Canada and the world

Particularly with my background in international relations and international law, I feel very strongly about what role Canada can and should be playing internationally--and what that means, or can mean, to us at home. I wish I'd written what Joe Clark (former Prime Minister) just did, but credit where it's due, he has just written an excellent piece in the Ottawa Citizen ("Play to Canada's strengths; If we measure our influence by military might or economic influence, it will continue to decline -- Canada should focus on its talent for diplomacy", The Ottawa Citizen Wed Jun 24 2009) I highly recommend it to everyone, and I thank you, Mr. Clark, for expressing what I also believe so eloquently.

Here is the article:

Play to Canada's strengths; If we measure our influence by military might or economic influence, it will continue to decline -- Canada should focus on its talent for diplomacy

The Ottawa Citizen
Wed Jun 24 2009
Page: A15
Section: News
Byline: Joe Clark
Source: Citizen Special

Once, Canadians played an influential and innovative role on the international stage. Now there is a relative absence in global affairs that is aggravated by declining budgets for diplomacy and development.

The decline in Canada's capacity to address significant changes in the world did not happen suddenly. Most of it is due to developments beyond our borders and the emergence of new powers and economies.

When Canada and Italy became members of the G-7, the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) among others were not considered part of the competition. Now, emphatically, they are.

As the world's religious, cultural and economic divides grow deeper, our diversity and our diplomatic abilities have become more relevant.

The critical international skills needed to shorten these divides include prominently the ability to draw differences together, to manage diversity, to generate trust -- the traditional and genuine signature qualities of Canada.

To the Harper government's credit, Canada is now increasing its defence spending. For too long, we had let other countries carry an increasing share of our defence burden. But our diplomatic and development resources are being run down now as steadily and certainly as our defence resources were run down in earlier decades.

It is worth asking: Why the double standard? Why is Canada more prepared to accept our share of the military burden than we are of the diplomatic and development burdens?

In this world of shifting power, how long would Canada have a place at the table of a G-8 Summit? Would we make the cut of a G-20? In other words, would we keep our seat in the inner circle of countries that define international trade and military, diplomatic and development policy?

Not if we focus narrowly on trade and economic policy, or define our international profile disproportionately by military presence. For all our growth and innovation, Canada can have more influence in politics and diplomacy than we do in trade. Economic power reflects size; diplomacy depends more on imagination, and agility, and reputation. Canada's political strengths have more currency again, if we choose to use them.

From some perspectives, foreign policy is just another necessary function of the state -- self-respecting countries need a police force, a tax policy, a foreign policy, a defence policy. In that view, foreign policy is a function, not an attribute -- and some of the traditional foreign policy functions are less relevant in this highly connected, mobile world.

Twenty years ago, the end of the Cold War changed the fundamental dynamics of foreign policy in western countries. The priority became trade and economic growth. Governments chose to believe that trade would combat poverty, that market models would release energies that were inherently democratic, and that military force would contain local challenges and disorders.

The twin failures of the military intervention in Iraq, and the collapse of the financial system, demonstrate the limitations of that faith.

At the same time, there is a shifting of power -- economic, cultural, political, even military. Fareed Zakaria argues this is not about anyone's decline -- but rather the rise and assertion of new forces. Call it a "post-American world," call it a BRIC world, this is a new situation, in which Canada needs to evaluate its assumptions and capacities.

If British economist and author Barbara Ward was right in describing Canada as the "first international country," if Canadian travellers and businesses who stitch on the maple leaf are right, if we have something distinctive to offer, we should treat Canada's "international vocation" as an asset -- as we treat our energy resources, our literacy and ingenuity, and our diversity as assets.

Let's list just five of our assets as Canadians that can be most relevant in this changing world:

1. Our diversity at home.

We have more capacity than most to build and enlarge relations with the cultures and societies whose global influence is on the rise. For one thing, so many of those cultures are dynamic parts of our own identity -- South Asian, Chinese, African and Caribbean diasporas, and a disproportionately large and innovative refugee population.

But, as importantly, those citizens are treated with respect, and now guaranteed equality before the law, in this open, immigrant nation whose tradition of diversity is so deep that it pre-dates our confederation itself.

2. Our ability to bridge differences.

We have earned respect as a partner in the developing world and generally carry the advantage of not being seen as seeking to impose our views and values on other countries.

We are the only member in the G-8 that carries neither an imperial nor a colonial taint and in that we have been a natural and practised bridge between the richer world and the poorer.

3. The different North America.

The world still reveres the American ideal of equal opportunity, even if it is bruised or disappointed by what U.S. policy has actually been in practice. Canada is closest to that democratic reputation that is so admired about the United States, and we are not yet subject to the negative stereotypes.

We are the other North America, and we need to emphasize that distinction.

4. Our multilateral instinct.

For more than half a century, Canada has promoted a multilateral system precisely because nations our size were not big enough to protect ourselves alone. We have a profound interest in a world that works -- SARS strikes here, refugees come here, pollutants pollute here, and close relatives of Canadians die in virtually every conflict in the world.

Our national interest has always included international co-operation -- not in any airy-fairy way, but as the practical centerpiece of our trade policy, through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organisation; our security policy, through NATO and other alliances, and our support for international standards and agreements in health, human rights, and the environment.

This isn't a posture -- it is a Canadian characteristic, as real as winter.

5. Our ability to work with non-state actors.

International affairs have been transformed by new phenomena -- the emergence of powerful and focused foundations, such as NGOs; the new commitment, for whatever reasons, to corporate responsibility; and the role of remittances.

The World Bank estimates that, in 2008, remittances totalled $375 billion, most of it going to developing countries, involving some 200 million migrants -- or three per cent of the world's population. Those are big figures.

Yet, for all these private or non-government initiatives, this is still an institutional world. Sovereign states still make the critical decisions -- to cut or increase budgets, respect or break treaties, send or withdraw troops, pay or withhold their membership contributions, confront or ignore crises.

The challenge and opportunity now is to marry mandate with imagination -- combine the creativity of these independent forces with the capacity-to-act of institutions. Who could do that better than Canada? Those partnerships are what happened in the fight against apartheid, in the negotiation of the Land Mines Treaty, in the Kimberley Process to stop the trade in blood diamonds, and in a wide range of less-publicized initiatives.

Canada has always been an act of will. We didn't come together naturally. We haven't stayed together easily. Confederation was an act of will. So were medicare, equalization, the Charter of Rights, and free trade. One reality of our country is that we have to keep proving our worth to our parts.

We are a wealthy, lucky country, increasingly self-absorbed. It is easy to take our good fortune for granted, or to see ourselves principally as British Columbians, or Quebecers, or environmentalists, or simply taxpayers, and thus to become smaller than our whole.

So we need to look to issues and aspirations that reach across the lines and attitudes that might otherwise set Canadians apart, and to characteristics that distinguish us, legitimately, from comparable societies.

Foreign policy is that kind of issue.

Our sense of "international vocation" has helped define and reinforce Canadian identity since the end of the First World War. It is an asset with a double value. It could strengthen us at home, and now, in an era when the mediation and management of diversity are such critical components of international affairs, it could have an important impact on the world.

Joe Clark is a former prime minister of Canada.


2nd Annual Toronto Regional Day

Hi! My name is Ryan and I am a volunteer for TeamMHF. This Saturday, I was one of several Willowdale representatives at the 2nd Annual Toronto Regional Day organized by the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario). “Ready to Win” was the event’s title, as the purpose of the day was to help prepare those of us at the grassroots level for an election campaign, if an election is called.

The lobby of the Ryerson University meeting room was buzzing when I arrived a few minutes before 8:30 in the morning. There were a lot of familiar faces present, including a number of people I recognized from the Vancouver convention in May. There wasn’t a lot of time of time for chatting over coffee, though, as the schedule was packed!

For the first break-out session of the day, we were assigned to tables with people from other ridings as well as our own. Along with several other Willowdaleans, I was seated with number of people from Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the riding of Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. We were given ten minutes to come up with an election preparedness plan given the hypothetical scenario of an election in six months. The mixed seating arrangement gave us the opportunity to exchange our ideas and our experiences from past campaigns.

After each table shared their plan, an “expert panel” composed of experienced past campaign managers provided advice and recommendations for improving the plan. Several more break-out sessions throughout the day continued on this theme, with variations on the time frame from 6 months to two days.

We broke in the middle of the day for a lunch of sandwiches and salads (which was included with registration!). This provided more opportunities to meet and chat with Liberals from all over the Toronto region.

The highlight of the day for me was a speech by Rocco Rossi, National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada. He spoke with great conviction about the challenges facing the party, but also about the huge strides that we have made. Mr. Rossi stated that the party needs for every Liberal in Canada to see themselves as personally responsible for the party’s future. He challenged each of us to recruit at least one new Liberal—which would double membership if everybody did this!

The event was a great opportunity to hear some expert advice from seasoned campaign runners. For me, the most helpful input came simply from connecting with people from other ridings in Toronto, sharing ideas and stories from past campaigns. I should mention that Eileen Shuchat, who is Toronto Region president for the LPC(O), did a great job in organizing the event and is actually from Willowdale herself! We left the event energized and ready to fight an election regardless of when the next one will be held.

- Ryan


Une journée sur la colline

Une journée sur la colline

Bonjour à tous! Je m’appelle Anne-Sophie Belzile. Je suis l’adjointe exécutive et conseillère politique de Martha à son bureau d’Ottawa. Je m’occupe de son agenda, de l’organisation de son bureau, ses voyages, j’essaie de m’assurer que ses journées soient bien organisées et bien remplies, bref, je veille à ce que Martha puisse accomplir son travail de députée le plus efficacement possible!

Toutes mes journées de travail sur la colline sont uniques et généralement bien remplies… Je vous raconterai ma journée du mercredi, 3 juin : une très belle journée ensoleillée et stimulante. Arrivée à mon stationnement près de la Cour Suprême, j’attrape un minibus vert de la Chambre des communes pour me rendre à l’Édifice de la Confédération où se trouvent nos bureaux.

Après un court détour par le bureau de poste et la cafétéria – café oblige – j’arrive enfin devant mon ordinateur. Martha est déjà en caucus, Puneet, mon collègue, est en réunion et Élizabeth, notre étudiante, est fidèle à son poste.

Il est déjà 10h30, Élizabeth et moi devons nous rendre chacune à des réunions différentes. Nous nous reverrons que vers midi. Les courriels n’ont pas cessé d’entrer durant la réunion – des invitations, des demandes d’entrevues, des questions sur les comptes de voyages…

Nous sommes tous à l’œuvre dans notre petit bureau. Puneet travaille sur les sujets qui seront étudiés par le comité demain et relié un projet de loi. Élizabeth essaie de mettre en ligne certains vidéos de Martha tandis que je mets à jour son agenda et prépare son voyage vers Saskatoon, Whistler et Calgary qu’elle fera la fin de semaine prochaine.

L’heure des votes prévus aujourd’hui a changé, certains collègues ont besoin d’un remplacement pour un comité, j’accepte donc une demande et j’envoie Martha au comité de l’Accès à l’information et de l’Éthique pour rendre service à l’honorable Larry Bagnell.

Je n’ai toujours pas vu Martha de la journée sauf à la télévision!
Depuis le matin, elle a assisté à trois réunions de caucus, un barbecue organisé par Ingénieurs Canada et l’Association canadienne des Travaux publics, ensuite ce fut la période des questions, les votes, le comité et maintenant, elle est en chambre jusqu’à 18h30. Elle se rendra ensuite à deux réceptions. La journée est loin de s’achever!

L’après-midi s’achève… Je quitte le bureau avec mes collègues en direction d’une réception « Dégustation de bières et fromages québécois » organisée par le député Scott Reid, à l’Édifice du Centre.

Je ne goûte qu’à deux bons fromages qu’il faut déjà que je me rende subito presto dans la cours intérieure de l’Édifice de l’Est où je dois faire du bénévolat pour le party organisé par les adjoints libéraux du Québec. Eh oui! Un autre super party, et c’est nous qui l’avons organisé... Pour 15$ par personne, nos invités ont droit à de la musique folklorique, des hamburgers et hot-dogs, des breuvages et de multiples prix de présence.

Finalement, vers 20h00… Martha arrive pour saluer les fêtards.

Une belle journée! Espérons que nous en aurons d’autres tout aussi festives pendant l’été.
Certaines journées sont plus occupées et exigeantes que cette dernière, mais reste que nous ne nous ennuyons que rarement - voir jamais – dans le milieu de la politique.



Red Bras Really do Rock!

Red bras really do rock :-). The annual "Red Bras Rock" martini night in Saskatoon, beautifully and enthusiastically hosted by Marie-Therese Verma, was another great success. It is a combination breast cancer research and liberal fundraiser. This was my fourth straight year attending. The first one was in the early stages of the 2006 Liberal Leadership campaign, and I was thrilled to be back for the fourth year in a row. (There is a great story about that first time, certain red lingerie, and certain promises made--and kept!! But that story will have to wait for another time. Maybe the book :-))

A real treat this year was meeting Lisa Rendall, a former radio personality who has lived with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer for 9 years now. Since her diagnosis she has raised large sums of money for cancer research, and is a very motivational person. We all wish Lisa continued success in her brave battle.

I am already looking forward to next year's Red Bras Rock.


Canvass in Willowdale: a day of non-election, non-campaign door-knocking

In Willowdale, we have decided to some non-election, non-campaign door-knocking. We hope to do this about once a month, although after the success of our first one Saturday, we may do it even more often. It was great. We had a terrific group of volunteers out--Markus, Rose, Ken, Ryan, Katie, Allessia and Adrian--the weather was gorgeous, and most of all, the reaction was just great. A couple of people were nervous that an election had been called without them knowing it (!!) but once reassured no, they were genuinely pleased that we were out, without an election. It was such a good opportunity to just ask folks what they were concerned about; what issues were top of mind for them, etc.

We received some good ideas, some good suggestions, a few important concerns about the current government were raised---and we all really enjoyed ourselves. Thanks to all who came out, and thanks to all who opened their doors to engage in some discussion.

Watch for the next date for our "non-election" door-knocking (assuming, of course, that we'll still NOT be in an election). All are welcome to come out with us!