Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

The NDP Leadership Foreign Policy Awards – 2012

The evening of the Academy Awards a good friend and I were reviewing the foreign policy platforms of three NDP leadership candidates, Tom Mulcair, Brian Topp and Peggy Nash. Here are some awards we created for each of the three candidates’ policies:

Most impressive foreign policy recommendation:

Peggy Nash – “Prioritizing efforts in those countries where consenting same-sex relations are criminalized or where there are moves to change existing legislation (in either direction), raising the issue and encouraging States to make human rights sensitive legislative changes.”

Thomas Mulclair – “Support and defend our veterans, as they have supported and defended the implementation of our foreign policy, by halting any reduction to pensions for retired and disabled veterans.”

 Least innovative foreign policy recommendation:

Thomas Mulclair – “Resurrect the Democracy Canada initiative abandoned by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.”

 Most credible premise for a foreign policy platform:

Peggy Nash – “Canada has fallen in terms of reputation and action promoting peace and prosperity on the global stage. We can do better.”

 Least credible premise for a foreign policy platform:

Brian Topp – “If one thing can be said with certainty about the world in 2012, it’s that the experiment with neo-Liberal globalization has failed in spectacular fashion.”

 Least connected foreign policy criticism and recommendation:

Thomas Mulclair – “The Conservatives politicized foreign aid…”

“… Offer preferential trade and assistance to countries based on their commitment to human rights, labour standards, and environmental protection.

Foreign policy recommendation that is most antagonistic to Canadian allies:

Thomas Mulclair – “Follow Jack Layton’s policy of working with partners for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine, within a framework of respect for international law and UN resolutions including recognition of the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace as independent states within negotiated and agreed-upon borders.”

Thomas Mulclair – “Reform the United Nations Security Council by including nations such as Indian and Brazil as permanent members.”

Foreign policy recommendation that is least likely to succeed:

Brian Topp – “And [the NDP] can restore Canada’s good name in the world.”

Most vague foreign policy recommendation:

Thomas Mulclair – “Reduce duplication within the United Nations to ensure programs are delivered cost-effectively.”

Foreign policy recommendation that will actual damage Canadian credibility

Thomas Mulclair – “Offer deeper, longer-term assistance to a more limited number of countries as an incentive to progress, while using the prospect of bilateral treaties on trade or immigration to reduce the problem of aid dependency.”

Thomas Mulclair – “Reform the United Nations Security Council by including nations such as India and Brazil as permanent members.”

Foreign policy recommendation that most panders to the NDP:

Brian Topp – “Canada should work with other nations to end the current economic and fiscal race to the bottom.”

Supporting evidence that most panders to the NDP:

Brian Topp – “I’m happy to say that even in the US, the homeland and birthplace of these destructive “reverse Robin Hood” policies, support for a new path is building.”

Brian Topp – “From the streets of Cairo to Wall Street, the times they are a changin’.”

Foreign policy recommendation that was stolen from the Liberals:

Peggy Nash – “Placing civilian protection as a lead priority in international strategy.”


Foreign policy recommendation that was stolen from the Conservatives:

Peggy Nash – “Advancing the promotion of LGBT rights on the agenda of international organizations and agencies to which we are party.”

(http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/23/john-baird-points-finger-at-gay-rights-abuses-in-african-caribbean-countries/ )


Canadian Foreign Policy: Nuance Matters

This video (from April, 2011 before the election) was brought to my attention today. Some thoughts:

We should not forget, nor should we let Canadians forget that Stephen Harper lost a seat on the United Nations Security Council, for the first time ever. With the situation in Syria and the the post-Arab Spring Middle East, Canada has far less influence without a seat at the table.

Free trade, Federalism, Fiscal Responsibility and Foreign Policy are the 4 Fs that keep me out of the NDP. In 12 minutes, Bob Rae provides a more substantive discussion on Canadian Foreign Policy than the NDP has over the last decade. I remember going on the NDP website back in 2008 and all they had under “Foreign Policy” was one sentence, something like: “We support our troops in Afghanistan, let’s bring them home.” Foreign policy and public policy in general needs as much nuance as possible. The NDP and the Conservatives operate in a mindset of manichean extremes, this is terrible for democracy and public policy.

“Canada has to be as good a friend to the creation of a state of Palestine as we have been and will continue to be to the state of Israel.” – Bob Rae

Haiti, one year later: The failure of Stephen Harper’s lip-service foreign policy

More than 230,000 are believed to have died in the earthquake in January, and more than 1 million remain homeless. A cholera epidemic broke out in autumn, and an election was held, its results still unclear.” – The Guardian.

One year ago an earthquake totaled Haiti, a country that was already a victim of history. Canadians, feeling the connection to a country with a large enclave with Canada and due to the fact that we are an international people, responded by donating to help with the relief effort. The Canadian army, as always, preformed admirably in the recovery effort. In a dark time, Canadians responded by opening their hearts, not ignoring the needs of others.

Our government initially did the right thing, offering to match donations and assuring Haitians that they had Canada’s support. These promises turned out to be quite hollow. The earthquake happened a few weeks after Stephen Harper prorogued parliament for a second time. I don’t think, nor would I ever accuse, that the government was using Haiti to change the channel on prorogation but the context is important.

Weeks and months later it was revealed that the Harper government was extremely slow in getting the money to Haiti, and recently it was revealed that the UN asked the government if Canadian troops could remain and they refused.

This is typical of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. Our bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council was the diplomatic equivalent of a university essay written the night before, the Harper government’s petulance lost us a base in the UAE, and this Prime Minister spent 4 years ignoring China and India, and has done nothing to address human rights issues in China.

There is a dangerously false notion emerging that says that Stephen Harper’s government IS Canada and therefore criticizing the Harper government for its many foreign policy failures is “Cheering against Canada.” Conflating Canada with Stephen Harper’s government is wrong. The Conservatives were never given a foreign policy mandate from the Canadian people. Lawrence Cannon and Stephen Harper have never asked Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae to collaborate on foreign policy issues (though both are respected in international circles.) I was relieved when Canada didn’t get a seat on the UNSC The Security Council is a series body and Stephen Harper’s government bases its foreign policy on winning votes from ethnic communities within Canada, not on Canadian international values and principles. This government has decided to turn Canadian politics into total war, thus politicizing every action it takes. When they lost the UN Security Council seat their first and only response was to blame Michael Ignatieff. The only people cheering against this country were the Conservatives who relished this failure as an opportunity to score cheap political points.

One final digression: The media has a perverse habit of treating the Liberal Party of Canada like it is the government. Liberals are ignored when they are announcing policy but they must deal infinitely more scrutiny than the Conservatives were given before they became government and to a degree now that they are messing up the country in power.

The Canadian action plan was all about building stadiums and putting up signs that served as photo-op backgrounds for the Prime Minister. Conservative foreign policy has the same potemkin qualities, they announce, they attack their opponents, then nothing is actually accomplished.

In a minority setting and in most cases Stephen Harper’s lip-service style of governance is benign. In the case of Haiti, it has real consequences.

Foreign Policy Magazine Puts Louise Arbour On Their Top 100 Global Thinkers List

71. Louise Arbour

for putting the world on notice.

CEO, International Crisis Group | Belgium

Before she took the reins at the International Crisis Group in 2008, Louise Arbour had already made a name for herself with her willingness to be impolitic in international bodies known for being diplomatic to the point of impotence. As chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s, she indicted Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. Later, as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, she nearly doubled her office’s budget and commensurately increased its ambition, in the process offending all the right people (a Zimbabwean official mocked her office as a “deified oracle which spews out edicts we all must follow”).

In her new role, Arbour’s political savvy has transformed her groundbreaking organization from an indispensable source of information on the world’s thorniest conflicts to a full-fledged actor in their resolution. The ICG’s dogged investigation of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka’s civil war, for example, has kept the issue front and center in 2010, a year after the hostilities ended. “The scale of civilian deaths and suffering demands a response,” Arbour told reporters in May. And if there’s one thing Arbour knows, it’s how to get one.

Read more: Arbour talks to FP about the future of international human rights law.

The full list can be found at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/


Louise Arbour is one of my heroes. She is the perfect example of real principled foreign policy in an increasingly complex, dynamic global environment. Foreign policy is one of the pillars of my personal Liberalism and I am proud that Louise Arbour is a Canada, and a Liberal. Her commitment to nuance has obviously been noticed around the world, but we should never forget the disrespect that Stephen Harper’s government showed her in the House of Commons in the summer of 2008.

So let’s all give Louise Arbour a huge “You go girl!” and commit ourselves to demanding that every Canadian politician and political party embrace an internationalist Canada and stop politics from going beyond the water’s edge.

Check out the Liberal Party’s Global Networks Strategy here.

Ignatieff in China: Subtle Diplomacy > Empty Posturing

Michael Ignatieff, Ujjal Dosanjh and Scott Brison recently return from their long-awaited trip to China. The apogee of the trip was a speech Mr. Ignatieff gave at the University of Tsinghua. My favourite quotes from the Liberal leader’s speech are:

Western illusions and Western fears have often distorted our image of China.

But I made it clear that the ultimate decision about these questions will be made, not by foreigners, but by the Chinese people themselves.

And, further, the prosperity that has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens out of absolute poverty has been one of the most significant advances in human rights for mankind ever.

I would like to suggest that both Canada and China should be much more ambitious about our relationship.

We will work with Canadian provincial and municipal leaders who have come to China to promote Canada. Indeed, a renewed approach to the “Team Canada” missions which my predecessor, Jean Chrétien, initiated here in China in 1994 will be part of our Global Networks strategy.

The 21st century will be defined by unprecedented global flows of knowledge, people and capital. Every society will have to be open to the world.

We must be ready to speak plainly with one another about human rights, always understanding that neither of our countries has a flawless past or present, and always conscious of the vast differences in our respective histories, societies, and political cultures.

Canada can contribute more to the development of human rights in China and to strengthening the rule of law through this array of people-to-people interactions, than by megaphone diplomacy.

We should move forward together, to learn from each other in matters of rights, justice, civil service reform, and corporate social responsibility.

As China works to strengthen its social welfare systems, Canada can share its own experience in building a universal healthcare system for example, or putting public pensions on sound footing, as we did in the 1990s.


Reading pieces from various Canadian publications I was floored by the complete lack of understanding from many members of the press in regards to effective foreign policy. Ezra Levant in the National Post, The Calgary Herald, and many others attacked Michael Ignatieff for not boisterously denouncing the Chinese government’s record on human-rights.  Michael Ignatieff is intelligent enough to avoid “megaphone” diplomacy (his term) which was advocated by Prime Minister Harper when he first took office and apparently is still being promoted by the Canadian media.

The Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, the students of Tsinghua and even the Canadian press, were well aware that this speech would be meticulously read and re-read by the Chinese government. Anyone who says that Ignatieff didn’t talk about human rights is demonstrably false.

However, we have to ask ourselves is: what would a fiery speech accomplish besides the burning bridges between Canada and China?

The Chinese government loves pomp, ceremony and public displays. A leader has to be shrewd when making any public statement in China. This may not seem fair but diplomacy is about more than just one trip, one speech or one meeting. Michael Ignatieff is leader of the opposition and until he becomes Prime Minister it would not serve Canadian interests or the practical needs of those being oppressed in China for a world expert in human rights (Michael Ignatieff) to give one speech at a time/place where Hu Jintao is not even in the room. No matter who is the Prime Minister of Canada they shouldn’t be going to China to denounce that country’s government publicly, they should raise human rights concerns when meeting with Chinese leadership in private.

China has a lot to gain from close partnership with Canada but our relationship is being dominated by economic concerns. The Harper government’s terrible record on the environment and human rights means that the Chinese have less to gain in public diplomacy with Canadian leaders. For four years Stephen Harper ignored china and now that we have been playing catch up our government cannot yet focus on non-economic exchanges.

By visiting China, Michael Ignatieff has laid some of the ground work for a future personal relationship with the Chinese government but this is only one part of the puzzle.

The other Harper deficit: Canada’s International decline under this Conservative government.

Stephen Harper came into office with less foreign policy experience than any other Prime Minister from the last century and it showed. The list of Prime Minister Harper’s foreign policy mistakes is length, the greatest hits are:

  • Agreeing with Israel on everything without asking questions.
  • Ignoring India and China for four years.
  • Killing his own free-trade deals with Jordan and Colombia by proroguing parliament.
  • Trying to derail President Obama’s campaign by leaking information on NAFTA.
  • The Czech/Mexican visa policy.
  • Afghan Detainees avoidance.
  • Ignoring Kosovo’s independence even though the United States and most European recognized their sovereignty (in international relations you only need one country.)
  • Abandoning Africa.
  • Muzzling Canadian NGOs.
  • The Rights and Democracy embarrassment.
  • Doing absolutely nothing to combat climate-change.

Now an international poll has been released that confirms that Canada has fallen in influence under Prime Minister Harper (20,000 people across 18 countries, the poll was conducted by the international opinion research company GlobeScan and the BBC World Service.) Canadians are also becoming skeptical of our international clout, according to the poll 86 per cent who felt positive about their country’s influence in 2008 shrank to 75 per cent last year. This poll comes on the eve of the Vancouver Olympics and 8 months before the UN Security Council election (Minister Cannon declared the government’s intention to get one of the spots on the SC.)

Canada’s foreign policy was developed by Louis St. Laurent, Lester B. Pearson, Paul Martin Sr./Jr., and Jean Chrétien (all Liberals though Brian Mulroney was a laudable PM in terms of FP.) Stephen Harper has squandered our international soft-power by taking his hyper-partisan/brinkmanship style of governing to the international arena. Harper has also completely failed to engaging Canadians in a national debate on international issues.

In an increasingly defuse international system where the United States is no longer the sole global hegemon and the world economy has become integrated with new technology and free-trade, Canada needs a leader who is respected around the world and has the intellect to tackle international issue.

Foreign Policy Magazine Puts Michael Ignatieff On Their Top 100 Global Thinkers List

64. Michael Ignatieff

for showing that not all academics are irrelevant.

Poised to become Canadian prime minister next year, only five years after leaving Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Ignatieff is out to prove the relevance of academia — and big ideas — in politics. Ignatieff’s writing on the sometime necessity of “violence … coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights” to fight terrorism has made him a singular voice among Canadian liberals. His 2004 book, The Lesser Evil, made the case that targeted violence was necessary to prevent the possibility of falling victim to greater violence, but stressed that democratic states should not employ torture or be motivated by national pride or revenge. In 2006 he was elected to Canada’s House of Commons and in 2008 became leader of the Liberal Party. As a politician, he’s renewed his party’s focus on human rights, the war in Afghanistan, and more recently, global climate change, which he defines in characteristically utilitarian fashion as “redistributing risk to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.”

Not on the List: Stephen Harper
As a student of Political Science I was aware of Michael Ignatieff and his work before he ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2006. “Blood and Belonging” and “The Rights Revolution” are both amazing reads (they asked Mr. Ignatieff to do the Massey Lectures, you cannot get more Canadian-intellectual than that!) Globalization has made the power structure of the world more diffuse and given Canada (a country with massive stores of water, uranium and other natural resources) the opportunity to becomes more prosperous and become a power player in the international arena. Unfortunately for the past four years Canada has had a parochial and narrow-minded Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (a man who hadn’t left the continent or even the country before becoming Prime Minister.) For four years the Canadian government ignored China and India and based its foreign policy upon pandering to ethnic enclaves withing swing-ridings.

Michael Ignatieff is the pragmatic and intelligent leader Canada needs. His approaches are always nuanced but Canadians are intelligent enough to elect a leader who will treat them like adults. The Equivocator would like to congratulate Michael Ignatieff on being selected by “Foreign Policy Magazine.”

“It is time for the world to be at the centre of our national conversation, not the margins. It is time that we embraced a view of the world worthy of the country we love, the country I remember from my father’s time, the country we can yet be again.” – Michael Ignatieff

The full list can be found at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/