I see that the Toronto Star is at least mildly outraged in a story, datelined Monday, 6 May 19, which said that “Andrew Scheer will announce tomorrow .. [yesterday, now] … that a Conservative government would start talks with the Trump administration to join the U.S. continental missile defence program … [this is only mildly controversial because] … While the U.S. has sought the Canadian government’s co-operation on a missile defence program since the early 2000s, successive governments — both Liberal and Conservative — have refused.” I have explained, in the past, why “successive governments — both Liberal and Conservative” have had their heads firmly stuck up their political rectums. The USA does not plan to defend Canada just because we’re here; our own Canadian general who is the deputy commander-in-chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (DCINC NORAD) told parliament this.
This is a good move for Canada; it is, for the first time in about 35 years, an indication that at least one political party puts Canada’s strategic vital interests ahead of polling data.
Mr Scheer, as The Star points out, has appeared reluctant to speak out on concrete policy initiatives too far before the election, and The Star repeats the Liberal party-line that the Conservatives have no environmental/climate change policy … which is a bit rich considering that Team Trudeau adopted Stephen Harper’s climate change targets and just added an increasingly unpopular carbon tax so that they could spend money on other projects.
John Paul Tasker, writing for CBC News, writing shortly after Mr Scheer’s address to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, called it “hard-hitting” and says that Andrew Scheer “sought to outline his foreign policy priorities while laying Canada’s perceived failures on the file squarely at the prime minister’s feet.“
“The speech,” Mr Tasker says, “repeated many of the attack lines the Conservative Party has directed against Trudeau and the governing Liberals in question period in recent months. It also offered some new details — but few specifics — about what a Tory government would do differently, such as joining a U.S.-led global missile-defense coalition and starting “the necessary work towards moving Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem” … [and Andrew Scheer] … cited the prime minister’s Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiating tactics, his much-maligned trip to India — “the most disastrous foreign trip by any Canadian prime minister ever,” Scheer said — and mounting tensions with China as evidence that the federal Liberal government has conducted foreign affairs with a focus on “style over substance.“
Meanwhile, Mike Blanchfield of the Canadian Press reports, in the Globe and Mail, that Mr “Scheer’s speech was a policy table-setter for the upcoming federal election, the first of several major statements of policy and principle the Conservatives say he will make in the lead-up to the fall campaign … [and it] … also called for Canada to join an American ballistic-missile shield and take a more aggressive attitude toward China.” Mr Blanchfield’s repeats that Andrew Scheer promised that Canada “would join the U.S. ballistic-missile defence program – one that both previous Liberal and Conservative governments, including Stephen Harper’s, chose to not to join … [but] … The United States has gone ahead with the missile-shield program without Canada; it is designed to protect the continent from a long-range ballistic missile armed with a nuclear weapon … [and] … Scheer’s remarks made a passing reference to the challenges of dealing with a mercurial American president, but they largely shied away from any direct mention of President Donald Trump … [saying only that] … “The Canada-United States relationship transcends the personalities of those who occupy each respective office. And its longevity is crucial to our respective peace and prosperity. It must be strengthened.”” That is something he might have said, also, about China.
Andrew Scheer also made several very welcome references to rebuilding a more robust, conservative Canadian foreign policy backed by the military muscle it needs.
With specific regard to missile defence, I think Mr Scheer is wise on two counts:
- First, Canada does need to be part of a strategic missile defence system –
- We could build our own, perhaps by buying (superior?) Israeli technology but I doubt our budget could stand that much defence spending on top of new aircraft and ships and so on; or
- We can join the American continental ballistic missile defence system and achieve a “no brainer” strategic goal that way; and
- Second, because this is not going to be a highly popular platform plank, he is smart to get it out, early, when, hopefully, it will be a bit of a ‘one-day-wonder.’
I found most of Mr Scheer’s speech sensible and welcome, especially the parts about improving Canada’s military and “reaching out” to India and Japan, but I continue to believe and assert that:
- While Russia is, most assuredly in the wrong in Ukraine, the Ukranian regime is less than stellar. In fact, The Economist says, in analyzing the results of the most recent (April 2019) election, that there is an “entire Ukrainian class of politicians who have misruled the country for most of its post-Soviet history.” The suggestion that Canada might lead a peacekeeping mission to help Ukraine secure its own borders, less Crimea, is interesting and politically attractive, especially in Western Canada, but, I suspect, ultimately doomed to ignoble failure; and
- The best way to contain China is to engage with it in productive, mutually beneficial trade and even political relationships. The worst thing to do is to engage in pointless name calling. China is not our friend but we do not need it to be an enemy, either. Mt Scheer said, according to John Paul Tasker’s report that ““I will deal with China with eyes wide open. I will look for ways to strengthen our relationship and open new markets, but with the understanding that at this critical juncture we need to show strength and resolve above all else.”” That’s a pretty good statement of intent which should, actually, please the Chinese.
That Andrew Scheer has chosen to address foreign a and defence policy in the first of his planned series of pre-election statements indicates that those two subjects are low on Canadians’ priority/interest lists and, therefore, of the least electoral importance.
I will, probably, never agree, fully, with any position, not even with the best Conservative position, on any major portfolio, but, as policy statements go, this is a good one.