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A Green Shift and an Incontinent Puffin are no Substitute for a Clash of Geopolitical Visions

September 17, 2008

Our election campaign is well underway. We’ve had Harper in a fluffy sweater, Dion in ski goggles, May in a snit until she was allowed into the debate, and a flying cyberpuffin whose digital defecation damaged Dion’s dignity. We’ve also had some individual policy suggestions like that famously impenetrable Green Shift (although the basic idea of, well, partially shifting taxation from income to greenhouse emissions is simple enough). Disappointingly absent, however, have been the coherent national visions that make the difference between politics and statesmanship. This is especially noticeable in the area of foreign policy, our specialty here at Canada’s World. What role do Harper, Dion and the others think Canada should play on the international stage?

A piece that Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in the U.K., published in the Independent a few days ago sets an example. It was a clear explanation of his views on the general thrust of British foreign policy. I didn’t find his perspective terribly inspiring – the piece was headlined “The World Needs Britain to Step out of the US Shadow”, but an equally appropriate title might have been “Britain Must Genuflect Before the Glory of Brussels”. But at least Britons know where the Lib Dems stand.

Stephen Harper recently gave some insights into his thinking to the National Post, but the published interview touched directly on only one foreign policy question, whether Georgia and Ukraine should be invited to join NATO. Harper thinks they should, which implies a fairly tough line against Russia. Elsewhere he has pledged firm support for Israel, and promised to end Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan in 2011. It’s an interesting mix of toughness and what might charitably be called pragmatism, and Canadians need to hear more about the ideas behind the policies.

On the liberal side, Bob Rae and Maurizio Bevilacqua recently promised more help for new immigrants. This establishes one plank in the Liberal foreign policy, but there are many other issues that they should be discussing.

As a fiercely non-partisan Canadian, I wouldn’t be too unhappy to see any of our major parties (barring the Bloc Quebecois, if you want to call them major) form our next government. But I hereby declare that no party will deserve a parliamentary majority, now or ever, unless they can articulate a clear and compelling vision for Canada. I’m not holding my breath.


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. corsullivan permalink*
    September 21, 2008 8:52 pm

    Renee and Scott — Glad you liked it, and thanks for the comments!

    I don’t know quite what to think of Canada-EU free trade. On the one hand, closer links with European countries would be desirable, and opportunities for trade and investment are generally helpful to our economy. On the other, the EU can be maddening as a bureaucratic entity, and I shudder to think what elaborate stipulations about matters such as labelling or units of measure they might want to write into the final agreement. Foreign investment can be a double-edged sword, too – money flows into the economy, but the individuals and corporations behind it can end up acquiring a lot of influence.

    The issue is definitely an important one for Canada. Hopefully writers with a lot more economic knowledge than I have will take some time to explain the probable consequences of free trade with the EU, should it happen. And yes, we need to hear what our politicians think!

  2. Scott Y permalink
    September 20, 2008 9:18 am


    This is probably the best post I’ve seen on this blog yet. I agree with it 100%. I’m non-partisan and I haven’t seen anything of substance (other than the Afghanistan 2011 bit) about anything to do with Canada’s role in the world. The biggest news on that front have come out of the recently announced EU-Canada Free Trade talks that will begin in Montreal next month (Oct 17). I’d really like to find out how the parties feel about that!


  3. reneethewriter permalink
    September 19, 2008 6:14 pm

    This is one of your best – crisp, towing no party line, and calling on Canadians to wake up – we need to demand more from our elected officials and i believe that means stepping out of our mostly myopic world view.

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