Canada’s new foreign policy: the end of ‘ideological fantasies’ – Michael Bell

One of the better pieces on the impact on foreign policy of the change in government, but neglects to mention some of the diaspora politics pressure given the large number of visible minority MPs:

We are at the beginning of a new era in Canadian diplomacy with the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. Our place in the international community is about to undergo a dramatic and positive change. The appointment of Stéphane Dion as the Minister of Foreign Affairs is a harbinger.

Although there will be many challenges, often insurmountable, and mistakes will inevitably be made, the new Prime Minister’s world view and his commitment to international norms could not be more different than that of his predecessor.

Stephen Harper, the world’s last neo-conservative leader, is no longer with us. His modus operandi in foreign affairs viewed the international community, most markedly characterized in his eyes by the United Nations, as a threat to his deeply held but exclusionist ideology. For him, the very concept of accommodation with others constituted moral relativism: a sellout.

The result: Canada was viewed abroad as an outlier, as a contrarian, as a force for disruption. Mr. Harper’s colleagues abroad found him most often difficult, if not impossible, to deal with. For the first time in our history, and to our great shame, Canada was voted down for a seat on the UN Security Council, so much had we lost the respect of others.

Life was miserable for Canadian diplomats at home and abroad, including those charged with UN affairs; we lost the chairmanship of UN committees traditionally ours for asking; we lost any role in its consultative processes. Mr. Harper and his long-time foreign minister, John Baird, snubbed the institution. Their political staffs: “The boys in short pants” were the enforcers.

With Mr. Trudeau’s election, those days are now past. For instance, after a single day in office, he called on Canadian ambassadors abroad to engage fully with the governments, civil society and media in their countries of accreditation.

In retrospect, it is astounding that the Canadian government’s aversion to evidence-based decision-making lasted as long as it did. It is astounding that diplomacy (most often a backstage craft) was confined to the dustbin. It was depressing that truth could never speak to power. It was intolerable that bureaucrats felt it necessary to ensure that analytical assessments were censored so that the ire of the man in power was not brought down on them.

With Mr. Harper’s electoral defeat, it now seems obvious that Canadians need engagement in a very complex world in which effective policies depend on a deep understanding of foreign cultures and reliable barometers of impending difficulties. We need more reliable eyes and ears out there, not fewer. My hunch is that Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Dion will give us just that.

…A self-confident, socially adept and thoughtful Prime Minister with a feel for issues and a commitment to socially enlightened change. An intelligent, erudite Foreign Minister with a compelling, Cartesian intellect.

What a change.

Source: Canada’s new foreign policy: the end of ‘ideological fantasies’ – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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