Canada UK Relations

Why Canada can learn and gain from its British connection

LONDON — The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Jan. 20 2015

Colin Robertson

The British have reason to feel chuffed. The United Kingdom pipped France last year to become the world’s fifth-largest economy. After enduring years of controversial austerity, the British economy is growing again albeit with a North-South divide.

Once the capital of an empire on which the sun never set, today’s London – its population of 8.3 million is about a third bigger than Scotland – defines cosmopolitanism. Londoners still look at the world through expanding concentric circles: the City, the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond.

The City vies with New York as the world’s premier financial centre (Toronto ranks 14th). London has more angel investors and more startups – startups like Mind Candy – than anyplace else in Europe. Business bosses told a recent Lloyds Banking survey they expect 2015 to bring more sales, orders and profits.

Britons are scheduled to go the polls on May 7. Current surveys for Westminster’s 650-member chamber project another hung parliament. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives face Labour, Liberal Democrats (the Tory’s junior partner in the current coalition), UK Independence Party (UKIP), Scottish Nationalists and Greens. Mr. Cameron needs to persuade voters that his tough-love approach deserves another term.

The Scots rejected independence in last year’s referendum, only after they were promised more powers. Changes may result in a more Canadian-style parliamentary federalism.

British ambivalence about Europe is deep, historic and profound. Unhappiness over “benefit tourism” (more myth than reality) and events in the eurozone – the uncertainty around next week’s Greek election and fears of a deflationary spiral – increase euroskepticism.

UKIP is fuelled by anti-Europe, anti-immigrant sentiment. UKIP’s successful campaign in last year’s EU parliamentary elections won it the most UK seats. Mr. Cameron has promised reforms to British membership in the European Union, leading to an “in-out” referendum by 2017.

The United States passed Britain as Canada’s main trade and investment partner before the Second World War. While almost half of Canadians claim British descent, our immigration flows shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the early 1970s. Still, the UK remains the most popular travel destination for Canadians outside of the Americas.

Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth bicentenary was recently celebrated in his Glasgow birthplace. In becoming Canadian, says scholar Ged Martin, Sir John ceased to be a Scotsman, but for Macdonald the British connection distinguished us from the United States and was essential to being Canadian.

Stephen Harper believes in the British connection and in two London speeches – given in 2006 and 2013 – he spoke of a combined history “built by layer upon layer of common experiences, shared values and ancient family ties.”

Mr. Harper found a kindred spirit in Mr. Cameron and then foreign minister William Hague; the Canada-UK Joint Declaration of 2011 sets out a strategic partnership focusing on commerce, foreign policy, defence, security, development and the intelligence relationship.

Canada can learn and gain from the British connection.

Britannia no longer rules the waves but sustained investments ensure it international place and standing.

British defence spending (2.4 per cent of GDP) outpaces Canada’s 1 per cent, as does its development assistance budget – .71 per cent (the target for developed nations recommended by Lester Pearson) versus Canada’s .27 per cent.

Mr. Harper could take note of Mr. Cameron’s public recommitment to Britain’s navy. At NATO’s Wales summit last September, Mr. Cameron announced two new aircraft carriers will transform Britain’s “ability to project power globally, whether independently or with our allies.”

Britain’s intelligence capacity, (as shown in the film The Imitation Game), remains premier league. Intelligence sharing, through the Five Eyes alliance, has renewed urgency in tracking and containing jihadist threats.

British “soft power” is deftly delivered through the BBC World Service and the British Council. With a presence in 227 locations, the effective British Foreign Service is rethinking foreign service to emphasis trade and geopolitics. Since 2012, we co-locate, where appropriate, to save money and give ourselves a wider reach.

London is the obvious launchpad to take advantage of the Canada-Europe trade agreement. The UK is our second-largest goods export market. British firms are our third-largest source of investment. Bombardier is the biggest investor in Northern Ireland.

Illustrating our managerial competence are the Canadians directing three iconic British institutions: Mark Carney at the Bank of England; Moya Greene at the Royal Mail; and Michael Downey at the Lawn Tennis Association.

Beyond Canada Gate in London’s Green Park, there is a memorial to the one million Canadians who came to Britain and fought for freedom in two world wars. Inscribed are these words: “From danger shared, our friendship prospers.”

Ties binding the “little island” and the “great Dominion” – Winston Churchill’s characterization – have loosened but they endure and we have a mutual interest in sustaining them.

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Postponement of Three Amigos Summit

Stephen Harper postpones North American Leaders’ Summit to late 2015

Prime minister’s spokesman says no date announced for meeting Canada hasn’t hosted since 2007

Jan 15, 2015 CBC

The date for a trilateral summit between the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico appears to have moved.

It’s Canada’s turn to host the North American Leaders’ Summit, and security officials were actively planning for it to happen in February.

The last so-called Three Amigos summit was held in Mexico in February 2014. Canada hasn’t hosted one since 2007, when it was held in Montebello, Que.

“President Obama and President Peña Nieto welcome Prime Minister Harper’s offer for Canada to host the next North American Leaders’ Summit in 2015,” a joint declaration said last year.

In December, Canadian security officials learned the date would be changed to the fall. No further explanation was provided.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said the summit will happen later in 2015.

“We have not announced a date for the meeting. We intend to host the meeting later in the year,” said spokesman Jason MacDonald.

No specific location had been confirmed for Canada’s meeting.

Summit dates prone to change

There is no fixed time of year for the three leaders to meet. Dates for the summit have been prone to change.

The three countries rotated hosting duties between 2005 and 2009, but in 2010, Canada postponed a meeting that had been scheduled to be held in Wakefield, Que., and then did not host it at all.

The summit scheduled for Hawaii in November 2011 was postponed following the sudden death of Mexico’s interior secretary. U.S. President Barack Obama hosted his counterparts the following April in Washington.

There was no summit in 2013.

If the Stephen Harper government sticks to its fixed election date, the next federal election will be on Oct.19.

Although speculation is rife that the Conservatives may prefer to go to the polls early, the PMO has given no official indication that could happen.

In Washington Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he didn’t know exactly why the summit was postponed and he was “not really” concerned as long as it gets rescheduled in a timely fashion. He joked that the weather would be better later in the year.

Tactical postponement?

Given the fixed election date, former diplomat Colin Robertson, now based in Ottawa with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, thinks a new date in November is most likely.

“It would be an anomaly not to have it at all,” he says, despite Canada’s track record of not hosting in 2010.

‘It will raise in both minds, how committed is Stephen Harper to trilateralism?’– Colin Robertson, former diplomat

For his American and Mexican counterparts, Harper’s decision not to host this winter or spring should be “not a surprise and not unexpected,” Robertson says.

Last summer, Harper’s ministers were taking plenty of shots at the Obama administration — over the Keystone XL pipeline, food labelling and a range of other issues.

But the need to put up a more unified front on things like the fight against ISIS or the crisis in Ukraine compelled Harper and Obama to keep “on a more even keel” since then, Robertson says.

Obama spokesman Earnest downplayed Canada-U.S. tensions Thursday, saying the relationship is “far deeper and far broader than this one infrastructure project,” and there is certainly a lot more for the countries to discuss than just the Keystone XL pipeline.

“I’m not particularly worried about any sort of Keystone outcome looming over those meetings at all,” said Earnest. He added that U.S. and Canadian government officials are frequently in touch by phone.

Wants to look ‘prime ministerial’

For Mexico, Canada’s unwillingness to budge on their visa requirements remains a barrier to a harmonious summit, despite more recent efforts to fast-track Mexican visa applications.

“They want the summit to go well and if the backdrop is clouded with an election looming,” Robertson says, “Harper will have no interest in a summit where he doesn’t look… prime ministerial.”

The other two leaders will understand that tactically, he says. The date is Canada’s call.

Nevertheless, cancelling it outright would be a strategic error, Robertson thinks.

Shared energy and environmental concerns leading up to the UN climate change summit in Paris, as well as shared trade interests like the automotive and agriculture negotiations key to the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, are among the top-level discussions the leaders need to convene at some point.

The later date tips Harper’s hand in terms of his priorities.

“It will raise in both minds, how committed is Stephen Harper to trilateralism?” he says.

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ON appointment of kevin Vickers as Ambassador to Ireland

Kevin Vickers hailed as next ambassador to Ireland

January 8, 2015

Politicians Thursday praised the surprise selection of House of Commons Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers as Canada’s new ambassador to Ireland.

The near-universal congratulations included plaudits from former diplomats and foreign affairs experts, who said the honour is a fitting reward for Vickers’ gallantry in helping take down gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau to end the Oct. 22 attack on Parliament Hill.

Vickers reacted with the same humility he displayed in the days following the shooting, vowing to do his best as Canada’s newest diplomatic envoy.

“As a Canadian with family on both sides hailing from Ireland, there could be no greater honour. I am humbled by the invitation to serve my country in this way,” he said in a written statement. “You have my word that I will do my best to represent you in Ireland with pride and dignity.”

In Ireland, where you come from does matter, said Colin Robertson, a former senior Canadian diplomat. “So they’ll look at him as somebody, in a sense, returning home. The bottom line is will this appointment serve Canadian interests? And I believe it will.”

Vickers succeeds former Conservative minister Loyola Hearn, who was appointed Canada’s ambassador to Ireland in 2010. Canadian governments have sometimes filled the Dublin post with a political appointee instead of a foreign service officer. But few were quibbling about that Thursday.

Vickers “has vast security experience as a longstanding member of the RCMP and obviously on the parliamentary precinct as well, and significant management experience through his roles on Parliament Hill,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at an event Thursday in Delta, B.C.

Vickers has been credited with firing the shot that killed Zehaf-Bibeau during a firefight in the Centre Block’s Hall of Honour. That was just down the hall from where the Conservative and NDP caucuses were holding their weekly meetings.

Vickers received a three-minute ovation from MPs in the House of Commons the following day. He quietly nodded his appreciation, appearing close to tears.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer thanked Vickers Thursday for his “heroic service to Parliament.” The Commons security team will be led by deputy sergeant-at-arms and director general of Protective Services Pat McDonell until further notice.

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Conflict zones 2015

What conflict zones will flare in 2015?

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Jan. 06 2015

In medieval times, mapmakers charted the unknown with the words “Here be monsters.” We’ve since mapped our physical world but our geo-political landscape continues to shift, leaving death and mayhem in its wake.

Canadians have the advantage of three oceans and, in the United States, a friendly neighbour and protective ally possessing the world’s most powerful military. But this does not make Canada fireproof.

What happens beyond our borders matters. Epidemics like SARS and H1N1 are but a plane ride away. The displaced – the UN Refugee Agency calculates every four seconds someone is forced to flee – find a haven in Canada. One in five Canadians, including half of Torontonians, are born beyond our borders

We can’t predict the future but expert research helps us anticipate the kinds of monsters we face in 2015.

The annual report of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action assesses conflicts affecting U.S. interests, all with consequential effect for Canada.

Top of their list is the continuing violence in Iraq, the threat posed by ISIL and further exacerbation of Sunni-Shia divisions within the Middle East. With RCAF jets participating in the bombing raids, this is no longer just a planning scenario.

Contingencies in the next tier include:

An attack on the U.S. homeland or one of our treaty allies. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said an attack on the United States is an attack on Canada. An attack, by Russia on a NATO ally, would oblige Canadian involvement.

A highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure would profoundly affect Canada, especially our interconnected power grids.

A nuclear crisis generated by North Korea, or confrontation involving China and its neighbours in the China seas, would imperil sea-lanes traversed by half the world’s commerce.

A breakdown in the Iranian nuclear negotiations leading to an Israeli pre-emptive strike would, given Canada’s commitment to Israel, test our diplomacy.

Then there is climate change.

The concluding report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides compelling evidence for action by leaders at December’s UN summit in Paris.

The report details ocean and atmospheric warming – increasing the severity of floods and droughts that hit hardest the luckless and left-out. Lloyds, the world’s biggest insurance broker, says the steady rise in costs of global disasters must trigger a “behavioural change” in mitigating climate change.

Set back in Copenhagen, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama persevered and in November secured a climate deal with China. It paves the road to Paris.

Canada needs to get on the climate train. If the Harper government can’t (or won’t) then the provinces should take the initiative. The Calgary flooding was the most costly natural disaster in our history. Yet only 25 of 450 Canadian cities surveyed in a study for the McConnell Foundation had climate adaptation plans.

The emerging global health crisis is covered in another report by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Ebola-like contagion – plagues, parasites and blights – draw headlines and test international capacity. But the non-contagious diseases – heart, diabetes, cancer – are also increasing, especially among younger people.

These diseases killed 13 million people in 2013. The CFR estimates the cost of non-contagious diseases for developing nations over the next two decades will be $21.3-trillion (U.S.) It’s the equivalent of their total economic output in 2013.

Then there is the unexpected – the “black swan” events. A year ago, who predicted that Vladimir Putin would annex Crimea? What was ISIL?

When dealing with international contingency planning, three realities stand out:

First, when the alarm sounds, the United States answers the call, deals with it, then pays the tab.

Only the U.S. can mount and simultaneously sustain campaigns in various theatres, whether it be conflict or disaster relief. The U.S. has carried the burden of primacy since 1945 but now, in an age of retrenchment, Americans increasingly want to “stay out” of world affairs.

Second, others need to step up.

The Allies and the newly developed nations – China, India, Brazil – all benefit from the post-war order underwritten by the United States. Free-riders need to pay their share.

Canada is no shirker. Our refugee intake is admirable. But our current spending on defence, diplomacy and development diminishes our capacity and reliability.

Third, governments must lead.

Only governments can pull together the private sector and civil society and then leaders must act, preferably in concert, using international architecture like the United Nations.

We will never slay all our monsters or anticipate the black swans. Disorder, whether through conflict, climate or disease, is disruptive and costly. So we need to participate, prepare and pay our share.

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