Norms break down

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery; Pompeo en route

Turkish police officers gather as they prepare to enter the Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

James McCarten, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, October 15, 2018 6:20PM EDT 

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump appeared to be taking Saudi Arabia at its word Monday as he described how King Salman “firmly” and “strongly” issued a “flat denial” that he or his crown prince had any knowledge of or role in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

In describing his morning phone conversation with the king, the U.S. president repeatedly emphasized the strenuous nature of the ruler’s denials – even as he confirmed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national and Washington Post columnist, who vanished inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi – a “Saudi Arabian citizen,” Trump noted, although he lived in the U.S. – was last seen entering the consulate two weeks ago. Turkish officials have said they have audio recordings that prove the journalist, a known critic of the Saudi regime, was killed inside, his body dismembered for easy disposal.

“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump said. “He didn’t really know – maybe, I don’t really want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows. We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon. But his was a flat denial.”

Turkish and Saudi investigators began Monday what Turkish officials call a joint “inspection” of the consulate – but not before a cleaning crew walked in armed with mops, trash bags and cartons of milk, said to be good for removing bloodstains.

American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain have jointly called for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a link to that statement Sunday, adding, “Canada strongly supports our allies on this important issue.”

Freeland said she spoke Monday with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, and remains in close contact with her U.S., German and British counterparts as the global community awaits more answers.

“Canada and our government has a strong record of standing up for human rights around the world, very much including in Saudi Arabia, and we’re going to continue to do that,” she said outside the House of Commons.

“It’s important to establish clear facts about what has happened, and it’s important for the international community to be clear that those facts need to be established in a clear and transparent manner.”

Turkish officials allege a Saudi hit team that flew into and out of Turkey on Oct. 2 killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who had written Washington Post columns that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. The kingdom has called such allegations “baseless” but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

If the allegations prove true, experts fear it would be just one more example of autocratic rulers feeling emboldened by the slow disintegration of the international world order, thanks in large part to a White House that’s willing to look the other way.

“I do think the norms have eroded and the guardrails (have) come down under Donald Trump,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and foreign policy expert who serves as vice-president and fellow at the Calgary-based Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Robertson cited the brazen poisoning in March of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia, an attack attributed to but denied by the Russian government, as just one instance of international malfeasance that seems to be filling the breach left by a lack of strong U.S. foreign policy.

“Autocrats are taking liberties – Skripal, drug hit squads, poison gas, trolls and bots and fake news, prison without trial. They believe they can get away with it because for the new sheriff it’s ‘America First,’ full stop.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Monday that Canada won’t shy away from taking up the cause.

“Canada will always be very firm … about standing up for human rights all around the world because Canadians expect it of our government,” Trudeau said in an interview as part of the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto.

“But the world also expects it of Canada – to be the clear voice saying, ‘You know what, this is right,’ or ‘This is wrong and you need to do better.’ And we don’t take kindly … to having people try (to) punish us for believing what we say.”

That appeared to be a direct reference to Saudi Arabia, which lashed out at Canada – recalling its ambassador, freezing trade, pulling students out of Canadian schools and even cancelling flights to Toronto – after a tweet from Freeland calling for the immediate release of detained activists, including Samar Badawi, a champion of women’s rights and the sister of detained blogger Raif Badawi.

The kingdom flexed its rhetorical muscles Sunday, saying that if it “receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

In the U.S., the Post has been publishing full-page ads in its front section in an effort to keep the pressure up.

“On Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 1:14 p.m. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,” reads the ad, which features an ominous-looking depiction of the consulate’s imposing double doors, adorned with the twin swords of the kingdom’s emblem.

“He has not been seen since. Demand answers.”

International business leaders have also been bailing en masse out of the kingdom’s glittering big-ticket investment forum, the Future Investment Initiative, including the CEO of Uber, billionaire Richard Branson, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford executive chairman Bill Ford.

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Working the USA under Trump


A German breakdance troupe, the Flying Bach, recently performed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. (Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany)

October 7 at 10:00 AM

President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel don’t seem to like each other much, as he has disparaged her policies and leadership.But German breakdancers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial may have reminded Americans that their countries are “Wunderbar Together,” the theme of a year’s worth of events.

Last year, Trump abruptly hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after an immigration dispute. But the Australian Embassy shrugs it off as just a blip as it celebrates “100 years of Mateship” this year, harking back to World War I battlefields where troops from the two nations fought and died beside one another.

And never mind the insults Trump has lobbed at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada has dispatched members of Parliament and the cabinet on hundreds of trips south to find common cause with U.S. governors, state legislators and mayors on issues such as trade and climate change.

Long-standing allies whose leaders have had sometimes testy relations with Trump are increasingly keeping U.S. ties alive in ways that bypass the White House.

Faced with Trump’s volatility, a foreign policy that is constantly changing, and many vacancies in the State Department and other traditional venues for communication, some governments are employing what diplomats call the “doughnut strategy.”

“What many, many foreign governments are doing is trying to find ways to get around the problem,” said Nancy McEldowney, a former director of the Foreign Service Institute, which trains U.S. diplomats, and now a professor at Georgetown University. “When you have a problem in the middle, you work around it by building out a network that encircles the problem.”

The efforts to contact local and state governments, business leaders and civil society reflect the conviction that the United States is still an influential player in the world. So even countries that hoped to lie low until a new administration is in place have concluded that they can’t afford to do that. Some are already gaming scenarios for how to deal with a second Trump term.

In the meantime, some countries are making creative connections with Americans, far from the traditional halls of power in Washington. Germany is focusing on culture and heritage in its Wunderbar Together campaign, with a database for an estimated 50 million Americans who can trace their lineage to Germany. It is holding 1,000 events in every region of the United States in the next year, commemorating the 30th anniversary of German reunification. Last week, a German breakdance troupe, the Flying Bach, performed in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

German officials swatted aside questions about whether it has anything to do with the Trump administration, saying it is just the latest in a string of countries where they have held Wunderbar Together celebrations. But before he left Bonn for Washington last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged the differences between the two governments’ views on the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, trade and NATO military spending.

“Things that used to be taken for granted are no longer that way; they must be worked on,” he said.

Canada is taking a less public approach, enlisting cabinet members and business executives to make official visits to the United States.

“There’s no question we are upping our game since things became uncertain in our priority areas, like trade relations,” a Canadian official said of the uptick in official visits. “They are capable of engaging with the administration and Congress on our behalf.”

Early in the Trudeau-Trump relationship, Canada had tried a charm offensive stressing the importance of the connection, said Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center. But that proved insufficient during NAFTA negotiations and, ultimately, tariffs that Trump imposed in the name of national security.

Invoking national security deeply offended many people in a country that helped U.S. diplomats escape from Iran in 1979, welcomed passengers grounded in Newfoundland after the 2001 terrorist attacks and sent troops to Afghanistan.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat posted in Washington, said Canada has come to realize that it is not enough to train diplomacy only on the White House and Congress.

“The Trump administration is changing the game,” said Robertson, who now studies U.S.-Canadian relations at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “There’s a growing recognition we have to play the American system the way it was designed, with checks and balances, a separation of powers. Not just at the congressional level, but the role governors and state legislators play.”

Some countries are bringing forth a heavy dose of nostalgia.

Australia has largely escaped Trump’s ire since his hang-up call with Turnbull.

“Perhaps most crucially, the government has gone into overdrive trying to educate Trump on the history of shared military sacrifice over the last 100 years,” said James Curran, who teaches history and foreign policy at the University of Sydney.

Australia’s “100 Years of Mateship” is rooted in the centennial of the Battle of Hamel, a French town where U.S. and Australian soldiers fought along the Western Front. The idea of the Australian ambassador in Washington, the campaign came with a TV documentary, badges, stickers, posters and even a “mate ale” brewed in Texas.

“It is as if the government here thinks that the more it reminds the U.S. of how much we’ve been there for them on the battlefield, then they will surely come to help us in the event of a future military crisis,” Curran said. “But I wonder: Is anybody there in the White House or State Department really listening to these Australian clarion calls about ‘mateship’? After all, there is the old saying that ‘when you are living and working in Washington, you need to have very good peripheral vision to see Australia.’ That surely is intensified in Trump’s Washington.”

As foreign governments seek to get Americans to reflect on decades of friendship and mutual values, the historical reminiscences and cultural events represent a role reversal. A decade ago, U.S. diplomats worried that a new generation of Europeans did not appreciate how the United States had come to the continent’s aid during World War II and the Cold War.

“Now the tables are turned,” McEldowney said. “We have the Europeans concerned not only that the American public does not value them, but even the American president does not value them. No matter how awful it is, we still need each other and we need to recognize that.”

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NAFTA Deal:

How Trump’s Freeland broadside factored into getting a trade deal done


WASHINGTON — From deep within the pantheon of diplomacy that is the United Nations came hardly a warning shot or a red flag — it was a rocket-propelled rhetorical grenade aimed directly at Canada, with a concussive blast that reverberated all the way to the Prime Minister’s Office.

And it just might have been the catalyst for the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“We’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada. That’s the motherlode, that’s the big one,”  U.S. President Donald Trump said last week during his explosive news conference on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. We don’t like their representative very much.”

That “representative” was Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — the senior cabinet minister leading Canada’s trade delegation to rescue NAFTA from a president who won the White House in part by denouncing the agreement as one of the worst deals ever made.

It wasn’t Freeland’s hard-driving negotiating style that was under Trump’s skin. It was her appearance on a panel in Toronto two weeks earlier dubbed “Taking on the Tyrant” that featured a video montage with Trump alongside autocrats like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump learned of it only the day before, said a source close to the talks who was briefed by insiders on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

“Somehow it got back to the president,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about the details. “At that point, we saw everything that happened on Wednesday.”

That morning, before Trump’s news conference, U.S. Ambassador David MacNaughton spoke at an event in Toronto with U.S.-based website Politico, where on a scale of one to 10, he put the chances of the two sides being able to reach a deal at “five.”

After Trump’s news conference, “the only difference was that instead of seeing the glass half-full, I was seeing it half-empty,” MacNaughton chuckled in an interview.

He soon found himself in Ottawa, a critical part of a full-court press to get an agreement done before the Sunday midnight deadline imposed by the U.S. Congress to get the deal fast-tracked and voted on by Dec. 1, ahead of a new incoming Mexican government.

Canadian sources close to the talks say MacNaughton’s easygoing style and political acumen — honed as co-chair of multiple provincial and federal Liberal election campaigns, and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s principal secretary — proved invaluable.

It’s MacNaughton who ensures federal cabinet ministers are ushered onto Capitol Hill during Washington visits to forge one-on-one relationships with American lawmakers — relationships that bore fruit during the latest round of talks, said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and U.S. consul general who was part of the team that negotiated the original Canada-U.S. free trade deal and later NAFTA itself.

“This new focus on Capitol Hill — when legislators come down, they go to Capitol Hill in recognition that Congress really, truly counts, and the cabinet ministers, who are also legislators, have got to recognize that they can use those peer-to-peer relationships.”

Indeed, Canadian influence in Congress may have helped discourage U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer from trying to push senators into approving the bilateral deal he forged with Mexico, said Dan Uczjo, an international trade lawyer in Ohio with the U.S. firm Dickinson Wright.

As talks came down to the wire, Lighthizer encountered resistance on Capitol Hill to approving a deal that didn’t include Canada.

“You saw three things come together,” Uczjo said.

“The general course of the deal started to be more positive, the USTR became concerned there may be some procedural challenges to his deal with Mexico from the Hill, and I think the White House wanted to ramp up the pressure and started repeating its threats about auto tariffs.”

The president became aware of Freeland’s attendance at the “Tyrant” event as a plot to prevent Trump from meeting the prime minister at the UN and agreeing prematurely to a deal, a source said.

Forces within the USTR office — including Lighthizer himself — were determined to wear Canada down on the issue of the dispute resolution mechanisms embedded in the old NAFTA.

“The president’s issue is dairy … and those discussions were actually going fairly well over the last couple of weeks,” said the source, prompting fears the “dealmaker in chief” would agree to a deal in principle with Canada if he met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the UN.

“On Tuesday, all the rumblings were that Trump and Trudeau were going to meet at the General Assembly — in fact, senior-level U.S. officials were telling stakeholders that at private dinners, luncheons, receptions in Canada and the U.S.,” the source said.

A deal seemed imminent, worrying those within the USTR who were convinced they weren’t yet done, said the source. So the nuclear option was deployed: telling the president about Freeland and reminding him about the summer G7 meetings in Quebec, where Trudeau’s closing news conference so agitated Trump that he used his Twitter feed to attack the prime minister from the confines of an airborne Air Force One.

“All of that was done less about blowing up the NAFTA deal, but to stop Trump from making a quick deal.”

In the end, the dispute-resolution mechanisms from NAFTA remain largely intact in the new deal, that Trump christened the USMCA.

His victory-lap news conference Monday also drove home the point to all concerned that unpredictability remains the watchword in Canada-U.S. relations. As Robertson said MacNaughton told him last week, “Whether we get a deal or not, the campaign continues — it’s a permanent campaign.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Trump and Trudeau

Trudeau rebuffs Trump’s trade talks criticisms

BY MICHEL COMTE (AFP)     SEP 27, 2018 IN POLITICS

Any fondness between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump has vanished, it became clear Thursday after the Canadian leader brushed off the US president’s criticism of Canada’s negotiating style in continental trade talks — casting doubts for a quick deal.

Trudeau said Trump views the negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as hard “because Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be.”

Those efforts have stalled after a year of talks, despite ramping up in recent weeks after the US and Mexico made a breakthrough on bilateral issues.

According to the negotiators, Canada’s insistence on a trade dispute provision and its refusal to open up its protected dairy sector are the last major sticking points.

Ottawa is also seeking assurances that the United States will not, after signing a new NAFTA deal, turn around and hit Canada with punitive auto tariffs.

Canada’s ambassador to Washington David MacNaughton this week put the chance of concluding an agreement soon at 50/50.

“A good and fair deal is still very possible,” Trudeau said. “But we won’t sign a bad deal for Canada.”

On Wednesday in New York, Trump said he refused to meet with Trudeau on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly because Canada was treating the United States “very badly.”

“I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along with their negotiators,” Trump said. “We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time.”

“With Canada, it’s very tough,” he said, adding that there was “still a chance” of reaching a deal.

“I’m not making (a deal that is) anything near what they want to do,” the American president added.

Trudeau’s Liberal government had launched a charm offensive in Trump’s early months in office to try to curry favor with the new president.

But their close relationship — once the envy of other foreign leaders — came to a crashing end following a divisive and bad-tempered summit of G7 nations in Canada in June, which saw Trump ramp up his rhetoric against Trudeau.

– September 30 deadline looms –

While Trudeau has tried to keep his head down and avoid further antagonizing Trump, he also has stood firm in demanding a fair deal in the trade negotiations.

“I think (the Canadians) gave it their best shot,” Colin Robertson, a former Canadian trade negotiator who helped deliver the original 1994 NAFTA, told AFP.

He said Trudeau tried for a good working relationship with Trump, “but at some point (he) realized it just wasn’t working.”

Observers said Canada now appears to be using Trump’s September 30 deadline for a NAFTA deal to try to get concessions from the Americans.

Trump would prefer to have the current Republican-controlled Congress ratify a deal before the November mid-term elections, and hold it up to voters as a win.

“Everyone is playing hardball,” said University of Ottawa professor Patrick Leblond. “Canada doesn’t care about the deadline and figures that if the US does, it’s up to them to make compromises.”

“The big question is what will Congress do?” he said.

If the Democrats sweep the November elections, they may wish to deny the Republican president any political wins going forward, and insist that Canada be part of any new continental trade pact.

If the Republicans maintain their majority, they may support Trump’s wishes — including killing NAFTA and moving forward with a US-Mexico trade agreement, without Canada.

“It’s a high stakes game (Trudeau’s) Liberals are playing right now,” Leblond said. “But they have no choice.”

If Trudeau caves to Trump’s demands for more access to its dairy sector, for example, his party would take a hit in next year’s general election.

If he holds firm and Canada loses its special access to the US market under NAFTA, it would be “catastrophic” for the Canadian economy — likely pushing it into a recession — as well as politically devastating.

“Canada is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t,” opined Leblond.

“Given that, it makes sense for Canada to take a chance that the Democrats take Congress and will be more open to Canada’s position,” he concluded.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/trudeau-rebuffs-trump-s-trade-talks-criticisms/article/533167#ixzz5SmADhrg3

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Top Forty Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy

NAFTA players top Canada’s 40 most-influential foreign-policy minds

By SAMANTHA WRIGHT ALLEN, NEIL MOSS      
Insiders and observers weigh in on who impacts Canada’s decisions on diplomacy, trade, defence, development, and immigration.
As NAFTA dominates Canada’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Chrystia Freeland, left, are No. 1 and 2 on The Hill Times’ Top 40 Foreign Policy Influencer list. They’re seen walking to the National Press Theatre on May 31 to announce retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

When it comes to who is influencing Canadian foreign policy, there’s the people working on files related to the United States, and then there’s everyone else.

The constant focus of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with an adversarial United States President Donald Trump has necessarily sucked resources and attention, including the near total focus of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Though The Hill Times set out to list the top minds shaping Canada’s foreign policy, those working on relations with the United States emerged as the most important players, with other influencers on the outskirts.

Past lists have stacked 80 influencers but we’ve halved that number after hearing from insiders who questioned how much the government follows talking heads, and the extent to which even those in government affect policy in what is repeatedly described as a “PMO-driven” approach.

Some in the centre, the Prime Minister’s Office, don’t have a particular affinity for foreign affairs, but their impact is central nonetheless on policy, which critics say too often is formed with domestic affairs in mind.

While the United States and officials working on relations with it have always enjoyed outsized importance in Canada, key players in the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation were among the most common who came up as influencers in our discussions.

Through more than two-dozen interviews with insiders, policy analysts, former diplomats, and senior government officials, The Hill Times developed this list of the top 40 people influencing Canadian foreign policy. Though the formula for making the list is unscientific, actors earned their spot based on access to power, demonstrated ability to effect change, experience—or simply because they’re in a powerful job. And, because those who offered insight were often working in or closely with the government and spoke frankly, their names are not cited.

Many ministers earned mention, and a few just barely missed the mark, including Marc Garneau, who chairs the cabinet committee Canada-U.S. relations and trade, and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, a trade lawyer who’s one of this government’s more visible in cabinet. We could have easily mentioned retiring G7 sherpa Peter Boehm, who was lauded as one of the last true foreign service officers to rise through the ranks to the level of deputy minister.

New Democrats are absent from the list, following feedback from sources who questioned whether the party should crack even the top 40, with one source suggesting the New Democrats don’t have the same influence as when former foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar or defence critic Jack Harris were in the House.

Still, a couple government officials said outgoing MP Hélène Laverdière, the NDP foreign affairs critic, deserves mention for her thoughtful, results-focused approach to issues even while criticizing the Liberals. Another progressive voice, Alex Neve, who heads the English section of Amnesty International Canada, was mentioned as raising the human rights group’s profile with the Liberals compared to the ostracism it faced under the Conservatives. Mr. Neve and Ms. Laverdière have both had strong voices, applying pressure on the Trudeau Liberals’ relationship with Saudi Arabia.

For this year’s list, we’re offering a clear top five (in four spots) and the rest are broken down by category.

Top players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

Canada’s top federal politician will always count, but this celebrity PM makes an extra splash during trips abroad. With eyes on the south, Mr. Trudeau has taken up a sort of anti-Trump persona domestically and internationally, with much of his work on bilateral relations walking that fine line of sticking up for Canada while ensuring sensitive talks on issues like NAFTA can continue. In June, Canada hosted the G7 summit in Quebec amid heightened trade rhetoric and insults Mr. Trump tossed at Mr. Trudeau on his way out of Canada. Mr. Trudeau’s tough response helped him gain in public opinion polls, but he’s not always hit the mark on foreign policy. Some of the PM’s high-profile trips over the last year, including to India and China, have been notable for producing gaffes, and showing a lack of on-the-ground research. While Mr. Trudeau lets Ms. Freeland take the lead, in a government that determines its foreign policy at the centre, he’s the centre of it all.

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

In many eyes, Ms. Freeland could just as easily take top spot because her role is so important. As foreign affairs minister, said one former diplomat, she’s the “most effective since Lloyd Axworthy,” who literally wrote the book on Canada’s place globally and served in the cabinets of three prime ministers. Her tenure has been shaped by two blockbuster speeches—in Parliament and in Washington accepting Foreign Policymagazine’s prestigious Diplomat of the Year Award—denouncing populism and a decline in internationalism. Though she can be a bit of a lone wolf, one source observed, the former journalist hand-selected her advisers and enjoys the complete trust of the PMO. And, after the India debacle, she has a “sort of carte blanche,” in her file though she plays to the PMO.

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary and longtime friend is always mentioned in the same breath as chief of staff Katie Telford, making them a clear tie for third. The two don’t have a specific official role on foreign policy, but all decisions go through them. When asked to separate their roles on foreign matters, sources are hard-pressed to offer much distinction, though they say Mr. Butts is more policy-minded and is more concerned about environmental issues (he’s the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada). So tight is their connection to Mr. Trudeau, one described it as a “three-legged race.”

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

As with her counterpart Mr. Butts, Ms. Telford is “critical on every file,” whether it’s trade, defence, or visits abroad. While the two are “pretty evenly balanced,” she seems to take more interest in the government’s feminist foreign aid policy, diversity, gender equality, and human rights, insiders said. Ms. Telford runs the daily operations in the PMO, having been one of Mr. Trudeau’s top advisers since before the Liberals took government, running his leadership bid back in 2013.

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States

Mr. MacNaughton has a level of influence not experienced by anyone in his post previously. He serves in a ministerial capacity, and has a home in the inner circle. He was described by one source as having more power than any minister in cabinet other than Ms. Freeland. He has the complete trust of the PMO, particularly with Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford. The trio were key players in the Liberals’ 2015 federal campaign (Mr. MacNaughton was the Ontario co-chair) and their connection goes back to Queen’s Park a decade ago working for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Mr. MacNaughton launched and led StrategyCorp, a government relations firm where Ms. Telford also worked. He’s adept at building connections—an essential component in Washington during delicate NAFTA negotiations—but he reaches the realm of senior adviser on other issues.

Politicians 

Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

First elected in 1974 when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was prime minister, Mr. Goodale, who first held a cabinet post in 1993, has been described as having an “incredibly important and valuable” role in the Trudeau government and has been called “the adult in the room.” A former diplomat said he was the “shrewdest and most senior” within cabinet. Some rank Mr. Goodale as the third most important minister after Ms. Freeland and new Trade Minister Jim Carr. He is important in Canada’s national security and on border issues, responsible for intelligence agencies, and sits on both foreign policy-focused cabinet committees. He is in constant contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

A passionate advocate with a “business-minded” approach, the immigration minister has emerged as a strong voice at cabinet, sources said. His portfolio matters too, with the Liberals promising to increase the number of newcomers to 340,000 by 2020. His background, having fled war-torn Somalia to come to Canada, also informs some of his work and support for “causes that he believed in intensely.” He’s done a lot of work in Africa, and was also praised for playing a part in the July 2018 international rescue operation of White Helmet first responders in Syria, which meant “critical coordination” between Global Affairs Canada and his department.

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Though just a few months into this more globally-minded post, he is said to be among the stronger in cabinet and was a key voice lobbying for “diversification” to be added to his ministerial title. That goal of drumming up more trade outside the U.S. is now the “Holy Grail” for this government, as it remains mired in NAFTA confusion. Several observers said the level of the former natural resource minister’s influence is yet to be determined above that of the institutional importance of the post, but it is likely to increase. He is the “pinnacle of a respected voice,” said one senior official, describing Mr. Carr as collegial and a bridge-builder.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister  

Ms. Bibeau, who has served in the role since the start of the 42nd Parliament, is one of the ministers on the list with less influence. She serves on the Canada in the World and Public Security cabinet committee. She has an important voice in the room due to her position, but it is not a dominant one compared to some of her cabinet colleagues. She is in charge of quarterbacking the government’s feminist foreign aid policy.

Harjit Sajjan, defence minister

While the defence minister is a position that should always be on the list, there was clear disagreement among the 20-plus sources surveyed about Mr. Sajjan’s inclusion. Some said the veteran of the Afghanistan war had to be included, while others questioned his influence, seeing him staying in the background. He has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, including by claiming he was the “architect” of a big combat mission in Afghanistan, when he wasn’t. The defence minister’s position typically is one of great influence with its close co-operation with Washington and NATO, especially with Canadian soldiers currently deployed in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Mali. One source said, in theory, he has importance, but he doesn’t drive policy in the same way that Ms. Freeland and Mr. Carr do. Some suggested that Zita Astravas, Mr. Sajjan’s chief of staff and a former senior PMO staffer, has more influence than he does. But others pushed back on that idea.

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

There was contentious debate over which member of the official opposition should be in the mix, if at all. Some said if a Tory MP were to be included, it should be the leader, Andrew Scheer who is set to make a bigger international splash with his eight-day trip to India next month, but others saw foreign policy as a platform gap, and not an issue he’s spent much time on. Many of the Conservative statements about foreign policy don’t come from the leader, but from Mr. O’Toole. One source said Mr. O’Toole hasn’t made the international connections as Ms. Freeland did as a backbencher in a third party during the 41st Parliament. He’s the Conservatives’ loudest foreign policy voice, but the former air force captain has not been as effective as he could be.

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Inside the PMO’s Canada-U.S. war room, Mr. Clow monitors Canada’s relationship with the United States around the clock. Since the government is so focused on dealing with its southern neighbour, Mr. Clow has added importance. He is charged with the political strategy behind the NAFTA renegotiations, and along with Ms. Freeland, he is key to shaping the negotiations politically. He previously served as her chief of staff when she was the trade minister. Mr. Clow serves as an important link between Global Affairs and the PMO. He also monitors Canada’s “charm offensive” in the United States. Some say he has more influence than Ms. Freeland’s chief of staff Jeremy Broadhurst and PMO policy adviser Patrick Travers, but less than Mr. MacNaughton.

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

As Ms. Freeland’s right-hand man, he’s often by her side on the many trips to the United States and abroad. He has her confidence and is part of the inner circle in the PMO, having worked as deputy chief of staff and principal secretary in the PMO before he moved to his current role in January 2017. He has “outsized influence,” given that connection to Mr. Butts, Mr. Trudeau, and Ms. Telford. He brings a lot of institutional knowledge on foreign affairs to debates, one source observed. That comes from his background working under Liberal leaders Bill Graham, who served as foreign affairs and defence minister, Stéphane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff.

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Ms. Deschamps-Laporte took on her post in January 2018 and has impressed observers with her depth of knowledge, described by one as “brilliant.” She’s a former Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, a distinction she shares with her boss. Originally from Repentigny, Que., she studied international development and modern Middle Eastern studies and can speak French, English, Spanish, German, and Arabic. She’s helping push the feminist foreign policy approach within the office, but in the heat of NAFTA she does the hard work of keeping Ms. Freeland briefed on everything, including working at the core on security files. She’s “emerged as a really critical voice at the staff level on everything,” said one senior government official.

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

The issues-management specialist moved to Mr. Sajjan’s office from the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2017, in the midst of backlash surrounding the minister’s claim her was an “architect” of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. Sources said she’s strong, effective, and a “crucial” staffer who enjoys the PMO’s trust, but doesn’t necessarily play into the policy side of things. A couple sources said she’s more influential than Mr. Sajjan, while others pushed back on that assessment. A former Queen’s Park staffer, she recently took an unpaid leave of absence to join the Ontario Liberal campaign war room, and has worked in three previous Ontario provincial elections in various tour- and communications-related roles.

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

A former chief of staff to Stéphane Dion when he was foreign affairs minister, Mr. Ovens still has an influential role stickhandling Mr. Carr’s office. Mr. Ovens comes from the mining industry, having spent more than 10 years at BHP Billiton and Alcan (later bought by Rio Tinto), which makes him a natural fit with his new boss, who was the previous natural resources minister. He was appointed chief of staff to Mr. Dion in 2015 and took the same role in the international trade minister’s office when François-Philippe Champagne had the post.

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

With the “whole world on his plate,” Mr. Travers joined the PMO in January 2016 from his job as senior policy adviser at the United Nations. He’s considered a sharp guy, who’s at all the meetings with Mr. Trudeau when discussing global affairs, but many questioned the degree of his influence given that he’s not a member of the senior PMO staff. While his files touch everything, insiders say he doesn’t have a key role on NAFTA, nor is he in charge of international development, or gender issues. He’s the key contact point in the PMO on international affairs for liaising with all the ministers’ offices and is good at listening and asking what the office is missing. That said, he does offer recommendations, one source noted, on policy that makes it before the PM, and that holds weight. He was also key in co-ordinating the G7 summit in Quebec in June.

Civil servants and military

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Mr. Hannaford was the first civil servant who briefed Mr. Trudeau on election night, and sources say that close connection has continued throughout the Liberal mandate. He’s considered the “focal” person at the apex of the civil service, above even the Privy Council clerk, and crucial for his advice on all things foreign policy. Even more important, he’s trusted by and “enjoys the full confidence” of the those in the Prime Minister’s Office. He’s a constant on key trips, travelling with the prime minister. He’s a very capable, highly regarded officer who has a legal background, working in both the human rights and trade divisions of the foreign ministry. He also held a high-profile, trusted position under the Conservative government after returning from his post in 2012 as ambassador to Norway.

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator has had a busy summer as he tries to reach a renegotiated NAFTA with the United States and Mexico. Mr. Verheul was the chief negotiator on the CETA trade pact with the European Union, where he developed close ties with then-trade minister Ms. Freeland. He has been called the “best of the best” under tough circumstances. He has more influence than his boss, Timothy Sargent, just behind Ms. Freeland and Mr. MacNaughton. Mr. Verheul, described as a calm voice who uses logic and comes up with solutions in a highly charged and unpredictable atmosphere, is behind the policy and substance of NAFTA. One source called him “one of the most important minds and operators” behind trade policy of his generation.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Canada’s highest public servant is a post that will always hold weight on foreign affairs, but insiders say Mr. Wernick is a good delegator who knows what’s going on but trusts other officials to take the lead. He doesn’t micromanage, and chooses his moments to offer insight from his vantage point of institutional importance, but lets Mr. Hannaford remain the focal point for the PMO. Nevertheless, he’s a very influential person who’s been in the role since almost the start of the Liberal government’s mandate. The 37-year public servant was deputy clerk of the Privy Council and associate secretary to cabinet in the Conservative government’s final years.

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

While Mr. Verheul has been described as more influential, his boss Mr. Sargent is considered “brilliant” and “creative.” He is an adviser on all things relating to trade, who is confident enough to let his own people and trade advisers offer substantial input. Mr. Sargent is relatively new to the trade file, starting the job in October 2016, after being an associate deputy minister at Finance Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has a history of leveraging expertise while inputting his own judgment in his dealings with ministers. Mr. Sargent is less of a player at the prime ministerial table than others.

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

His importance is tied to his post as someone Ms. Freeland relies upon. Like Mr. Sargent, he is very involved, though not one to elbow his way into things. He doesn’t come from a foreign affairs background, having moved to Global Affairs Canada in May 2016 after serving as deputy minister for Employment and Social Development Canada as well as Environment. But that breadth of understanding is a benefit, one source said, because he can consider domestic aspects and “the impact of foreign policy beyond the bubble of the Pearson Building.” This government has given more voice to the civil service, making Mr. Shugart’s post more powerful than in the past. With so many working and focused on the U.S. frontlines, Mr. Shugart’s eye is on the rest of the world and people listen to him when he speaks.

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

A cautious bureaucrat, Ms. Bossenmaier has a powerful role and is seen as a deliberate choice. Before her appointment in May, she earned that trust overseeing Canada’s cyberspy agency, Communications Security Establishment. She doesn’t have the same influence as her predecessor, Daniel Jean, who retired earlier this year after controversy surrounding the PM’s India trip, but most sources say it’s too early to have much of a read on her and the post will always matter. She’s a “very competent administrator,” seen to offer knowledge and insight, but it remains to be seen whether she emerges as an assertive voice that has policy influence. She has a deep background in foreign affairs, having worked in senior roles at the Canada Border Services Agency and in the Privy Council Office’s onetime Afghanistan Task Force.

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

The chief of defence staff of the Canadian Armed Forces always plays an important role in the execution of Canada’s defence policy. Mr. Vance, the commander of Canada’s Afghanistan mission in 2009 and 2010, has been the chief since 2015. He has been described as a “good soldier,” but not seen to have a huge impact shaping policy. On the other hand, one source said inside the Department of National Defence, he and Jody Thomas—DND’s deputy minister—have a significant impact on how defence policy is formulated. On the topic of generals, multiple sources say retired general and now Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, who is the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, has little influence over policy, but is a good communicator and promoter of the government’s policy.

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

As Canada looks to diversify its trading relationship in light of stalled NAFTA renegotiations, Ms. Campbell is leading the charge. She is actively involved in changing how Canadian export promotion operates. During a time of concern over diminishing foreign investment in Canada, she is charged with growing international capital. Ms. Campbell has developed a deep network, aided by work she did with John Manley, the former deputy prime minister and the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada. While she is very involved in trade promotion, she may not be as key to crafting trade and foreign policy. One source said she is taking a leadership role in putting the diversification aspect of Canada’s foreign policy into action. Another called her a “force to be reckoned with.”

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

Based in New York where all the world’s top diplomats reside, Mr. Blanchard wields a key position lobbying for Canada’s bid to win a non-permanent United Nations Security Council. His impact is beyond that work, drawing mention for his efforts on the government’s feminist international assistance policy and Canada’s work to stop the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He’s at the top tier among political appointees, behind only Mr. MacNaughton in prominence. The lawyer is known as one who develops personal relationships and can bring people together. His relationship with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has proven to be important.

John McCallum, ambassador to China

This former six-term MP was named to this job in January 2017. He’s got extra weight because of his political profile, having been a Liberal minister for national defence, veterans affairs, national revenue, and immigration during 16 years in Parliament. He’s well-liked in China and is seen as sympathetic to the Beijing leadership. Some observers questioned whether he missed warning signs during Mr. Trudeau’s December 2017 trip to China, when Canada didn’t advance past exploratory trade talks, but a government source said that result doesn’t diminish the calibre of advice.

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

When Ms. Freeland was deciding who to lead the NAFTA renegotiations, she had to make a choice between Mr. Verheul and Kirsten Hillman. Instead, Ms. Hillman was tapped for the high-profile deputy ambassador to the U.S. post, where she’s frequently called upon for her depth of trade knowledge. Ms. Hillman was Canada’s chief negotiator in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. She forms a good partnership with Mr. MacNaughton, with whom she works often on many trade files; together they serve as an important connector for Canada in Washington. While Mr. MacNaughton focuses on the political, she brings her deep knowledge of the technical side of trade. One source called her the “smartest diplomat” Canada has.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

The former Progressive Conservative prime minister has helped the government work a strategy on the United States. Described as a “Trump whisperer,” he’s known for his friendship with longtime neighbour Mr. Trump, in Palm Beach, Fla. Both publicly and privately, people listen to what he says and he’s among those who are on the regular call list for all things NAFTA. At the outset, the government engaged him in its charm offensive. But that influence isn’t the same as in the beginning, described as “way down” by one former diplomat, who said that Mr. Mulroney’s advice to flatter the mercurial president “was harmful” and didn’t get Canada ahead.

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

The former Liberal justice minister is held in high esteem and is consulted on human rights matters. His efforts were especially evident in pushing the government to pass Bill S-226,  the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which sailed through the House of Commons unanimously in October 2017. He’s someone who has an audience and is held in high regard (one source called him a “national treasure”) as a 16-year MP. He and Bob Rae represent an important historical voice in the Liberal Party that speaks to human rights, which the government listens to. Former Liberal cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have also earned mention as “heavyweights,” but mostly for their work on refugee issues with the government.

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Though she didn’t play on the same team as the Liberals while in Parliament, Ms. Ambrose is a member of the government’s NAFTA advisory council along with fellow former Tory minister James Moore, who was also frequently mentioned as an influential and co-operative Conservative, but she eked out a slight advantage. One source called her “very influential” on NAFTA. She appears to have more influence than her former boss, ex-prime minister Stephen Harper. Some observers suggested if he had any influence it was through the media, as he does not have a close relationship with Mr. Trudeau, like fellow ex-PM Brian Mulroney does.

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Whether to put Mr. Trump’s envoy to Canada on this list led to some heated debate, in some cases provoking laughter at the idea. Several sources said it’d be the first time they would advocate to keep the U.S. ambassador off the list—her critics say the U.S. now has reduced presence in Ottawa. But, observers have a tendency to underrate her importance, a well-placed source suggested. She’s “incredibly well plugged-in,” is present at key meetings, and has offered high-ranking introductions and access to officials. She facilitated Mr. Garneau’s Kentucky Derby visit with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the first meeting between Ms. Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She’s also formed a tight relationship with her Canadian counterpart, Mr. MacNaughton.

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Chair of the finance minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Mr. Barton’s voice continues to be sought out by government officials. He’s extremely trusted and held in “high esteem.” He’s a respected business leader known for heading one of the world’s premier managing consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and as of Oct. 1 is taking over as chairman of mining giant Teck Resources. He “knows China inside out,” and has helped tip opinion on some key economic Asia files, said one insider.

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Despite having left his primo post to return to academia six months after the Liberals swept into power, two years later his name still holds weight. Among academics, his is “the name du jour,” said a former diplomat, an insight in line with the following observation: “When people think Canadian foreign policy, people think Roland Paris,” said one. He’s an internationally respected scholar and his fingerprints are “all over” Mr. Trudeau’s founding foreign policy platform. When Mr. Trump was elected, sources said Ms. Telford called Mr. Paris to form a group advising the government on what to do. With his large platform, he’s considered one of the government’s biggest boosters, while some suggested he can serve as an outlet offering tougher talk (like calling the president a “man-child”) without the political cost. On background, sources said it’s not clear why he left the PMO, speculating that Mr. Butts and his team were going in a different direction, more focused on the domestic impact of internationalism. Even so, most sources had the impression that Mr. Paris “still has an inside track” and remains engaged with and can earn attention of top officials.

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

When Justin Trudeau went to Washington in his first visit to Donald Trump’s White House, Linda Hasenfratz was at his side. Ms. Hasenfratz is the co-chair of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, which was formed out of that first meeting to Washington, and is a project spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter and adviser. Linamar is Canada’s second-largest auto parts manufacturing company and is a multi-billion-dollar business. Ms. Hasenfratz sits on the government’s NAFTA advisory council too. She has been described as the government’s “go-to” person on the business side of things.

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

As ambassador to Washington during the original NAFTA talks, Mr. Burney is called upon by reporters and the PMO Canada-U.S. war room alike for insight. His name is often mentioned alongside former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, whom he served as chief of staff during the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Now a senior strategic adviser at Norton Rose Fulbright, the experienced negotiator is someone the U.S. team in Canada has regular talks with.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress 

Labour groups have taken on increased influence under the Liberal government. Government officials speak with Mr. Yussuff frequently, including Ms. Freeland, and he was “instrumental” in helping the government on CETA, and getting support from progressive elements. His union represents 3.3 million workers. While Mr. Yussuff’s voice is not as apparent in the public eye, compared to Unifor’s Jerry Dias, he has a post on the government’s NAFTA advisory council—a distinction some sources took care to note. Still, Mr. Dias represents Canada’s largest union in the private sector. Dogged in his work on NAFTA, Mr. Dias often speaks of his direct line to Ms. Freeland and her chief negotiator Mr. Verheul. He’s a loud advocate, “incredibly plugged-in, and a constant “whether you want to deal with him or not,” one official said jokingly.

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

This former national security analyst with the government has become increasingly prominent on social media and is often quoted in news reports and featured on TV panel discussions. She offers a substantive perspective that senior government officials said they listen to in part because she’s “an influence-shaping voice” that has reach. She focuses on domestic and international security, international law, terrorism and technology and has a PhD from the London School of Economics. And, having been in government, she provides a good critical perspective on how it regulates and manages the intelligence sphere, making her among academics who matter.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Though no observers suggested she’s got much of a say on policy, her importance is tied to her position as a member of the inner circle—and as one who’s playing a more a prominent role as Canada’s “First Lady” than past prime ministers’ partners. Several suggested that influence played out poorly during the India trip debacle, given the Trudeau family’s over-the-top dress. The same sources were just as quick to blame Mr. Trudeau and his office’s poor taste, but said her part in that decision shouldn’t be discounted. An advocate for women and girls, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau is also involved with a number of charities, including being a national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I Am A Girl” initiative.

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

A negotiator on the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Robertson’s voice still has impact in the foreign policy arena. However, there is some debate as to how much the government values his voice. Mr. Robertson is quoted often and a frequent columnist on NAFTA, which may be where his influence is greater. A former consul general in Los Angeles, as well as head of the advocacy secretariat and minister in Canada’s Washington embassy, he worked in the Canadian foreign service for 33 years. He sits on Mr. Sargent’s NAFTA advisory council. A former ambassador described him as “sensible, informative, versatile, [and] productive.”

The Hill Times

The top 40 influencing Canadian foreign policy 

Key players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States

Politicians

Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister

Harjit Sajjan, national defence minister

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

Civil servants and military personnel

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

John McCallum, ambassador to China

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

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Dairy and the NAFTA Negotiations

POLITICO

Morning Trade

A daily speed read on global trade news

With help from Megan Cassella

 A PESSIMISTIC VIEW ON CANADA DEAL TIMING FROM UP NORTH: Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who is vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, told Morning Trade he thinks the negotiations could drag on for weeks because of the difficulty Trudeau faces in reaching a deal on dairy before the Oct. 1 election in Quebec.

“I think talks could go on into October. Like the World Series, there are still innings to be played and [we should] expect surprises,” Robertson said.

Quebec is Canada’s largest dairy-producing province, accounting for nearly half of the country’s farms and about 37 percent of its milk productionIn addition to the upcoming vote for the Quebec National Assembly, the French-Canadian province will also be a prime battleground in the next federal election, which many expect in October 2019.

To stay in power, the Liberals will have to pick up seats there to offset likely losses in Atlantic, where they currently hold all the seats, and perhaps in British Columbia because of a pipeline controversy, Robertson said.

A Canadian government spokesman did not directly say whether the elections are complicating the talks but told Morning Trade that “the federal government is in touch and consults regularly with provincial and territorial governments on the NAFTA negotiations. In fact, Prime Minister Trudeau held a call with provincial and territorial premiers just over a week ago to update them on progress.”

As for timing, Freeland knows a swift resolution is important, but Canada will take the time needed to get a good deal, an aide said.

Two industry officials — one American and the other Canadian — speaking on the condition they not be identified, doubted the fast-approaching Quebec election was having much impact on the negotiations. “Sure, the Quebec election adds another political angle to it here, but by no means is the political sensitivity new,” the Canadian industry aide said. “I don’t think the Quebec election is going to be holding back things in the ag context.”

Dairy plays both ways with the electorate, Robertson added. “While all Quebec parties fiercely defend supply management. Some producers favor the end of supply management as they think — and I think correctly — that Canadian cheese can be world busters and that we can be as competitive as New Zealand and Australia. Of course there will have to be adjustment assistance. But it is affordable, if costly in the short term, and there is no reason our dairy and poultry can’t be as successful as our beef pork grains and lentils. Mr. Trump may force us to do what we should do,” he said.

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NAFTA: What Next?

Despite Trump’s threats, it won’t be easy to cut Canada out of NAFTA, experts say

OTTAWA—U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to leave Canada out of a new NAFTA deal heightened tensions and capped an already dramatic week of negotiations, but some experts say the threat isn’t quite as direct as it seems.

On Saturday, Trump threatened to go it alone with Mexico on a revised agreement or to terminate NAFTA entirely.One U.S. trade lawyer said the “real test” of President Donald Trump’s trade policy lies with his base of support, who may not back any attempt to cut Canada out of a revised NAFTA.

“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” he tweeted, while on his way to play golf. “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off.”

Read more:

Donald Trump threatens to terminate NAFTA if Congress stands up for Canada

Donald Trump confirms Star story on his secret bombshell remarks about Canada

Deal, or no deal, NAFTA uncertainty means consumers lose out, say experts

With memories fresh from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, Canadian officials are mindful that Trump’s threats aren’t all bluster.

But experts say it won’t be quite that easy to cut Canada out of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

For starters, Congress has a critical say on trade agreements, noted Toronto-based international trade lawyer Lawrence Herman.

“Trump has no authority from Congress to end NAFTA and do a bilateral deal with Mexico as he threatens. I suspect lots of political pushback and, importantly, legal challenges to any such attempt,” Herman said on Twitter.

U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doesn’t see a procedural barrier to going forward with Mexico alone, but he does think political considerations would scuttle such a move.

“The issue is whether Congress will stand up to the president,” Ujczo said in an interview Sunday. “It’s a political question, not a procedural question. At the end of the day, it will be up to Congress to decide whether we can proceed with a bilateral deal as opposed to a trilateral.”

Aside from the procedural questions, including a six-month notice requirement, Trump would also certainly face a backlash from members of Congress, state governors and U.S. business leaders whose constituencies and companies would pay an economic price if Canada — America’s largest goods export market in 2017 — were left out.

Even before trade negotiations got underway, Ottawa had begun a concerted strategy to reach out to U.S. stakeholders to drive home the benefits of Canada-U.S. trade and what it meant economically to their individual districts.

That’s helped build valuable allies.

On Friday, Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement stressing that a revised NAFTA must include all three countries.

“NAFTA’s many strengths rest on the fact that it ties together three economically vibrant nations, drawing upon each of our strengths to boost the competitiveness of the whole. If you break off one member of this agreement, you break it all, and that would be bad news for U.S. businesses, for American jobs, and for economic growth,” Donohue said.

He warned that unless the new deal is a trilateral one, it won’t get congressional backing or the support of the business community.

In the view of the Canadians, this gives them leverage at the bargaining table, an assessment backed by Ujczo.

“Right now, the U.S. has the negotiating leverage in the negotiating room but Canada has the leverage in terms of Congress, the business community and the general U.S. public, but that balance will not last forever,” Ujczo said.

Ujczo said the “real test” of the president’s trade policy lies not with Trump but rather with his base of support.

“I think the real question is where is Trump’s base on Canada,” he said.

“I can say as someone who lives in Ohio, I don’t think for the time being there’s a great deal of support to proceed with a deal absent Canada,” he said.

But he cautioned that the issues that appear to be sticking points in Canada-U.S. discussions — Canada’s supply management system, dispute settlement and cultural protections — aren’t likely to find many defenders south of the border.

In the meantime, while Trump continues to churn the waters, Ujczo notes that these threats and “theatrics” are part of his negotiating tactics.

“Don’t underestimate the strategy of good cop, not-so-good cop and bad cop,” he said. “Others can decide who falls into what category.”

It’s all part of the president’s no-compromise bargaining style, as he bluntly stated in private comments revealed by the Star’s Daniel Dale on Friday.

In an off-the-record conversation with Bloomberg journalists, leaked to Dale by a source, Trump said that any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.”

Trump grumbled about Canada on social media on Saturday, reprising views that the northern neighbour had been taking advantage of the U.S. “for many years” and that NAFTA was one of the “worst trade deals ever” that cost the U.S. “thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.

“We were far better off before NAFTA — should never have been signed … We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” Trump said on Twitter.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during a news conference at the Canadian Embassy after talks at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, in Washington, Friday, Aug. 31. Freeland told the press that NAFTA negotiations are “making progress,” but aren’t “there yet.” Freeland added that a “win-win-win agreement is within reach.”

Trump’s comments ignore data that shows U.S. exports in goods and services have soared since NAFTA was signed. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office says that U.S. exports to Canada are up 181 per cent from 1993 and U.S. exports of services to Canada are up from pre-NAFTA levels by some 243 per cent.

For now, the Canadians are insisting they won’t be rattled by Trump’s Saturday warning that Canada could be left out of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

And as they prepare to resume negotiations Wednesday, they say they are optimistic. Driving that optimism was agreement on auto content that would favour Canada and the United States because of their higher-wage workers, making it less appealing for manufacturers to move production to Mexico. While that was part of the preliminary deal reached by Mexico and the U.S., it follows on proposals made by Canada earlier in the talks.

“If implemented it would be very progressive for Canadian workers and Canadian labour. It was important for the United States and Mexico to get that work done,” said one official familiar with the discussions.

“We continue to work, we continue to talk, we continue to make progress. But for the government of Canada to sign an agreement, it needs to be in the best interests of Canada and Canadians,” the official said.

At this key time, Canada cannot let up on its targeted cultivation of U.S. contacts, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said, in order to keep pressure on the White House not to leave Canada by the wayside.

“Keep calm and carry on with our current strategy of working Congress and the states, especially governors, and reminding U.S. business that we matter to each other,” said Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Given Trump’s sharp-elbowed trade tactics, that strategy will remain in place going forward, Robertson said, to protect Canada’s interests.

“Normally we use the president/administration as a shield against a protectionist Congress. Now we are using Congress and the states, especially governors, as a shield against a mercantilist president,” Robertson said in an email exchange with the Star.

“I think it will oblige us to make a strategic shift in our long-term advocacy in the U.S.A.,” he said.

Others caution that Trump’s tactics have badly damaged Canada-U.S. relations.

The president’s treatment of Canada through this process is the “definition of insanity,” Bruce Heyman, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, told CNBC’s Squawk on the Streeton Sunday.

“The U.S. has all the leverage in the world, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. When you take your best friend, your greatest ally in the world and start squeezing them, you can win but I will tell you, the relationship will be damaged much longer than it will take the ink to dry on a new NAFTA deal,” Heyman said.

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John McCain: A friend to Canada


Canada had a friend in John McCain

iPolitics

Senator McCain was a warrior and he understand the values of collective security. He was also a democrat and indeed championed the idea of a league of democracies sustained by a military alliance.
Location is everything in Washington. Canada’s splendid Arthur Erickson-designed embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, just across from the National Gallery of Art, is at the start of the presidential inaugural parade that is held every four years. The embassy’s sixth-floor balcony overlooks the Capitol building. Its superb view down Pennsylvania Avenue makes it a prize site for schmoozing while keeping an eye on the parade.

Our invitation to members of the new Congress, incoming administration and the movers and shakers of Washington is always a draw. For the second George W. Bush inaugural parade on January 20, 2005, we welcomed former Speaker Newt Gingrich and incoming West Virginia governor (and now Senator) Joe Manchin . But our prize catch was Arizona Senator John McCain who came along with one of his daughters, who lived in Toronto.

The Senator made straight for the balcony. He was not there for any ‘networking’. He had come to watch the parade.

It was a cold January – mitts, scarf and toque weather. The Senator positioned himself against the balcony and stayed put, long after everyone else had gone in for something warming. I stood beside him and tried to engage him on some of our issues – softwood lumber and beef. He grunted acknowledgement, his eyes on the marching bands.

“I marched myself as a midshipman at Annapolis in the second Eisenhower inaugural… it was another cold day.”

For the next hour, he did colour commentary, displaying an encyclopaedic, opinionated knowledge of the various marching bands, punctuated with his trademark wit and pungent humour. His daughter came out at one point and fastened a scarf around him but he stood bare-headed and with his hands in his dark wool coat.

‘Dad, it’s really cold out here…come in.’

‘No thanks…I’ve been in colder places than this.’

It was another insight into this doughty American hero.

I first met Senator McCain when I served as Canadian Consul General for the southwestern USA. Arizona was part of the territory and the senior Senator from Arizona’s office was supportive of our efforts to create the Canada-Arizona Business Council. The CABC set about increasing by tenfold the number of direct flights between Arizona and Canada. It was eventually realized thanks to CABC efforts, especially those of CEO Glenn Williamson, now our Honorary Consul in Phoenix.

When I was assigned next to establish the new Advocacy Secretariat at our Embassy in Washington, Senator McCain was an obvious target for our outreach efforts. He had served in Congress since 1983 and run well as the maverick ‘Straight Talk Express’ against George W. Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000. In 2008 he would be the GOP presidential nominee.

Senator McCain’s Washington staff was as efficient as those in Arizona. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his similarities to Teddy Roosevelt, we found that he was an environmentalist and his staff gave us useful advice on the somewhat obscure, but important, Devils Lake environmental issue. Run-off from Devils Lake in North Dakota was running into the Red River that flows north into Manitoba. We wanted the Army Corps of Engineers to put in a filtration system. Senator McCain, who early on recognized the dangers of climate change, helped us. He also traveled, with Hillary Clinton, across the north of Canada to Churchill to assess the changes wrought by global warming.

Senator McCain was a warrior and he understand the values of collective security. He was also a democrat and indeed championed the idea of a league of democracies sustained by a military alliance. One of the most successful initiatives of the Harper government that the Trudeau government has wisely continued to support is the Halifax International Security Forum, a three-day world-class security forum for the democracies. Set up under the direction of then Defence Minister Peter MacKay it has succeeded under the tireless direction of its CEO, Peter van Praagh.

Critical to the HISF success is the congressional delegation that flies up from Washington each November. John McCain was a driving spirit behind the American presence. Not only did he attend every year, he personally cajoled and convinced his colleagues, Republican and Democrat, to come with him. This congressional presence, often more than come to Canada in an entire year, ensured high-level participation from ministers and flag-rank officers both trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific.

In what was his last appearance, weeks after the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, Senator McCain was unequivocal in his support for NATO, as well as the NAFTA. They needed to be preserved and strengthened. And when it came to conduct in war, he was equally forceful telling us “I don’t give a damn what the president (elect) wants to do…we will not waterboard. We will not torture people.”

Yes, Senator McCain is an American hero. He was also a friend to Canada.

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Grading NAFTA: A year on

While some progress has been made, a deal still hasn’t been reached. Autos and the U.S. demand for a sunset clause have been key sticking points. Meanwhile, Canada has become one of Donald Trump’s main targets in recent weeks with the U.S. president threatening more tariffs on Canadian car imports if a deal isn’t struck.

Below, four experts weigh in on Canada’s progress in the talks so far and offer their view on what needs to happen next.

 

What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.

COLIN ROBERTSON, VP AND FELLOW, CANADIAN GLOBAL AFFAIRS INSTITUTE

Grade: A, for exhibiting Hemingway’s definition of courage: “grace under pressure”

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“Donald Trump. Does he want a NAFTA or not?  Is the administration prepared to negotiate on the remaining critical issues: dispute settlement (chapters 11, 19, 20) and government procurement?”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“We are still in negotiation and the Canada-Mexico partnership remains solid.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“U.S. intransigence and the sense that their negotiating team is awaiting instructions on their mandate and scope for negotiation.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Keep negotiating and trying to make progress on the issues. Keep in mind the average negotiation for a deal of this size even renegotiated is three-to-five years. We are actually making reasonable progress given the complexities involved. Granted, a lot of what is being negotiated was already negotiated by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the TPP and many of the negotiators are the same. So there is familiarity with the issues and one another.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“Donald Trump’s personal involvement. He has so much policy ground to choose from but he has made NAFTA a personal interest as we have learned to our surprise and disappointment in his tweets.”

 

Ottawa mulling steel safeguards: Is this a wise move?

Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, joins BNN Bloomberg to discuss Ottawa’s decision to launch consultations with the aim of protecting Canada’s steel industry, and what’s ahead for NAFTA.

MARYSCOTT GREENWOOD, CEO, CANADIAN AMERICAN BUSINESS COUNCIL

Grade: I for incomplete

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“I would say the unpredictability of the U.S.”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“Raising awareness in the U.S. and Canada of the importance of our economic relationship.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“Not getting a deal done yet.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Canada needs to come to the table with practical deals in mind. Focus on the practicality as opposed to the principle.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“The fact that [Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador], the new president of Mexico, has been eager to conclude a modernized NAFTA before he takes office on Dec. 1.”

 

Trump’s focus on tariffs still truly remain China: Trade expert

Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, joins BNN Bloomberg’s Catherine Murray for a look at the growing ripple effects from Trump’s tariffs.

CHRISTOPHER SANDS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CANADIAN STUDIES, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

Grade: C

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“Overcoming an initial impression (given by President Trump) that the renegotiation of NAFTA would involve only ‘tweaks’ with regard to Canada-U.S. trade arrangements. This led Canada to play it safe with a defensive strategy that was hard to abandon when the gravity of the talks became more apparent (lots of clues are visible in retrospect).”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“Mobilizing an impressive outreach to the Congress, state governors and legislators on the benefits to the United States of trade with Canada … Combined with a thoughtful outreach to the Trump administration, including White House staff and cabinet departments, the Canadian effort was more extensive that any that a foreign country has ever mounted in the United States.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“It would be a tie for me. First, the failure of the impressive Canadian outreach to garner a single concession from the United States – not on softwood lumber, not on gypsum – which was then followed by the self-destructive Canadian attack on U.S. trade remedy practices now pending before the World Trade Organization, a clear sign of Canadian frustration.

“Second, the business community in both Canada and the United States has been far less effective at defending the integrated continental supply chains that link the three NAFTA economies. Why? I still don’t really know.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Heal the breach with the Trump White House.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations? 

“Almost all of the things I have mentioned above surprised me, but the suspension of the NAFTA talks in June followed by their resumption on a bilateral basis by the U.S. and Mexico was the biggest surprise.”

 

Trump playing ‘old-fashioned leverage’ with Canada freeze-out: Trade lawyer

Mark Warner, principal at MAAW Law, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on Trump’s latest tweet on NAFTA, in which he essentially says he’s freezing Canada out of talks.

MARK WARNER, PRINCIPAL, MAAW LAW

Grade: A+ for effort in engaging with key stakeholders, B+ overall

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“The biggest hurdle for Canada in the NAFTA negotiations so far has been in grappling with the scope of the Trump administration’s demands to roll back some of the perceived gains from NAFTA in the area of dispute settlement (and demand for a sunset clause) and to deal with traditional U.S. demands for concessions in areas like supply management for the price of maintaining NAFTA rather than for new U.S. concessions.”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“The biggest success for Canada has been to keep drawing out the negotiations without Trump triggering a notice of withdrawal to Canada and Mexico. That said, the price of doing so has been increased investment uncertainty and the strategy has led Trump to seek other opportunities for leverage in the negotiations outside NAFTA, most notably in Canada’s inclusion in the Section 232 national security tariffs on steel and aluminum and threatened ones on autos.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“The biggest disappointment is that Canada has adopted a passive, defensive approach to the NAFTA renegotiation with engagement mostly with U.S. stakeholders rather than proactively engaging stakeholders in Canada for self-interested policy or market access concessions that could be offered up to move Canada out of Trump’s attention (e.g. supply management).”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“The most important thing Canada needs to do right now is to find something to offer in the NAFTA negotiations to avoid Trump imposing Section 232 national security tariffs on exports of autos and auto parts from Canada. And to end the spiral of ‘tit for tat’ tariff retaliation, which is a game that ultimately Canada cannot win because of the asymmetries in the size of the two economies and relative importance of bilateral trade to each country.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“The biggest surprise to me is that Canada and Mexico have managed to hang together, at least publicly, until recently, although I wonder whether the time horizons of the newly-elected Mexican president and the Canadian prime minister approaching his re-election year will stay aligned if the NAFTA negotiations continue.”

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Canada and UN Security Council seat 2021

Canada is facing a UN battle — with Bono

OTTAWA—U2 frontman Bono might think the world needs more Canada but he’s singing the praises of his Irish homeland now as Ireland launches a bid for a spot on the UN Security Council — marking a formidable competitor to Ottawa’s own aspirations for a council seat.

Ireland rolled out Bono’s star power as it kicked off its campaign in New York on Monday to win a seat on the influential body for the 2021-22 term.

U2’s Bono has been drafted by Ireland into the fight for a Security Council seat.
U2’s Bono has been drafted by Ireland into the fight for a Security Council seat.  (MICHEL EULER / AP)

Ireland’s attempts to win over the UN crowd began the night before when U2 played to a packed house at New York’s Madison Square Garden — with more than 150 UN diplomats invited as special guests.

Bono pointedly took a few minutes during the performance to lavish praise on the United Nations.

“If the United Nations didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. That is the truth. It’s the one place we can all meet. It’s the one place that puts peace on the negotiating table first,” he said.

The Irish rocker said that at a time when international institutions are under attack, the United Nations is needed more than ever and his country — with its history of conflict and violence — is well-suited to help.

“If you look at the agenda of what the Security Council will be called on to address over the coming years, doesn’t it look a lot like us? We’d like to think Ireland’s experience of colonialism, conflict, famine and mass migration give us a kind of hard-earned expertise in these problems. And, I hope, an empathy and I hope humility,” Bono said.

The singer acknowledged that UN diplomats could vote for Canada and its “truly remarkable leader … That Canada is nice is the worst thing I can say about them.”

People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote on Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Canada is setting its sights on a seat at the UN Security Council.
People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote on Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Canada is setting its sights on a seat at the UN Security Council.  (MARK LENNIHAN)

Bono has sung Canada’s praises in the past.

But now Canada finds itself in a tough competition with what Bono calls a “tiny rock in the Atlantic Ocean” and Norway, too, in a three-way race for the two seats that will come open on the 15-member council.

Justin Trudeau declared in 2016 that Canada would seek a Security Council seat, part of the Liberals’ vow to “restore Canadian leadership in the world.”

Democracy, inclusive governance, human rights, development and international peace and security were the among the priorities highlighted at the time.

“We are determined to help the UN make even greater strides in support of its goals for all humanity,” Trudeau saidduring a visit to UN headquarters that year.

Canada has served six times on the Security Council, the last time ending in 2000. The vote will be held in June 2020, after the October 2019 federal election.

The council has five permanent members — China, United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia — and 10 elected members. Each year, the general assembly elects five of the 10 spots for a two-year term.

Canada’s own campaign has been low-key so far. Cabinet ministers raise the topic in their meetings with politicians from other countries. And foreign affairs officials are plotting now how best to officially launch its bid.

But the campaign carries risks.

Losing would be humiliating for the Liberals — if they are still in power after the 2019 election.

The Liberals castigated Stephen Harper’s Conservatives for their failure to win a Security Council seat in 2010. At the time Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff called it a “clear condemnation” of the Conservatives’ foreign policy priorities.

But winning carries risks, too.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, cautions “be careful what you wish for,” noting that a spot on the Security Council would put Canada in the hot seat for the world’s most difficult crises.

“Being on the Security Council there are going to come a whole pile of complications,” said Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

That could include being at loggerheads with the U.S., one of the council’s permanent members, and President Donald Trump, if he seeks and wins re-election in 2020.

“It’s going to require an awful lot of effort. Is that effort worth it?” he said.

Robertson speculates that with Ireland and Norway in the running, Canada is unlikely to garner many European votes. So it will have to look for support in other parts of the world — the Asia-Pacific region, the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa.

“I think we’ll run as a constructive middle power but there aren’t enough middle-power votes to carry the day so we have to appeal to smaller places,” he said.

Canada has the advantage of being a G7 and G20 country but otherwise, he said, the three countries in the running are almost “interchangeable” in terms of their priorities and vision for the world.

“It’s like campaigning against mirrors of yourself,” he said.

Indeed, at the campaign launch, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach or prime minister, highlighted themes that could easily be Canada’s own goals.

“We support a rules-based order in international affairs. We have acted as a voice for the disadvantaged and defenceless, promoting freedom and defending human rights,” Varadkar said.

“In areas such as peacekeeping, disarmament, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian assistance we have matched our words with our actions,” he said.

NDP MP Hélène Laverdière predicts the campaign will be “very difficult.

Canada already has a lot of strikes against its bid,” said Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie).

She noted Canada lags behind Norway and Ireland in foreign aid. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s aid spending in 2016 was 0.26 per cent of gross national income, compared to 0.32 for Ireland and 1.12 per cent for Norway.

Canada also lags behind both countries in military personnel deployed on UN peace missions. According to UN data to May 31, Canada had just 40 personnel assigned to peace missions compared to 542 for Ireland and 66 for Norway. But Canada’s numbers are set to rise as it deploys 250 military personnel to Mali on a yearlong mission to provide helicopters to support the UN mission there.

Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said Canada’s priority should be to help reform UN institutions, such as peace operations, even if it means forgoing a seat on the Security Council.

“We should never sacrifice taking principled positions at the UN for the sake of garnering votes. That becomes the challenge,” O’Toole said.

He said Ireland will be a challenge and will likely win the support of other European nations. “I’m not sure we can compete with Bono … He’s a hard brand to compete with so the Irish are certainly going for it,” O’Toole said.

“Maybe we should trot out Drake,” he said, referring to the Canadian superstar rapper.

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