While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to criss-cross Canada, partly trying, but, evidently, failing to “connect” with the 99% of us who are not “trust fund kids” who get invited to private islands by über-riche royals, but, mainly to deflect public attention from the nauseating stench of corruption that wafts from Liberal fundraisers and his own, personal, sense of entitlement, many, many key world leaders were gathering in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the world’s business in the Trump era.
Justin Trudeau should have been there.
His office put out a rumour, mostly, it appears to me, through the Indo-Canadian media, that he would not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration … true enough, as far as it went, but then Canadian prime ministers are not, specifically, invited to US presidential inaugurations and, traditionally, have never gone, so the rumour was, in fact, closer to a lie, designed, again, to deflect attention away from why he felt it necessary to skip the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, which Canadian PMs do, traditionally, attend. He and Team Trudeau are trying to change the channel away from “cash for access,” which he now appears to want to promise to stop or, at least, to amend, and breaking his own written rules about ministers (he is one) using private aircraft and schmoozing with rich people who get millions, each year, in government grants. Prime Minister Trudeau’s problems go well beyond what Judge Gomery famously described as “small town cheap,” they look, to many “ordinary Canadians,” like me, to be big league dishonest. There is, at the very least, the appearance that Chinese millionaires, including some who are agents of the Chinese government, bought the prime minister’s time and attention and perhaps even more, and that, soon after, he (his government) approved the (controversial) sale of a Canadian electronics firm to a Chinese conglomerate. It doesn’t really matter what the truth of the matter is: it just doesn’t pass the smell test. Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party of Canada both look weak and corrupt.
So, it is pretty clear why Justin Trudeau passed up Davos … the question is: was it a good decision?
My answer is: No!
Justin Trudeau should have been there.
Both President Donald Trump and Chairman Xi Jinping are, currently, conducting important soft power operations. President Trump is appealing, perhaps a bit crudely, to those, tens (even hundreds) of millions, in America and Australia, in Britain, in Canada, and in Europe, who perceive themselves to be “losers” in the globalization surge of the past 35 years or so (longer if, like me, you think it began circa 1950 rather than 1980). Chairman Xi, on the other hand, does not need to convince billions in Asia that they are, mostly, globalization’s “winners,” but he does need to convince those in the US led West who stand to make long term gains from globalization ~ the people whose jobs depend on the folks who attend the WEF in Davos ~ that globalization works and that China, not America, is the best defender of the new, quasi-liberal, global economic order. The Financial Times describes Xi Jinping’s message as “globalism without liberalism,” adn I think that is a very apt description. The point is that Xi was in Davos and Trudeau wasn’t … that was a mistake on Prime Minister Trudeau’s part.
This ongoing exercise by America and China is something like a battle of the elephants, and we, smaller creatures, must be careful to avoid being trampled, and we must be nimble, too, to capitalize on whatever opportunities their “battle” creates. To do both we should have our own grand strategy (which is, always, far beyond just military matters and defence budgets) that is based on our vital interests, and we should have friends who share our interests. Davos was where one of the giants (Vice President Joe Biden didn’t count) and many potential friends gathered.
One of Xi Jinping’s long term, strategic targets is Mexico, which may be ripe for the picking during the Trump era, and, indeed, all of Central and South America. Another is Canada: China wants a free(er) trade deal with Canada, in order to gain better access to our resources, and Canada should want one, too … but we need to be careful that it is a fair deal, in the mid to long term, for both partners. The Chinese are pretty good long term, strategic thinkers but that is not an attribute for which leaders in Western, liberal democracies are famous.
The Chinese are, already, well ensconced in Africa which, after Asia, is the most likely source of global economic growth in the 21st century. So, there is a good reason for Canada to engage in Africa, including to help to keep the peace in Africa, but not in any of the UN’s current missions ~ most of which are failing, nor in French speaking Africa where anything we do will be only to help France meet its own, selfish, imperialistic strategic policy goals, and not, expect as a peripheral benefit, to defeat Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS. Canada should be engaged in Africa in pursuit of our own vital interests ~ trade and the “peace” that makes free(er) trade possible and profitable.
There were a lot of key people at Davos, discussing a lot of key issues. Justin Trudeau should have been leading the Canadian team at the World Economic Forum, not trying to salvage his battered reputation in university auditoriums in Moncton and Saskatoon. He has fumbled the leadership ball, because, as we, Conservatives, said back in 2015 “He’s just not ready.”
Donald Trump is a heavyweight, a bully and a bull in a china shop, too; but he is, also, a skilled, practiced tactician who knows how to get what he wants … and every (current) indication is that he wants to keep many, many of his “America First,” isolationist and protectionist promises. As Rex Murphy writes, in the National Post, “Trump has thrown a huge and hungry cat into a basket of flightless pigeons, with his complete reversal of the Obama positions on North American oil, on regulations and hearings, and by placing the highest priority on jobs. Trump’s policies are diametrically in contrast with the boy-scoutism on global warming that is at the centre of Trudeau’s heart … [and] … The Trudeau government has a Suzukian vision of apocalyptic climate change and Elizabeth May reveries on carbon taxes. These are not Trump compatible.“
Xi Jinping is also a bully, but he is a devious, long term, conservative (Confucian) and strategic thinker, too. His aim is “China First,” and he intends to achieve it, albeit not in the same way as President Trump will proceed. with “America First.”
Canada needs friends and allies as we try to make and mend the best deals we can with both giants AND with other, lesser powers, too, because Canada needs and should want the undoubted economic benefits of trade diversion. Davos was the place where we might have rubbed shoulders with some of those friends.
Prime Minister Trudeau a real Canadian leader needed to have been there.