Canada should change its external policy so that our actions in the global community can more closely reflect the best parts of the heritage that we have inherited from our forebears.
This implies that we should be acting to make our country as sovereign and as strong as possible, consistent with that overall objective, so that we may speak collectively as clearly and as influentially as possible outside our borders, with as little fear as possible of adverse consequences.
We occupy a large land mass at the northern end of the American continents, We have one land border with our neighbour to the south. As a result of our other borders, we are an Atlantic, a Pacific and an Arctic country.
Most of our land mass will not support a large population and, for the most part, we are spread out in a long band at our southern border.
We have vast non-renewable and renewable natural resources, which have been a source of a great deal of wealth. These resources and our large land mass mean that we have a large and important global stewardship responsibility, which has external, military, environmental, and economic policy implications.
Our neighbour to the south also has a large land mass and vast resources. It climate and soil patterns mean that it can be much more densely populated. Therefore, with current boundaries, we will tend to have a strong pattern of economic interactions, competitive and complementary, with them, no matter what the historical context. Our relative size and the tendency to strong interactions also has strong implications for our external, military, environmental, economic and social policies.
The key event in our history was the schism in the British North America of the 1770s into the United States of America and the society that has become Canada.
Prior to this event, northern North America was sparsely settled by cultures originating in prehistoric Asia and isolated from the rest of the world until the arrival of western Europeans, primarily French and British, 500 to 400 years ago. The French and British were able to take control of the land, the British created relatively large settlements in what is now the eastern part of the United States of America, while the French created small settlements in what is now Quebec and the Atlantic region of Canada. After a global struggle over 150 years, which was finally won by the British, the French ceded much of their control over North America. Canadian media and popular myths notwithstanding, the military campaign in North America (including the Battle of the Plains of Abraham), and the so-called conquest of New France, were not the determining factors in this cession. The deciding factors were that the French lost the overall global struggle, and decided to desert the Canadiens in the resulting peace process so that they could retain other territories available to them.
In the absence of a threat from France, some elements of the English settlements in what is now the eastern part of the United States of America decided to try to seize control of British North America through violence. Their motives were selfish and, in part, racist. The society they proposed to create was to be based on the deeply flawed principle of "the right to the pursuit of happiness" for the chosen few.
There were significant communities (many First Nations, the Canadiens, and the Loyalists) who wanted no part of this new venture, which they viewed as being illegitimate, immoral or abusive. Many fought in the unsuccessful war to prevent its creation. While the insurgents were partially successful in their endeavour to take control of British North America, with the help of other European powers, the British were able to retain control of the northern part of the continent, where their North American allies were concentrated, or had moved to concentrate themselves. It is from these communities in this territory that Canada has emerged.
Consistent with the reasons for, and the means by, which our society came into being in the first place, Canadians have developed a set of organising values fro their polity that includes the importance of individual and collective responsibility to communities, both in Canada and around the globe, and the use of largely peaceful negotiation among multiple minorities to change, through the rule of law, the societies in which we are involved. While we have sometimes honoured these values more in the breach than in the observance, they reflect Canadian society at its best and form a sound basis for our public policies, including our external policy.
1. Retrieving our sovereignty
We shall not be able to have an effective external policy, unless we retrieve our sovereignty.
Over the past several decades, and particularly over the past 20 years, we have made the strategic error, if we wish to maintain our own existence as a community, of constructing our economy so that more and more of it is under the control of American institutions, dependent on the goodwill of the American government, and less of a force for cohesion among the various parts of the country. (Indeed, some of the people, who have championed these policies have undoubtedly done so, because they realise that the only way to shift Canada to the right is to increase the influence of the US government, which emanates form a more right-wing society, over public policy in Canada.)
The structure of many of our current policy discussions is an indictment of those who claimed in 1988 that the “Canada-US Free Trade Agreement” was merely a trade agreement, easily abrogated on six months notice, the only real impact of which would be to increase our national wealth and give us a platform for greater trade penetration in other parts of the world, with no implications for our ability to build our own society.
However, closer integration with the US has not increased our wealth, despite persistent claims to the contrary. Those who point to our increased trade with the US as a sign of how much wealth their policies have created for us, neglect to mention that most, if not all, could either have occurred without the Agreement (such as our energy and automobile exports) or have been merely the displacement of domestic or other international trade. Indeed, the best studies at the time in 1988 showed that the simple Economics 101 view of the Agreement was just not valid, and that little, if any, wealth creation would result from its implementation. However, these studies, although done and vetted by the best experts on these topics, were conveniently ignored by the Continentalist lobby, in the same way that M. Bouchard casually dismissed studies on the cost of separation when he took over the Yes campaign in the 1995 Quebec referendum.
Moreover, closer integration with the US has not provided the platform for increased global trade by Canada. Quite the reverse, as has been noted with chagrin by people like Peter Lougheed. Our share of global trade outside of North America has gone down since 1988.
What closer integration has done is exactly what Canadians, who had intelligent criticisms of the policy, said it would do. They observed that, after we had realigned our economy to depend even more on the goodwill of the American Congress for access to American markets, we would have willingly shifted the threat point in any conflict we might have with the Americans in their favour. The costs of undoing our increased dependence on US markets decreases our freedom of action by making many actions much more costly.
We have seen this dynamic played out in the split-run magazine case, the cinematic film distribution issue, and the softwood lumber dispute, and in unabashed, American and internal, pressure to adopt American fiscal, monetary, incomes, labour market, social, cultural, immigration, and regulatory policies, and American-friendly external, military, security, energy and corporate governance policies .
To be blunt, if what Mr. Mulroney and his colleagues had said in 1988 had been true, any threat by the US to change their border operations would not be relevant for our current discussions. Moreover, all this undignified and destructive fuss about what the US President does or does not say about Canada would receive the negligible attention it so richly deserves.
This is not just a matter of going over “ancient history”.
New policy suggestions from the people who were wrong before, perhaps knowingly so, ought to be taken with a grain of salt, especially if they refuse to admit their error, or, worse still, if they simply ignore the inconsistency between what they said then and what they are saying now.
The events of the past 20 years have demonstrated that further integration with the USA will only compound our problems. Rather than a "grand bargain" which we shall never be able to enforce, we need to do what we can, using whatever tools we have at our disposal, to decrease our negative exposure to US policy. This will require a detailed sector-by-sector analysis of what that exposure is and of what our strengths are or might become, followed by a concerted effort to use all of our current and potential strengths as efficiently and effectively in this battle.
To do this, we shall need more federal control over our trade in resources of strategic value to the USA, and the willingness to use them in any renegotiations of our relationship. It will require a multi-faceted effort to rediversify our trading links, through tax policy if necessary. It will require policies about corporate governance that enhance the potential for more local control of our economic institutions. It will require assertive cultural policies. It will require more investment in the military, and the creation of security relationships that we will allow us to control our security with a minimum of interference form the US.
The silver lining in the recent aggressive behaviour of the USA, is that as it alienates more countries, we may find more receptive partners in any effort to create partnerships to counter their influence.
We need a series of well-constructed workshops to begin to develop for consideration by the government a series of policy options beyond those of the last 20 years that have so obviously failed to maintain, let alone, enhance our sovereignty.
2. Physical Security
Our physical security is dependent on many factors for which external policy is relevant: a stable global physical environment, control of regional environmental threats, cooperation in the prevention or mitigation of global and regional medical problems, cooperation in dealing with global or regional crime, including the smuggling of dangerous goods and materials (like handguns, potential mass poisions, nuclear materials, tobacco goods, other drugs), cooperation in the control of conditions that lead to social despair and dysfunctional states, and the prevention of local military conflicts (like those in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East) that can have global effects..
This has implications for our external policy.
First, we should never have let our military capability to erode as it has. Although our human military resources are of high quality as they have been for decades, going back at least to 1915, there are too few of them and they do not have the tools to do their job of asserting our sovereignty over our own territory and participating in needed multilateral actions.
Second, we should plan to fulfill our commitments under the UN and NATO to act, in concert with our allies, to deal, as we have in the past, with state-sanctioned aggression or violent international criminal activity, and we should do so within the bounds of international law.
This implies, for example, a multilateral approach, jointly planned and sanctioned, to any campaign to dismantle terrorist groups and networks.
Therefore, the policy of the government to participate in US-led so-called war on terrorism is wrong. Its initial statements of unqualified readiness to participate in such a campaign was an abrogation of its responsibilities. Its stance of passively waiting for the US to plan some action and request or demand our participation was shameful.
If terrorism is a global problem demanding global solutions, those solutions should be provided by global organisations, not by a campaign led by one country.
While we should encourage, and participate in, joint action to counter the threat of terrorism, we should act to ensure that actions, in which we participate, are both lawful and just and are seen to be so. This is not only right, but also in the self-interest of all involved.
To this end, we should participate in military action ourselves only if it is under direct UN auspices, and encourage others, including the US, to do so as well.
We should also not play fast and loose as we did in Afghanistan with the Geneva Conventions.
Third, we should work more generally with others to make our multilateral institutions, like the UN, more capable of providing for our joint security. We must work harder to build these institutions, which are needed to stop mass suffering where possible, and alleviate the effects of such suffering where necessary, wherever it might occur, and whether it might stem from war, genocide, disease, poverty, environmental degradation or natural disasters, as well as terrorism. We have a tradition of supporting such institutions, about which we should be more consistent, if we really care about our security and the security of others.
Of particular concern is the future of the UNFCCC, which has been the subject of much misdirected criticism, and is particularly fragile for a variety of reasons. Our policy on the UNFCCC should be base on the following observations.
1) If we do not plan to cutback on GHG emissions beginning now to levels significantly (i.e., much more than 6%) below 1990 levels within the next few decades, we may significantly increase the probability of devastating climate change by 2100.
2) Much of the uncertainty about the need for these cutbacks will gradually be resolved over the next 30-50 years.
3) It will take a long time to accomplish the task of reducing our emissions, and will require radical changes in urban structure, industrial processes and energy production technology.
4) Because the damage from emissions is global, uncertain and long-term, while the costs of action to decrease them is, in each place, local, more certain and nearer term, it is difficult to reach a global consensus on moving forward to deal with this problem.
5) There is a great disparity in the current per capita use by various societies of the relevant global commons (the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb GHGs without inducing devastating climate change), and the heaviest per capita users have the most global economic and military power.
6) The economy is damaged by unnecessary uncertainty. We need credible rules in place ASAP for what we shall do about this issue. These must be contingent rules that allow a flexible response in the face of the new climate, ecosystem, technological, economic and diplomatic information that we shall receive over time.
7) There will be at least one more round, and possibly many more rounds, of global agreements on this issue, as important as, if not more important than this one. Canadians will not be able to participate effectively in those discussions if we are not perceived to be acting with the global interest in mind now.
In particular, our policy for negotiations for the next compliance period should focus on these two points among others.
1) Because we have not resolved how to deal with the equity issues posed by the disparate use of this global commons, and therefore have no binding constraints on the behaviour of industry in developing countries with comparatively per capita usage of the commons, complaints of industries in Canada and other countries with caps on emissions about the effects of capital flight are justified.
This will need to be addressed by a component of command and control regulation of industrial sources of GHGs in overall countries within an overall market framework of regulation. Canada should be working hard to find out how best to do this, and promoting it for the next compliance period after 2012.
2) Countries, such as the US, that threaten global security by not participating appropriately in the UNFCCC process will need to face severe international sanctions, similar in severity to those faced by Iraq or South Africa. This will obviously require a great deal of political will and solidarity.
Fourth, to continue on this last note, the initial failure of the UN over Iraq (and on many other occasions) was that it failed to stop it from killing thousands of its citizens, and failed to back up reasonable UN resolutions with UN (as opposed to US) force throughout the region as needed, particularly in Israel and Palestine. It compounded the error by not stopping the illegal action of the US in invading Iraq, and looks like it will compound this error by allowing the US to occupy Iraq and steal its oil, without sanction.
We should join in a coalition of like-minded countries to develop the capacity and the will through a reformed UN to discourage any state, including the US, from going into "rogue state" mode as the US has done over Iraq, even if that means risking invasion as we collectively develop the wherewithal to make the US think twice before behaving in this way again.
Fifth, we should oppose any "star wars" defence programme that will use of our airspace, our land or the global commons of space.
Sixth, we should increase our external aid budget to the level of the highest proportional donors in the OECD, and join with them in increasing the effectiveness of external aid.
Seventh, we should work with like-minded states to abolish poverty inducing trade and subsidy policies.
Eighth, we should also distance ourselves from counterproductive rhetoric, as well as reflect on our participation thus far in that rhetoric. It is unnecessary (and possibly blasphemous) to call any campaign in which we participate a campaign of good vs evil. It was insulting and presumptuous of the President of the United States to suggest that nations must choose to with the US or with the “terrorists”. In fact, we should make it clear that we can and do choose to be with the UN and NATO. It was ignorant and damaging under the circumstances to call any campaign against terrorists a “crusade” or to give it the code name “Infinite Justice”. The current US name for their activities, given the nature of US client states in the Middle East, is almost as objectionable. Contrary to claims being made by some leaders in the US and others elsewhere, the attack in the US and the campaign being contemplated do not constitute the first war of the 21th century, or even the most deadly. Unfortunately, there were many wars that were already going on in other parts of the world on the morning that these attacks took place. Lastly, it has become common for people to say that “ the world” changed as a result of these attacks on the US. Certain, there will be changes in the worldview of many people, particularly in some rich countries and in some parts of the Middle East, but large parts of the world, particularly in many less developed regions outside of the Middle East, have been much more strongly changed by other recent events, which have received much less attention. In many areas of the world, the only effect of the attack on the US is that resources that might have gone to dealing with their problems are now being siphoned off to deal with the effects and implications of those attacks.
I have largely dealt with this already. Because we have not done the detailed analysis we do not know what the cost will be to undo damage of the last 20 years by decreasing the amount of our GDP that can be threatened b the US government or by decreasing the amount of our productive economic institutions that is under control of foreign entities. Until our national accounts are examined with this mind, we will not know what combinations of export taxes and permits, governance and other regulations, differential corporate taxes, and trade enhancement programmes will be needed to solve the problem with a minimum of cost. We certainly know that we should not be worsening the problem by giving away our energy and water cards, by policies such as the subsidisation of American flim production, or by loosening corporate governance regulations still in place ( with airlines, communications, education, health care, financial and cultural entities).
4. Values and Culture
I have also covered much of this. We need collective funding of our cultural institutions and public control. These are domestic issues primarily, but they do imply policies on trade in cultural creations and the governance of cultural institutions, which can have ramifications of external policy.