Many in the media are saying, and I agree, that Justin Trudeau’s agenda for the next couple of years is about 99.9% domestic and focused, mainly, gaining seats in on Québec and holding on, at least, in Atlantic Canada and in urban and suburban Ontario and British Columbia. The overarching aim ~ the ONLY aim ~ of this government is to be re-elected with a majority.
As I mentioned a week or so ago, Donald J Trump is about to rain all over Justin Trudeau’s parade.
As Murray Brewster reports, for CBC News, “The Liberal government is facing renewed political pressure from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to increase defence spending to meet the benchmark established by NATO … [and] … Robert O’Brien, the new U.S. national security adviser, said it is an “urgent priority” to get allies across the board to set aside military budgets that are equal to two per cent of the individual country’s gross domestic product … [while] … Speaking with journalists at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, O’Brien rattled off a list of the world’s flashpoints, including Iran and Venezuela, as well as traditional adversaries such as Russia and China … [saying] … “There are very serious threats to our freedom and our security … [and adding that] … Canada made a pledge at [the 2014 NATO Summit in] Wales to spend two per cent. We expect our friends and our colleagues to live up to their commitments, and Canada is an honourable country; it’s a great country.”“
Note the choice of words by Mr O’Brien, who is “a lawyer and former U.S. State Department hostage negotiator.” He doesn’t say that President Trump and the USA “asks” Canada to keep its word (although the Harper government said that spending 2% of GDP on defence was an “aspirational goal,” rather than a firm commitment) nor did he say something like “the US hopes Canada will change its ways and spend more of defence.” He said that Donald Trump’s America “expects” Canada to live up to its “pledge.” As I mentioned before, when President Trump negotiates with friends and allies he usually has both fists in the air and his knuckles are often reinforced with unfair trade tariffs and the like. Right now he is, for example, asking Japan and South Korea to pay much, much more to support American forces in their countries because, in his mind, he (America) is providing a “service” which is all for the Asians and is not, in any way, in America’s self-interest and, therefore, he wants to be reimbursed. It’s a very Trumpian notion. I am sure he sees NATO and NORAD in very much the same light.
Murray Brestser notes that “Every time Trump has complained allies are not paying their fair share of the security of the West, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has countered with its defence policy, which committed to a 73 per cent budget increase by 2026-27 … [but that would only] … bring Canada’s defence spending to 1.4 per cent of GDP … [not the 2% Trump will demand, and] … It currently sits around 1.27 per cent, according to NATO figures released last June.” I’m willing to bet that President rump and his senior officials all agree with me: there is a Liberal plan but they have no intention of meeting its goals if they can find a way to avoid so doing. As if to prove that Mr Brewster reports that “an internal defence department slide deck briefing obtained by CBC News and dated from February 2019 shows how defence spending will rise until 2026-27, but then begin to fall again once several major capital purchases are underway and booked.“
Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail published an article by Lee Berthiaume of the Canadian Press which says that “A brewing battle over the future of NATO could have major implications for Canada, which for decades has relied on the military alliance as a cornerstone of its security, protection and influence in the world.“
The issue that worries some analysts is that while Canada is, in the final analysis, protected by the US because it is in America’s best interests to protect us, NATO provides a useful counter-balance and, in effect, helps us to at least pretend to be a little less than just another American colony. And that, having the status of being little better than a US colony, is what Pierre Trudeau willed upon Canada in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he wanted to leave NATO, entirely and saddled Canada with his, juvenile, nonsensical, neo-isolationist ‘Foreign Policy For Canadians‘ white paper in 1970. Although Brian Mulroney wanted Canada to be independent – think standing up to President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher on South Africa – and Stephen Harper did, too, the cumulative impact of Trudeau-Chrétien-Trudeau for 30 of the last 50 years has been too much to change. When our political leaders don’t care about Canada being a leader amongst the nations and don’t, in fact, even care about Canada being a truly sovereign state then we will sink, inevitably, into the status of an American colony.
But, according to Mercedes Stephenson at Global News, our new colonial masters are getting tired of paying the defence bills ~ shades of the 1860s ~ and, she says, “Canada has been officially called out by the United States over how much it spends on the military, Global News has learned … [because] … A “blunt” letter from the U.S. government was delivered to the Department of National Defence that criticized Canadian defence spending levels and repeated American demands that Canada meet NATO targets … [but, while] … Global News has not seen the letter — said to have a frustrated, critical tone — but multiple sources have confirmed it was sent and received.” I too have heard about the letter, called, I believe, a démarche which, in diplomatic terms, is a formal step beyond the normal intercourse between nations and is meant to be taken as something requiring high-level action.
Our American friends ~ I am 100% certain this frustration with Canada extends well beyond the White House and is felt in the Congress, in the State Department and, above all, in the Pentagon ~ are upset, and they have a right to be. Canada has been seen, almost consistently, since 1968 ~ when, without consultation, Pierre Trudeau cut Canada’s NATO force in half ~ as being a shirker. John Manley used the analogy of the person who, after dining with friends, sees the waiter approaching with the bill and then rushes off the washroom to avoid paying a fair share. So, it isn’t just Donald Trump who is a problem for Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland, Harjit Sajjan and François-Philippe Champagne: it is most of the US political establishment. The Americans, we are told, don’t much like either Prime Minister Trudeau or Deputy Prime Minister Freeland; no one in Washington will worry about discomfiting or even offending either of them.
The chickens are coming home to roost … but they are, actually, Pierre Trudeau’s chickens. As I said before, he changed Canada in a popular ~ “free” and “entitlement” are always popular ~ and in a quite fundamental way and even the likes of Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper …
… were unable to change it back. But Donald J Trump may be the man to rain all over Justin Trudeau’s domestic parade and push Canada back on to the course Louis St Laurent set … wouldn’t that be amazing?