Monday, November 23, 2015

Figuring out Trudeau and the Liberals

I had a very interesting conversation this morning with scholars visiting Canada, and they were seeking to figure out the foreign policy stances of the new Trudeau government.  And they were asking me!?  Hell, I have no idea since I am not on the inside, and my friend on the inside is not giving me the inside dirt about the intentions of the new government.

So, did I just shut up?  Of course not, as my readers know only too well.  I focused mostly on the promises the Liberals made.  Why?  Two reasons: first, yes, politicians can break promises but tend not to do so; and second, the Liberals put out a large number of policy papers to demonstrate that they were serious and that Justin was "ready."  So, consult those papers and promises and one can figure out maybe what the Liberals will do.

I could guess more easily at some stuff and not others:
  • Yes, Canada's CF-18s are going to leave the ISIS mission, but the training effort will get bigger.
  • Yes, Canada will keep its commitment to refugees.
  • Trudeau will give the various folks a chance to discuss the Trans Pacific Partnership, but will sign off.  Why?  Well, the Liberal Party should buy into free trade as one of the defining aspects of Liberalism.  Also, it is unrealistic to expect that Canada could get anything better out of the deal by re-negotiating .... unless it was willing to sacrifice supply management (which I would love but ain't happening).
  • Will Canada get friendly with Russia?  Maybe a smidge more.  This government will try to be more diplomatic than Harper (not that hard to do), but any re-set with Russia is going to founder on Ukraine and the various threats to the Baltics.  It is hard to have a good relationship on the Arctic or on ISIS while having a bad relationship on irredentism/aggression.
  • Will Canada join Russia in siding with Assad against ISIS?  Hell no.  This party has too much invested in Responsibility to Protect and in other principals, not to mention the folks here get that Assad is a cause of ISIS success.
Anyhow, informed speculation I got.  But not much more than that.  I think we will have a good idea about the Liberals by June.  Lots of key decision points between now and then to reveal the character of the Prime Minister and whether he listens to the folks who are smart on Canada's role in the world.

UPDATE:  Also, check out the mandate letters that Trudeau issued to his ministers--no better source of future intentions that the marching orders given to the ministers.  H/T to Julian Dierkes for reminding me.


Julian Dierkes said...

I think that many of us are eager to get indications on where Canadian foreign policy under the liberals might be heading, so thank you for posting your thoughts here, even if they remain in the realm of speculation.

I would offer 3 suggestions as to areas where I am expecting some changes of direction from the Liberals:
- a more strategic approach to China and, perhaps, Asia more broadly (see discussion at coming white paper on Canada-China)
- climate change as a priority has been mentioned very explicitly in mandate letters and this could extend across many different activities beyond COP21 into development assistance, bilateral and regional relations
- the greater openness hinted at in mandate letters could be extended to greater engagement with stakeholders in Canada and abroad, i.e. "Digital Diplomacy" (see my The Way Forward for Canadian Digital Diplomacy (The Embassy))

Anonymous said...

Ordering of Super Hornets to replace the CF-18 (rather than F-35s) is all but inevitable, but given the non-partisan record of military procurement fuck-ups 1990-present I understand skepticism regarding any progress on other files.

The Harper Tories tried to create a foreign policy vision that would erase "goody two-shoes" Pearsonian internationalism - what we actually got was a wacky mix of grandstanding on Ukraine, the Israel-Palestine conflict, North Korea, etc. (issues where Canadian involvement in changing outcomes is limited at best) alongside non-participaton on multilateral initiatives. Will be interesting to see how Trudeau deals with the easy stuff (eg. signing the Arms Trade Treaty, reversing the UNCCD withdrawal, funding abortion in the MNCH) and the more politically problematic (e.g. re-opening the Canadian embassy in Iran).