In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

A disappointing week for Canada

Posted 10/19/2010 by Grant Mitchell

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Throughout Canada’s history, we have “punched above our weight.”  The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a clear example of what was at the time, a very small country, helped to change the course of WWI. We played a similar role in WWII. Unique and consistent roles in peacekeeping have sustained a Canadian international image that has been respected and larger than our size might warrant. Our multiculturalism, the fact that as very diverse groups of peoples we can live together in such peace and calm, and the quality of our judicial system all contribute to Canada’s international stature.

Last week our stature took a real hit internationally. We lost our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council for the first time in history, and we lost permission to use the airport and air space of the United Arab Emirates. These are not isolated incidents. The former means that an avenue of huge international influence has been cut off to us and the latter means that we have allowed our relations with the UAE to deteriorate because we have not nurtured it adequately. That relationship has been very important to us since we have used the UAE military base as a staging point for our military personnel and equipment to Afghanistan.

These events are evidence of a much broader problem with the government’s conduct of foreign policy.  Recently, Canada has dramatically shifted focus from Africa to Latin America. Much of the work of the Security Council is focused on Africa. The government made limited contributions to climate change negotiations and in fact, we are often seen as impeding progress.  

Canada cannot do these things and still maintain our credibility internationally. Just as damaging to our interests will be those more subtle changes of policy by our international colleagues as they shift trade and other policies which can truly begin to harm our international business relations. That will cost growth and jobs here in Canada.

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