Just the other day I suggested that everyone, including Canada, will have to adapt to whatever happens in the United Kingdom over the next 100(-) days.
John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, picks up on that and puts some flesh on the bare bones of my concerns.
“On Oct. 21, voters will choose the next government of Canada,” he says, and then, just “Ten days later, if incoming British prime minister Boris Johnson is to be believed, the United Kingdom could crash out of the European Union, fomenting a crisis that would seriously affect this country … [he says, but I disagree, that] … The good news is that the Conservatives and Liberals, the parties most likely to form the government, take a roughly similar approach to foreign policy; Ottawa’s response to Brexit would be same regardless of whether Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau is leader.” But I suggest that is only true up to a point, and, in my opinion, it is a pretty important point. That notion was true, ten years ago, when Stephen Harper was doing political battle with Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, and even when Jean Chrétien was facing off against a deeply divided array of conservative parties, but it is not true, now, I think. I believe that Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland are not mainstream Liberals, as I understood what both “mainstream” and “Liberal” meant over the decades. I believe that is one of the reasons that Andrew Leslie, for example, declined to run again. He didn’t leave the Liberal Party, in which he has very deep roots, the Trudeau Liberals left him and many, many other thoughtful Liberals. So, I disagree with Mr Ibbitson ~ something I rarely do: I think it will matter which leader wins in Canada’s October 2019 election.
“But,” John Ibbitson says, “with the West staggering from crisis to crisis, with populists of one stripe or another in power from Washington to Warsaw, and with China, Iran, Russia and other adversaries emboldened, preserving Canada’s economic prosperity and collective security could become an urgent priority for the federal government.” I agree fully with that.
Mr Ibbitson cites Mel Cappe, a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, at the University of Toronto, who was, previously, both Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom and Clerk of the Privy Council, too, and who said: ““It’s a big problem” … [and] … “Things could be a real mess for the next prime minister.”” I agree with that, too
“One of the next government’s first decisions will be how quickly to conclude a free-trade agreement with Britain if it does leave the EU. Canadian and British officials have insisted the existing trade agreement between Canada and Europe could be easily and quickly retooled,” John Ibbitson says, but, he adds, “Mr. Cappe says negotiations could go on for years, complicated by special interests in both countries, such as dairy and aviation … [and, also] … Earlier this week, Andrew Percy resigned as British trade envoy, blaming what he called the “cack-handed” approach of his own government toward trade with Canada.“
On that topic, the Financial Times reports that “Australia has said it could agree to a trade deal with the UK “within weeks” of Brexit as Canberra targets a goal of restoring market access for farm products that it lost when Britain joined the EU almost half a century ago … [and] … Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said on Thursday he had phoned Prime Minister Boris Johnson to congratulate him on his election as Conservative party leader and pledged to build stronger ties with the UK, including moving quickly to seal a trade deal with London … [Prime Minister Morrison said] … “We will be one of the first cabs off the rank, as has been the case in our discussions with the UK for some time” … [and the report notes that] … Australia’s centre-right government enjoys a warm relationship with Mr Johnson, who has advocated for the UK to introduce an Australian-style immigration system and build closer trade and defence ties with Commonwealth countries.“
Where will Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland and Jim Carr (Minister of Trade Diversification) stand? Is Canada going to be “one of the first cabs off the rank?” Are any of them likely to have good relations with Boris Johnson? I think not.
Mr Ibbitson also notes a whole range of other problems, from another Scottish referendum on independence to the decline of Angela Merkel and the (likely, in my opinion) re-election of Donald Trump and says that “A Western alliance led by Mr. Trump in his second term, with Mr. Johnson leading whatever is left of the United Kingdom and with the EU and perhaps the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) unravelling (Turkey could be on the way out), would leave Canada dangerously exposed.” That will be the case no matter who is elected in Canada in October but it must be abundantly clear (to all but the most blind Trudeau-Liberal partisans) that the global situation ~ American isolationism and protectionism/America First!, the Brexit, Chinese bullying, EU turmoil, India’s ongoing rise, problems in the Middle East exacerbated by Turkey’s actions and so on ~ are all the sorts of problems that Prime Minister Trudeau and Global Affairs Minister Freeland have proven to be poorly prepared and equipped to manage. Neither has been able to establish even correct relations with America, China or India ~ China will not answer Ms Freeland’s calls, for heaven’s sake ~ how will they deal with Boris Johnson? Professor Cappe asks: ““What is Canada going to do, with so many balls up in the air?”” Can you really imagine Justin Trudeau or Chrystia Freeland manging Johnson, Modi, Putin Trump and Xi, all at once? I cannot.
Mr Ibbiston says, and again I disagree, that “Conservative and Liberal governments have, for all their sniping, shared priorities in foreign policy, which includes maintaining good relations with the United States while broadening trade and other relationships in Europe, Asia and the Pacific.” I do not believe those are priorities for Team Trudeau ~ they are “could-haves” and “should-haves” on their list, somewhere, but, for that doctrinaire regime, they are nowhere on the political “must-have” list.
But, John Ibbitson also says, and with this, I do agree: “instability could come to Canada as well if the next government is a weak minority propped up by opposition parties, with crises from overseas coming thick and fast … [and he asks] … What might happen if the next prime minister is confronted by a belligerent U.S. President intent on a new round of tariffs, escalating pressure from China, Turkey leaving NATO and aligning with Russia, and yet another Iran-fuelled crisis in the Middle East, even as the government struggles to survive the next vote of confidence?” Do we really want Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, to be dependent, in a minority situation, on the political support of Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh? Is that the “team” we want leading Canada in a dangerous world?
Foreign affairs and even trade policy are rarely major issues in Canadian elections but this time the situation might be different.
John Ibbitson is wrong, this time, there is a real, measurable difference between the Conservatives and the Trudeau Liberals on
important vital strategic issues. Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have failed pretty much every test, including renegotiating NAFTA. Why would anyone trust them with the reins of government again? What Canada needs, going into the 2020s, is a Conservative majority government with a team of decent, honest, thoughtful leaders who will be able to deal with Recep Erdoğan, Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping on a whole range of difficult, complex and dangerous issues. What Canada needs is to see the last of Justin Trudeau and his wholly inadequate team.