppose war with Iran.
The current tensions with Iran indicate the stark difference between Harper’s approach and Dewar’s approach to foreign policy. Unlike Harper, who is engaged in reckless and provocative rhetoric from the sidelines, Dewar would be firm in opposition to nuclear armament and play a central role in diplomatic efforts to advance that objective while avoiding a military conflict with Iran. As Leader of the Official Opposition, Dewar will oppose Canadian engagement in a military conflict with Iran.
Peggy Nash has also released her foreign policy platform, including a focus on equality, women’s rights, international aid and climate change.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 11:38 AM - 0 Comments
“Many still see sexual violence as a by-product of war, something that occurs in the uncontrolled aftermath of combat. But increasingly rape and sexual violence are being used as organized weapons to either demoralize an enemy’s civilian population or ethnically cleanse entire countries or regions. In Africa, issues such as the spread of HIV/AIDS have only compounded the problem.” Mulcair said … We can’t let this issue fall by the wayside simply because it has fallen from headlines. Finding effective methods to combat this scourge will take years of focused efforts by partners around the world. That’s why it has to be a priority for our government.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 11:52 AM - 17 Comments
What an unexpected and not-entirely-pleasant surprise Canadian Press reporter Mike Blanchfield had for the bureaucrats at Fort Pearson yesterday: he wrote about their ongoing foreign-policy review, which they thought they were doing a good job of keeping secret. (This is actually not the first we’ve heard of this low-profile review; Carleton University’s Fen Hampson complained about its rumoured existence in July.) Oh well. Highlights from Blanchfield’s report:
The FPP will attempt to enlighten the Conservatives about a number of strategically important countries. Among them are two major Muslim countries — Indonesia and Turkey.
Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest country with the largest Muslim population and is spread across a sprawling archipelago that spans the Indian and Pacific oceans. Turkey is a NATO ally that shares land borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq.
A core purpose of the FPP is to give the government a heads-up on potential flashpoints across the globe. Sources say the Tories believe Canada has been caught off guard in recent years by international events and the new plan would serve to mitigate that.
The document could be tabled in Parliament at some future point after Harper’s office gives it the green light. But some sources say the FPP is unlikely to ever see the light of day because it could box the Tories in politically at a later date.
Why the low profile? Because Paul Martin’s foreign-policy review was a bit of a joke, more for its process (long delays; endless redrafts) than for the unobjectionable result, which handily remains archived at the DFAIT website.
In the heady days after the 2006 election, the Harper legions could sometimes be heard to boast, “We don’t review foreign policy; we do it.” But it turns out that boldness and a photogenically jutting jaw don’t keep a government from being blindsided, again and again and again and again and again, by the big cruel world. When that happens to you enough times, you start to wish you could see the hits coming. Hence Blanchfield’s line about Tories who (it’s said) “believe Canada has been caught off guard in recent years by international events.”
The bad news is that no foreign policy review will keep a country from being caught off guard. The world is really good at catching you off guard. Every time something surprising happens — the Arab Spring uprisings early this year were only the latest example — a chorus of second-guessers wonders why “we” (or “Obama” or “the West”) didn’t see it coming. But you don’t have to go to Egypt to discover life is full of surprises. Closer to home, nobody foresaw the 2008 post-election Dion coalition play, or its out-of-focus denouement. Nobody, including the NDP, expected the NDP to win most of the seats in Quebec. This is stuff that has happened in a country Stephen Harper knows well. How can he expect to be more clairvoyant in Syria or Turkey or Myanmar? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:02 PM - 1 Comment
Romeo Saganash touts his history as a negotiator for Cree communities in Quebec.
“I can do this job and I think in Canada we need a better prime minister than we have right now,” he said.
“Our policies need to meet of course the economic objectives, but also the social and environmental objectives,” he said. The agreements he negotiated with hydro, forestry and other companies as deputy grand chief at the Grand Council of the Crees and as its director of Quebec relations and international affairs met those objectives, he said. ”I will try to bring nationally what I did locally in northern Quebec.”
Mr. Saganash also has some thoughts on foreign policy.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, July 25, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 32 Comments
After years of foreign wars and interventions, a new mood of isolationism is sweeping America
It took a truck driver from Manchester, N.H., to put the matter succinctly. “Well, I support the U.S. military,” Greg Salts told the arrayed candidates at the Republican presidential debate in the Granite state last month. “But frankly, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs.” Isn’t it time to close some U.S. bases abroad, he asked. A retired navy man named John Brown also wanted to know, “Osama bin Laden is dead. We’ve been in Afghanistan for 10 years. Isn’t it time to bring our combat troops home from Afghanistan?”
Not so long ago, such questions would have come from Democrats and would have been met with charges of disloyalty and taunts of “cutting-and-running” from Republicans. No longer. The Republican presidential front-runner, Mitt Romney, said in that debate, “We’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation.”And the Tea Party darling, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, said the U.S. should never have intervened in Libya. “First of all, we were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack. There was no vital national interest,” she declared. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman went even further, calling for a smaller U.S. footprint abroad. “The deployments are mighty expensive,” he said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “We’re going to have to look at the map at some point and reset our level of engagement and our deployments in some corners of the world.”
Welcome to the new U.S. reality. As discussions of national security morph into a debate over spending and debt in a nation still limping out of the Great Recession, questions are being raised about just how big a military America can afford—and what happens if the global cop walks off the job? And they are coming not just from Democrats, whose President is drastically drawing down troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, but also from Republicans who for a decade had rallied around a hawkish view of America’s role in the world.
To appreciate how far the mood has shifted, consider the November 2007 Republican presidential debate in St. Petersburg, Fla., where candidates such as John McCain and Rudy Giuliani sought to out-hawk one another and were pressed by voters on whether they would “make a permanent long-term military commitment to the people of Iraq?” Giuliani urged Americans to “stay on the offence” and not to put their “head in the sand,” like their opponents. “You’ve got a Democratic debate and not a single one of those Democratic candidates used the word ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ” he declared. That phrase was used four times in the 2007 GOP debate. In the latest Republican contest, it was not uttered at all.
By Kenneth Whyte - Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The PM on how he sees Canada’s role in the world and where he wants to take the country
Q: Let’s start with election night. Was it fun?
A: It’s always fun when you win.
Q: Did you take a moment to enjoy it?
A: Yeah. Look, as I think you know, we were pretty confident we were going to win, frankly, from the outset—the question was the margin—and we were feeling pretty good in the days leading up to it. I suppose, yeah, it was exciting that night. But you’re also coming off the end of a long, gruelling campaign, so there’s also a sense of relief and a sense of exhaustion all wrapped up together.
Q: If you’re not going to stop and enjoy that one, what are you going to stop for?
A: I did enjoy it. We have to enjoy things. These guys—my staff—probably enjoyed it more than I did. I’m always thinking. The next task is almost immediately on my mind.
Q: I saw you give an interview after the election in which you alluded to the next task: you want to establish the Conservatives as the natural governing party of Canada. What does that entail? Continue…
By John Fraser - Friday, May 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 26 Comments
Diplomacy’s wheeler-dealer on the country’s emergence and his own role in it
Henry Kissinger, the extraordinary German-born Jew who bestrode most of 20th-century postwar American foreign policy, has written—at the age of 88—an important book on China, called just that: On China. Who better? At the most basic level, it’s important simply because of who Kissinger is and was: national security adviser and then secretary of state for two presidents (Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford), the realpolitik author of détente with the Soviet Union, which ultimately led to its dissolution; the high and mighty sherpa who cajoled the United States into recognizing “Red China” after decades of dangerous adversarial pyrotechnics; and the man who negotiated the end of the war in Vietnam, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, he presides over Kissinger Associates Inc., the mother of all international consulting firms, representing everyone from Coca Cola and Fiat and Volvo to (once upon a time) Hollinger Inc., whose former proprietor, Lord Black of Crossharbour (late of Coleman Correctional Center) was a close colleague. It may be fanciful, but I wouldn’t be surprised one day to learn Kissinger was on retainer to the politburo of the People’s Republic of China. As a locally famous consultant at Navigator Inc. of Toronto once said when criticized for taking a consulting fee from a dubious client: “Everyone deserves representation.”
The presiding premise of On China is to provide a detailed strategy on how best Sino-American relations should be conducted in the emerging era, which is a good enough reason to pay attention to such an experienced practitioner. Yet for all his valiant efforts to put a new glaze on well-known views, the inimitable wheeler-dealer of international diplomacy is still pretty easy to find. Although it takes 148 pages to get to it, it wasn’t a surprise to see the fulsome reference to Kissinger’s hero in the first paragraph of chapter six, entitled “China confronts both superpowers”: “Otto von Bismark, probably the greatest diplomat of the second half of the 19th century, once said that in a world order of five states, it is always desirable to be part of a group of three. Applied to the interplay of three countries, one would therefore think that it is always desirable to be in a group of two.”
By John Parisella - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 6:30 PM - 11 Comments
He can take some well-deserved credit for helping to avert a humanitarian crisis
We all recall how the horrific events of 9/11 created a groundswell of support to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban. Support for overthrowing Iraq also became widespread largely because of the rumours—later proved false—that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction ready to unleash on the United States. Since then, Americans have soured on these two seemingly endless conflicts. So we can understand that Americans were not in a rush to intervene when the Libyan crisis erupted.
The current military operation was bound to raise doubts on all sides of the political spectrum. The fact that President Obama must address the nation suggests that Americans are concerned and are in need of some coherent explanation. From the outset, the president seemed the reluctant warrior. Clearly, leading the U.S. to invade a third Muslim country in 10 years was not part of his foreign policy plan.
Obama was initially provided with some cover when rebel forces tried to overthrow Colonel Gadhafi themselves. But once Gadhafi began importing mercenaries, shooting civilians and unleashing his superior weapon advantage, the president was faced with a humanitarian crisis reminiscent of the Rwandan civil war. The pressure to intervene was mounting as other so-called democratic forces were rising elsewhere. Finally, the rebels themselves cried for help.
The preferred course of diplomacy, somewhat successful in the Egypt crisis, began to produce dividends in the nick of time. The UN Security Council delivered a resolution, the Arab League asked for a no fly zone and were willing to help, and European leadership led by France and England resulted in an operation (albeit with heavy U.S. involvement) that halted the potential humanitarian catastrophe. Now there is an indisputable no fly zone with NATO leading the operation. Meanwhile, the rebels are regaining ground and Gadhafi forces are on the defensive.
Unlike the Afghan and Iraq wars, a spirited debate is emerging about Obama’s course of action. Republicans have led the charge but their criticism seems focused on process. John McCain says Obama should have imposed a no fly zone sooner, but the diplomacy was not up to speed and this would have resulted in a third U.S. led invasion of a Muslim country. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates clearly stated: imposing a no fly zone is a military operation.
Other Republican criticism ranges from questioning the end game, to how the U.S. proceeds if Gadhafi is not defeated, to why Congress was not consulted before U.S. aircrafts began flying. These are legitimate questions. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly said they want Gadhafi removed. What happens if he stays in power? Other Republicans like Senator Richard Lugar actually question whether it is in U.S. interests to be so involved. Meanwhile, presidential contenders have acted more like pundits criticizing the Obama style and character, rather than behaving like eventual policy makers.
President Obama does have a case in that his approach has avoided the costly unilateralism in Iraq, and the consensus among voters is supportive of an allied approach. It is in line with the Cairo speech calling for political reform in the Middle East and engaging in a multilateral action in support should the need arise. It appears the humanitarian crisis has been averted and the president can take some well deserved credit for it.
This weekend, Secretary Gates said Libya was not in the vital interests of the U.S. The humanitarian nature of the mission is consistently emphasized. As of now, there are no U.S. boots on the ground, which has always been an Obama objective. But as the conversation continues to unfold in America, events are occurring elsewhere in the Middle East. It is hard to predict the outcomes. The overriding question is: Is the Obama administration on the right side of history as the Middle East events develop?
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 3:15 PM - 27 Comments
Nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq is a failed ideological experiment
When the final edition is written of America’s imperial adventures in the early years of the 21st century, a significant plot point will be that Americans demonstrated a profound lack of faith in their own institutions. Unlike the British, who retreated from empire and left versions of their own parliamentary democracy behind, Americans used nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq as the occasion for failed ideological experimentation.
Despite having the world’s oldest federal constitution, as the Harvard professor Thomas Barfield put it in his recent history of Afghanistan, Americans routinely prefer to support all-powerful strongmen abroad. And given the violence they visited upon that constitution in the name of strong executive authority after 9/11, it is clear that Afghanistan was set up as an idealized version of the system the neo-cons in Bush’s office would have preferred for themselves back home.
Which helps explain why Afghanistan’s democracy remains so fragile. Jan. 21 was supposed to mark the inauguration of Afghanistan’s second parliament. Instead, President Hamid Karzai postponed it for a month pending the results of an extraordinary five-member panel of judges appointed by Karzai himself, to review cases of alleged fraud. Last fall’s parliamentary elections didn’t exactly go in Karzai’s favour, and the decision marked an intensification of his ongoing campaign to have the legally certified results at least partially overturned, if not completely annulled. At press time, Karzai appeared to have caved to pressure, tentatively agreeing to open the Wolesi Jirga on Jan. 26.
By Scott Feschuk - Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 8 Comments
FESCHUK: Only a nation with a special rapport with China could rent its pandas for a huge sum
Time to shake off the shame of that Security Council defeat and put on a smile, Canada. After five years, Stephen Harper has finally secured a foreign policy triumph that doesn’t involve a Tim Hortons’ expansion. Ladies and gentlemen: we’re getting pandas.
Word has it that China has agreed to rent out a pair of giant pandas for extended stays at zoos in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. It’s a pretty thrilling development—especially for the people of Toronto, who haven’t had the opportunity to observe a 300-lb. creature that eats 12 hours a day since way back in the mayoral race of 2010.
Cynics and also everybody have noticed that the Harper government is largely indifferent to minor global issues like climate change. But when it’s something as important as panda bears, the Prime Minister is willing to order the full-court press.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Ignatieff lays out his foreign policy vision to an audience in Montreal.
But none of this will be possible without the talents of every Canadian. Foreign policy is no longer reserved for diplomats, development workers, and soldiers. We used to talk about a “whole-of-government” approach. Our Global Networks Strategy requires a “whole-of-Canada” approach instead.
The next generation of Canadians will be the most international ever. Young people studying and working abroad will be Canada’s best ambassadors, and their experiences will shape the future of our country. We must rebuild our leadership in the world so that our young people can be proud again to live in a country that helps to improve our world.
And we must always support the youth of this country, when they go abroad to serve Canada. They are our finest representatives.
In the centre of our engagement with the world, we must restore our finest Canadian traditions, inspired by peace, justice, and mutual aid. We must show the world – and ourselves – that Canada can inspire us again.
By Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne - Friday, October 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Is the Harper government’s recent foreign policy record a sign that it has lost its way?
Last week, Maclean’s hosted a round-table discussion titled “Canada’s Conservative Government: Radical Change or Drift?” at Vancouver’s Norman Rothstein Theatre. The panel included Keith Martin, a Liberal MP, Deborah Grey, the Reform party’s first elected member of Parliament, Monte Solberg, a former Conservative party cabinet minister, and Michael Byers, a professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia. The debate, which focused on the Harper government’s record on the economy, social policy and foreign affairs, was moderated by CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen and included Maclean’s Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne. What follows is an excerpt of that evening’s discussion.
Andrew Coyne: I’m not frankly weeping in my beer that we didn’t get a seat on the Security Council, but it does suggest there’s not exactly a very strong, clear foreign policy agenda with this country, with this government. They do seem to be kind of all over the map on this, so the fact that they went for this Security Council seat, even though everyone knows Harper’s not particularly fond of the UN, seems to me to suggest a certain incoherence. I guess they thought they could pick it up easily, but they wind up with this complete egg all over their face.
And on Afghanistan, in the early years of this government, they were very firm in saying, “We’re not going to cut and run, we’re not going to have artificial agendas, we’re going to stay and finish the job.” And in the middle of the 2008 election, at a breakfast for reporters, I think it was, [Harper] completely turns over the policy and adopts the policy of the Bloc Québécois.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was praised for rising above ideology
“Mr. Layton charged the Conservatives’ economic plan was following “some rigid ideology,” as opposed to dealing with the reality of relatively high unemployment.”—Financial Post, Sept. 16
“Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe also took aim at Harper over the gun registry, accusing him of adopting an “ideological” stance to please his political base in the West.”—Montreal Gazette, Sept. 21
“First and foremost, we need to take ourselves seriously again, to pursue an active foreign policy informed by facts and compassion, rather than by ideology.”—Paul Heinbecker, Globe and Mail, Sept. 24
There is no more serious accusation in Canadian politics than that of having an ideology. Politicians would confess to killing their own grandmother rather than own up to such a thing: what the dictionary defines as “a body of ideas.” Possession of cocaine is a charge you can probably survive. But possession of ideas is career-ending.
Rather, practical men that they are, politicians prefer to say they live in the real world, guided, as Ambassador Heinbecker says, by facts, not ideology. “I’m not ideological,” many will say. “I just do what works.”
By Philip Slayton - Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Legal expert Philip Slayton on the Supreme wimps
For a moment last January, the Supreme Court of Canada was flexing its muscles. In its decision Canada (Prime Minister) v. Khadr, it seemed ready to rein in the federal government in a serious way. The court came within a hair’s breadth of telling the Prime Minister to seek Omar Khadr’s repatriation from the United States, because his Charter rights had been breached by Canadian officials.
The Khadr case echoed a similar but more dramatic faceoff between executive and judiciary in the United States. In his January state of the union address, President Barack Obama criticized the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission with five of the judges sitting there while he did so (“not true,” mouthed Justice Samuel Alito, as the President spoke). The Citizens United case held that the First Amendment protects the corporate funding of political broadcasts. The New York Times has called the President and U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts “intellectual gladiators in a great struggle over the role of government in American society.”
By John Geddes - Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 10:01 PM - 63 Comments
GEDDES: The Liberal leader is in a deep political funk with no easy way out
Only a true foreign policy wonk would expect to be stirred up by a document called “Canada in the World: A Global Networks Strategy.” But the platform paper unveiled by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff with a major speech in Toronto this week tossed more red meat in the direction of his demoralized hard-core partisans than the title hinted.
On its way to detailing a new Liberal approach on everything from Afghanistan to doing business with Asia’s economic giants, the paper swerves to slam Stephen Harper in a style more typical of a campaign stump speech than a policy blueprint.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:28 PM - 34 Comments
Amid all else this day, the NDP’s Paul Dewar convened a news conference to outline his side’s hopes for the upcoming G8 and G20 summits, including more action on foreign aid and development assistance, measures to eliminate tax havens, a renewed focus on climate change, greater inclusion of Africa in the G20, an end to oil and gas subsidies, and the creation of a global recovery fund.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:30 PM - 108 Comments
The Liberal leader is presently outlining his foreign policy in a speech to a Toronto audience. Simultaneously the Liberals have released a policy paper outlining the vision and various tangible proposals: emphasis on China, India and Africa, a post-combat training role for Canada in Afghanistan, a special envoy to the region, an overarching emphasis on empowering women in the developing world, a Canada Youth Service program, a new ambassador for circumpolar affairs, a permanent G20 secretariat, global scholarships for student from lower and middle income countries to study in Canada and a Branding Canada initiative.
Much of it links back to a notion of networked governance that Mr. Ignatieff mused on in Montreal.
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 12 Comments
POTTER: What Afghan-Canadians think of our role in Afghanistan
To what extent should questions of honour, duty, and friendship enter into Canada’s foreign policy? It’s the old problem of principle versus realism, and every country needs to find its own balance between the two. It helps, though, if that balance is understood by your international partners, especially the ones you are supposedly trying to help.
The question was raised anew last weekend at the Taj Banquet Hall, a weddings/parties/everything venue attached to a Kia dealership in north Toronto where 250 or so people, most of whom were Afghan Canadians, had gathered to listen to a debate on the future of Canada’s mission to Afghanistan.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8:38 AM - 96 Comments
Greetings from Montreal, where, for the next three days, we’ll be hanging around the Liberal party’s Canada 150 conference. Herein a running diary of the proceedings. Day 1’s diary is here. Day 2 is here.
8:33am. Good morning again. The lights are now blue and the subject is The World. Up first is Robert Fowler, the former Canadian diplomat who spent a few months in 2009 as a hostage in Niger. Mr. Ignatieff is briefing his caucus by phone at noon and is then due to speak here at 2:30pm, with a press conference to follow.
8:39am. I arrived at about 8:15am and the tables reserved for media were empty except for three bloggers. Bloggers are like journalists who’ve not yet lost the ability to be genuinely interested in things.
8:42am. Liberal partisan John Mraz argues, quite rightly, that one shouldn’t make too much of yesterday’s carbon tax discussion. Indeed, he says pinning the policy on the Liberal party now would be “somewhat akin to having held Stephen Harper to account for the maddeningly hateful babblings of Ann Coulter.” Unfortunately, the Liberals tried to do exactly that last week.
8:48am. Mr. Fowler is here, officially, to speak about Africa, but he is now spanking the Liberal party. “I believe that the Liberal party has lost its way … and is in danger of losing its soul.” The Liberals don’t stand for principle, they stand for anything that will return them to power. “It’s all about getting to power and it shows.” He applauds this conference as a step in a better direction. Continue…
By John Geddes - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:26 PM - 22 Comments
The government’s decision yesterday to accept a Liberal amendment to its free trade agreement with Colombia is being touted by the main architect of the side deal as a case study in how a minority Parliament should work.
Liberal MP Scott Brison, his party’s international trade critic, proposed the amendment to that would see Colombia produce an annual report, with Canadian input, on how the free trade agreement affects human rights.
Trade Minister Peter Van Loan accepted Brison’s proposal, and no wonder, since it guarantees that the Conservative minority in the House will now be backed by Liberal votes on this issue, enough to get legislation enacting the trade pact passed.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 196 Comments
How she’s changing the face of American politics
John McCain thought he needed to spring one more surprise on America.
In August 2008, his presidential campaign against Barack Obama was listing badly. Some of this was his fault. But after eight years of George W. Bush, anyone representing the Republican party came with a lot of baggage. McCain needed to choose a candidate for vice-president who underlined his reputation as a maverick within the party and who was untainted by close ties to the previous administration. The stakes were high. As John Heilemann and Mark Halperin write in Game Change, their book about the campaign, “If McCain’s running mate selection didn’t fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race, it was lights out.”
McCain’s original plan was to partner with Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic nominee for vice-president. McCain hoped such a choice would prove his bipartisan credentials, steal thunder from his opponents, and back-foot the press—allowing his campaign to regain some momentum. But when word of the Lieberman plan leaked, much of the Republican party rebelled, and McCain was forced to scramble. “We need to have a transformative, electrifying moment in this campaign,” McCain strategist Steve Schmidt said. No one on the short list of alternative candidates could deliver this. Schmidt suggested a new option: Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
There wasn’t time to vet Palin properly, or to probe her thoughts on foreign and domestic policy. Picking Palin was a Hail Mary pass in the dying seconds of a championship game. But McCain met and liked her. She was confident and calm. She wasn’t afraid to burn bridges and upset people, even in the Republican party. She was an outsider, like him. Steve Schmidt told McCain choosing Palin could hurt him. But a safer candidate, he said, wouldn’t help. It would be better to go for the win and lose big than to tiptoe to a narrow defeat. “High risk, high reward,” another one of McCain’s advisers cautioned. “You shouldn’t have told me that,” McCain replied. “I’ve been a risk taker all my life.”