Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Canadian Election Discovers the World?

There has not been much discussion of international relations/foreign policy/defence policy in the 2019 Canadian election (the first federal election in which I can vote!), but that changed this week.  Each of the three major parties expressed something in this sector and they ranged from bad/wrong to meh/possibly interesting to third parties are going to do what third parties are going to do.  I will address each in turn.  [Last time, I wrote defence platforms for each party--Liberal, Conservative, NDP--I don't have the time or energy for that this time]

First, the Conservatives are going to push for a 25% cut in international assistance, citing a mythical $2b that goes to rich countries like Italy.  Scheer seems to be conflating all kinds of things, including money that goes to international organizations and disaster relief.  It is pretty basic politics, especially from the right, to say that money being spent elsewhere should be spent at home, relying on voters to think the country spends a lot on foreign aid.  $6billion may sound like a lot and a $2b cut seems meaningful, but even in Canada's budget, it is not really that much money and will not get Canada to a balanced budget.  From what little I have seen of public opinion about foreign aid in Canada, the dynamic here is similar to the US: people say too much is spent, they guess it is x, they believe it should be y, and y turns out to be much bigger than the reality.  Canada has fallen short of the goals the international community has set for aid, so the Conservatives would be promising to fall further short.  Since much of it goes to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and other foreign policy priorities, I am not sure how cutting by 25% matches any strategic vision of Canada's role in the world except having less of a role.  In short, I am not a fan.  It is a bad idea based on a lie.

Second, the Liberals released their entire platform.  Not much attention paid to international relations, probably because the Trudeau team never really cared that much about that side of things.  And a reality that people tend not to vote based on foreign policy stances.  Last time, the Liberals promised to stop bombing Iraq/Syria, and they kept that promise, no matter how inconsistent it was with what the rest of the CAF was doing (helping its allies kill ISIS).  They also promised to compete to get a UN Security Council seat, and I am pretty sure they will lose that competition for all kinds of reasons with the brownface thing being the turd icing on the cake.  The new platform is super vague on most things, with the only clear initiative of creating a Defence Procurement Agency.  This may or may not make sense.  The question is whether this adds more levels of oversight and process (which would be bad) or reduces the complexity and clarifies the accountability.  The South Koreans did this, and it seems to have worked for them.  BUT the devil is in the details.  So, this platform, on international relations, is mostly meh but the procurement thing is potentially significant in one way or another.

Third, the NDP's leader, Jagmeet Singh said that he hopes Trump gets impeached. So say all of us... well most of us, but that is not something a leader of an American ally says aloud.  If one is a realistic competitor to be a leader of a US ally, one does not say that aloud.  If one is a third party, then why not?  One does not have to be as responsible because the likelihood of being relevant is low.  This plays well to the NDP base, but you will not see Trudeau or Scheer say anything like this.  Because Trudeau knows he has to work with Trump, and Scheer hopes to have opportunities to do so.  Singh?  Nope.  It is pretty basic--one does not publicly ask for the leader of an ally to be deposed.  It makes partnership pretty hard if they don't get deposed.  Likewise, it is fun politics domestically but dumb internationally to say they would open up NATFA/USMCA.  Is Trump really someone you want to negotiate with?  No.  FFS.

None of these parties are covering themselves in foreign/defence policy glory this week and last.  With no foreign policy debate, I don't expect this discourse to get much better or to get much time except piling on Scheer for the dumb Conservative stance on foreign aid.

No comments: