Foreign policy and the Canadian federal election – three weeks to go.
With the release of foreign policy platforms by both the Greens and the Liberals, we can no longer claim the parties are hiding their visions for our role in the world. Still, despite the release of these platforms, Jeffrey Simpson seems right to claim we’re acting as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Climate change and Afghanistan — particularly salient issues that we thought would be big in this campaign — have been sidelined as sweater vests and quaintly named corporations capture public attention. Ipsos Reid has even found the environment slipping to a rather distant fourth behind concerns for the economy, health care and taxes. Moreover, Canadians don’t distinguish between Liberal and Conservative leadership on the environment, despite Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion’s passion for Kyoto and carbon taxes. Even Dion is downplaying his party’s green agenda in the face of Canadian indifference. It’s funny then that the Huffington Post claims Canada is a model for elections that focus on climate change – I guess because in our own quest for energy security we’ve thus far left our oceans and protected areas out of the election. It takes so little to be a model these days.
Afghanistan, the other issue that seemed likely to motivate voter choice, isn’t getting any more attention than the environment. Gordon Smith, Peter Worthington and David Pugliese all lament the lack of a real debate on our involvement in Afghanistan, with Pugliese characterizing the electorate’s reaction to defense issues as “indefensible apathy.” In order for voters to make choices based on these issues, however, each party needs to offer comprehensive, straightforward and unique explanations of what we’re going to do in Afghanistan — besides leave in 2011 (much to the disappointment of military bloggers at The Torch). Stephen Harper might actually have to clearly articulate this, especially if he really wants to capture military ridings. Let’s hope.
Or do more than hope. If we let inward-looking, image-conscious voices dominate conversations about the election, we can expect to see a lot more skipped UN meetings as institutional change and reform proceeds apace, without us. We’ll see the increasing marginalization of the Canadian voice and position in international institutions and affairs. And if the US economy does go in the direction of Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch and AIG (this is not an exhaustive list) we may wish we had strengthened ties with emerging economies, in addition to paying attention to the details of hugetastic trade deals with the EU. Even if taxes, our health and our economy really are our main concerns, we’ll need to deal with the world to manage these effectively. So, as Scott said on this blog earlier: vote for the world, damnit.
COMMENTARY ON CANADA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD THIS ELECTION SO FAR:
Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail: “In election 2008, as in 2006, the world just doesn’t exist.”
Andrew Coyne on the Macleans blog: “The crossroads of international trade.”
Gordon Smith in the Windsor Star: “Canada needs to determine its foreign policy.”
David Pugliese in the Ottawa Citizen: “Indefensible apathy.”
Peter Worthington in the Toronto Sun: “Military missing.”
Dave Hart in the IPE Jounal: The Conservative & Liberal Party Platforms: International Perspective, part I
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are other interesting pieces you suggest we take a look at.