In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Waning international influence

Posted 11/23/2010 by Grant Mitchell

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There are serious implications resulting from Canada's waning influence on the international stage, all the more frustrating because our loss of influence is self-inflicted.

We have lost influence because the government continues to take ill conceived positions in the international realm:

a) The precipitous shift from an African aid to a South American aid focus. Programs important to the very survival of many Africans have been precipitously damaged.

b) Failure to include abortion services and counseling in the proposed maternal health initiative when third world health agencies know this is essential.

c) Failure to work with the US to get better results in the Copenhagen round of climate change negotiations.

d) Failure to ratify the international anti-cluster bomb treaty

e) Failure to give relations with China any kind of priority.

f) Failure to come to an accommodation with the UAE so they would allow us to keep operating Camp Mirage.

g) Failure of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to meet with foreign diplomats in Ottawa.

How do we know we are losing influence and stature? Well, we lost the seat on the UN Security Council, something Canada has never experienced before. The US did not even promote our bid. We lost Camp Mirage in the UAE where we had been staging our personnel and materiel for entry and exit to and from Afghanistan for years - moving to another location will cost $300 million. We were reprimanded publicly and in the presence of our Prime Minister at an international press conference by the Chinese Prime Minister. We were reprimanded in a similar situation publicly by Secretary of State Clinton for our maternal health policy weakness.

The government mumbles in defence of their failures something about this being the cost of principled foreign policy. Of course, they do that in reference to their strong support of Israel. Israel clearly warrants our strong support, but Canada has always been a strong supporter of Israel and still won the UN Security Council seat before.

The consequences of weakened international stature and influence are profound. How is the government going to defend our Arctic sovereignty if we have little influence and particularly if we have failed to sustain strong relations with the US? How is the government going to defend the Alberta oil sands from international misconception and attack if they are without international credibility? What does our waning stature mean for our ability to negotiate a strong free trade agreement with the EU? For that matter, what good are we even in the defence of Israel if we have little or no international influence and gravitas?

My fear is that the government’s failed foreign policy is doing grievous damage to Canada's international interests and even to our ability to defend the interests of our friends and allies.

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