Think Canada should have a bigger role in world affairs? At least one political party agrees – Toronto Star

by admin on August 25, 2021

OTTAWA—The Conservative party is betting the experience of a global pandemic has shaken Canadians awake to global affairs.

The party is calling for a fundamental rethink of Canadian foreign policy amid the rise of China and the decline of U.S. leadership on international affairs. It’s also trying to balance a brand of economic nationalism — “reshoring” Canadian manufacturing jobs and securing domestic production in certain sectors — with a commitment to multilateral action.

“I think (the pandemic) has woken people up that we need to get serious about our foreign policy,” said Michael Chong, the party’s candidate in Wellington-Halton Hills.

Chong, the Conservatives’ former foreign affairs critic, said Canada can no longer rely on its relative isolation — bordered by three oceans and a world superpower — for its security.

“We no longer live in this splendid isolation on the north half of this continent. Events that take place half a world away are having a very immediate and direct impact on our well-being here at home,” said Chong, speaking on behalf of the Conservative campaign.

It’s a truism in Canadian politics that foreign policy doesn’t win elections. With a few notable exceptions, Canada’s role in the world tends to come in low on voters’ priority lists.

But international events and issues can still have an impact on domestic elections. The ongoing crisis in Afghanistan — and the Canadian government’s efforts to evacuate Afghans who worked with coalition forces — has been a central issue in the early days of the campaign.

Climate change and the pandemic recovery, both global issues, are also top of mind for voters, according to Abacus Data consultant Oksana Kishchuk.

“Foreign affairs (are) maybe thought of as included in those buckets, but it’s not the top-of-mind word” for voters, Kishchuk said in an interview.

“A pandemic recovery plan, climate change … they’re big issues that we have to work together globally to solve. But when it comes to what people are thinking of during the election, how they’re voting, they’re voting on how the parties are going to put them into that plan rather than putting people worldwide into that plan.”

The Conservative platform is shot through with foreign affairs and national security pledges, including increasing defence spending “closer” to the country’s NATO commitments, increasing Canadian contributions to foreign intelligence gathering, and establishing a “national interest council” on long-term economic and strategic priorities.

China looms large in the Conservatives’ policy document, with the party pledging to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks, “decouple” supply chains from China, and ban imports of goods that have been produced by forced labour in the country.

The Conservatives are also pledging to strengthen ties with traditional security allies — the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand — along with attempting to expand Canadian influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The decline of U.S. leadership on the world stage also should weigh on Canadian voters’ minds, according to the Wilson Centre’s Christopher Sands.

“If I were a Canadian, I would look at a world that’s scarier than it used to be, partly because of COVID … but also because a combination of more great power rivalry and a rapidly weakening U.S. leadership,” Sands, an expert in Canada-U.S. relations, said in an interview.

“So you get incidents like Kabul and you see countries almost sleepwalking through incidents … instead of a world in which the U.S. does the predictable thing and all the allies rally and so on, what you see is actually no response.”

Thomas Juneau, a national security and defence researcher at the University of Ottawa, said Canadian political debate on foreign affairs tends to be “reactive” — only cropping up when there’s a crisis, such as the situation in Afghanistan or the issue of Syrian refugees in the 2015 election.

But Juneau cautioned against thinking a change in the governing party would necessarily mean a change in Canada’s overall foreign policy.

“Whether you look at 2015, you look in 2006, the substance of Canadian foreign policy changes a bit … but it doesn’t change that much,” Juneau said in an interview.

“The debate has not been there, and to the limited extent that it is mentioned, it’s really partisan sniping on the domestic aspect of things that happen abroad. Whether you look at Afghanistan or China, which are issues that come up, but not in any kind of substantive way.”

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier
  • SHARE:
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Q:

Anyone can read Conversations, but to contribute, you should be registered Torstar account holder. If you do not yet have a Torstar account, you can create one now (it is free)

Sign In

Register

Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to theCode of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

Original Source

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: