Yesterday, new Conservative MP Leona Alleslev said that Canada finds itself “in a time of unprecedented instability. We’re seeing fundamental shifts,” she said, “in the global economy, while trade relationships, international agreements and defence structures are under threat. Canada,” she went on to say, “faces a perfect storm of serious challenges at home and abroad … [and] … we must recognize that foreign policy, trade, defence and our economy all depend on each other and cannot be viewed separately.“
It’s about time someone else recognized that economics and trade are not separate from foreign policy and defence spending and all those are also tied to others policies: to monetary policy and to domestic social policies, for example …
… all of which combine to form a nation’s grand strategy.
Ms Alleslev is very correct, in my view, to say that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t understand this fairly basic precept. I worry that some Conservatives don’t get it, either. Some of the connections are obvious: you cannot have a strong, effective military, not for long, anyway, without a strong economy. Ditto for generous social programmes. But social and defence policies are not opposites, they do not compete with one another, people who live in a just society need to be, should want to be willing to pay for its defence. It seems easy to mix foreign policy with defence policy, but sometimes we want to de-emphasize military matters in our dealing with some foreign powers and stress, instead, various aspects of our society: our arts and culture, our education systems, our innovation and industry and so on.
I’m sure that many Americans, not just President Trump, see connections between, for example, Canada’s broadly fair and balanced trading relationship with the USA and the disproportionately large share (more than 10:1)* that America contributes to continental defence, for example. It is not just Donald Trump who thinks that Canada and other allies are free riders: getting “free” defence while they “rip off” America in trade deals. He and they are partially right; we, Canada at least, are trading fairly with the USA but we are not contributing anything like a full and fair share to the common defence and security arrangements, and we haven’t since the late 1960s:
And it isn’t just as a share of GDP that defence spending has fallen, sharply …
… after World War II Prime Ministers King, St Laurent, Diefenbaker and Pearson all expanded the social safety net … slowly and cautiously, and, equally slowly, and naturally and properly, the share of government spending that went to defence declined. Then, beginning in 1968, Pierre Trudeau offered and Canadians accepted the notion that “the land is strong” and he opened the social spending floodgates. He also caused a ‘civil war’ to erupt within the Liberal Party of Canada: first between he and John Turner; then between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin and John Manley and now, apparently, between Justin Trudeau and some ‘blue’ Liberals. The end result of Pierre Trudeau’s policy shift is that there is, now, precious little room to raise defence spending without restructuring the social safety net.
Ms Alleslev is quite correct: there are connections between all the policy areas that concern her, and that concern President Trump, too … now it is up to her new party, the Conservative Party of Canada, to explain that to Canadians.
It’s time to raise the storm signals.
* The USAF, for example, has 14 or 15 fighter wings (a wing has two or three or more squadrons) assigned to NORAD operations; Canada has two squadrons on NORAD assignment.