Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Friday, July 07, 2006

State of Canadian Politics - National Security and Foreign Affairs

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What Is the State of Canadian Politics? I was recently asking myself this in an effort to determine where I stand on things, and how Canada's political scene is doing.

The following is the first installment in my issue by issue breakdown of the state of Canadian politics, covering 10 key areas. As I see things, the ten most important dossiers to the Canadian political arena today are:
  1. national security,

  2. foreign affairs,

  3. health,

  4. the environment,

  5. the economy,

  6. post-secondary education,

  7. separatism,

  8. the judicial system,

  9. social equality (of opportunity), and

  10. innovation.
National security - As the debate in Parliament and throughout civil society shows, national security is at the forefront of everyone's minds. Luckily, this importance is commensurate with this issues' importance (as opposed to the exaggerated attention given to the Prime Minister's waistline).

Where politics are concerned, the essential issue here is to legislate sufficient powers and budgets to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (Canada's spy agency). This also relates to co-operating with our allies abroad in order to prevent terrorist attacks.

Sharing and circulating the information gathered by CSIS and its foreign counterparts is of course essential, but we should not limit ourselves to this. The Canadian Forces' role is to defend Canadians (hence the political responsibility for them falling to the Minister of Defence). In that capacity it is entirely logical and reasonable for them to be sent abroad to fight terrorists.

This isn't to say that Canadian troops are misused as peacekeepers. Canada's defence is served when we help foreigners maintain peace and quiet in their countries, not least because our peacekeepers share liberal values with the people they meet. (Note the use of the word share; the Canadian Forces do not coerce foreigners to adopt liberal values. They don't threaten to quit their duties abroad unless locals adopt liberalism, for example.)

However, the role of the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force is not limited to peace-keeping, and it is important to understand that (especially in many capital-l Liberal camps, and in some Green circles...).

Here, the state of Canadian politics is improving, but still vulnerable. Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives are honestly interested in stopping terrorists away from Canadian soil, and have deployed Canadian troops accordingly. (The Toronto arrests can't be attributed to Harper's government, though. That investigation was ongoing prior to his taking power.)

Unfortunately, a large number of politicians are disgustingly hypocritical and duplicitous, or perhaps simply plain naive about this. Thus you have politicians who will acknowledge that Canada is threatened by terrorists - and then will object to any measure aiming to parry the threat!

Ironically, these politicians think that they are gaining the Arab vote by such a "principled stand for civil rights," yet Canadian Arabs have strongly condemned terrorism and have stated that they want to be defended from terrorists just like the rest of the Canadian electorate!

Foreign Affairs - For much of the past decade, mostly under the aptly named Lloyd Axworthy and his predecessors, Canada consistently voted against Israel at the United Nations. All-too-frequently Canada voiced support for motions that picked on and singled out Israel while whitewashing the terrorist crimes committed against it.

Under ex-Prime Minister Paul Martin, positive change was beginning to be seen in this dossier (prior to which, Chretien's government was awful). This trend is being continued by Canada's current Conservative government. The reason this example is cited is to highlight the shift in Canada's foreign policy. It used to be head-in-the-sand and is now openly recognizing challenges abroad and who our real allies are in that regard.

Here, as with Canada's discussion of national security, terrorism, Afghanistan and al-Qaeda dominate our political discourse. For good reason: Islamic fundamentalism (the ideology uniting Islamist terrorists, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Iran's Ahmadinejad, Hamas and others) is the greatest challenge of our times. Having discussed Canadian national security above, I will consider the economic component of our foreign politic.

Trade and aid are the most important areas here. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been strongly criticized for allowing companies to sue governments over laws they perceive as harming their trade interests. The result of this has been to make politicians hesitant about legislating on trade, even though they may be legitimately defending citizens' interests.

That being said, Canada has a strong fair trade movement and an equally important movement aimed at increasing our foreign aid.

The foremost consideration our government's legislators should have in mind when making Canada's policy in this regard are to advance Canadian economic interests while respecting other nations. In effect, it is the foreign trade parallel to the judicial concept of limits to freedom.

The state of Canadian politics is here improving too, because of the growth of the collective Canadian social consciousness. Here, NAFTA's environmental success has been mixed, and the rise of maquiladoras in Mexico that provide poor working conditions is nothing our Foreign Ministry should be proud of.

On the other hand, Canadian activists are at work in almost any forsaken corner of the world you could thing of that could use a helping hand. Granted this isn't government foreign policy, but I think it's a grassroots foreign policy that deserves to be taken note of. It's part of Canadian culture, and that is reflected in the pressure Canadians are placing on politicians to increase aid to 0.7% of GDP.

In Stephen Harper's shoes, I would compromise with the national security hypocrites who acknowledge a problem and try to prevent solutions. I would grant them influence on foreign trade policy in exchange for a freer hand in foreign affairs-related considerations of national security.

If you felt this was a worthwhile read, consider subscribing to our free newsletter. It's sent out twice a month and keeps you informed on important issues in Canadian politics.
Alternately, consider some related reading (links below).

Here are some articles:

Hamas did NOT Recognize Israel in a Deal with Fatah
Separatists, Sovereignists, and now Separationists??
Green Party of Canada Leadership Interview - May Concluding Segment

Related articles are archived in the topical categories , (different from my classification of Canadian federal politics in that the former tag implies involvement in the federal politics by non politicians), , .


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