Aleppo, R2P and Human Security

In the wake of Aleppo, instead of writing the eulogy for R2P – the Responsibility to Protect commitment endorsed by all member states of the United Nations in 2005 – liberal internationalists should seize it as a call to action.

Canada can help. It is time to resuscitate the human-security agenda as a major foreign-policy initiative that would also provide a meaningful Canadian platform in our bid for a Security Council seat in 2020.

In many ways, R2P was a Canadian initiative, the capstone to the Chretien Government’s human-security agenda. Michael Ignatieff was one of R2P’s intellectual godfathers. Ambassador Allan Rock led the successful campaign that led to the UN adoption of R2P at its World Summit in 2005, where members endorsed the protection of populations. R2P meant “never again” to genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

R2P nicely complemented the other major achievements of the human-security agenda: the Land Mines Treaty (1997), the creation of the International Criminal Court (2002) and a continuing succession of UN resolutions condemning the recruitment of child soldiers and use of small arms.

Today, the accomplishments of the human-security agenda are under threat. During his recent visit to Ottawa, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden encouraged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to champion the liberal international order.

It will be a tall order, especially for a leader who has a big domestic agenda to fulfill and who has already carved out an international leadership role on climate change – a bigger challenge given the change in attitude of the next U.S. administration.

Michael Small, who directed the human-security agenda within Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department, has set forth three lessons from that initiative that the new government could usefully heed.

First is to find a champion within cabinet.

As foreign affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy diligently worked the international circuit to build a coalition of support beginning with his North American counterparts, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Mexican foreign minister Rosario Green.

Second is to respond to pressing security needs.

At that time, it was the surge in intra-state conflicts, but today it would also include terrorism, the rise in authoritarianism and declining confidence in rules-based international institutions.

Third is to develop new ideas and build intellectual capital.

The government invested in research at universities, think tanks and non-governmental organizations and encouraged junior officers in Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department to think creatively. That resulted in Canada creating the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, in which Mr. Ignatieff played a lead role along with Australian Gareth Evans and Algerian Mohamed Sahnoun.

In a retrospective look at R2P, Mr. Ignatieff argues that governments must underline to their citizens that protecting civilians is “about preventing harm, not primarily using force.” Avoiding mission creep, he argues, is vital.

All of these lessons will need to be applied if Mr. Trudeau to deliver on his promise to the UN that Canada is “here to help.” Mr. Small also suggests that the Trudeau government could update the human-security agenda with the inclusion of three issues in which it already has a track record: refugee protection, pluralism as an instrument for dealing with conflict reduction and social inclusion, and empowering women.

Building all-party support will be important. The Harper government forcefully promoted maternal and child-health initiatives as well as “girls not brides,” and this work should continue.

Revitalizing R2P will not be easy.

The first test for Mr. Trudeau will be convincing U.S. president-elect Donald Trump to engage. The United States is the guardian of the liberal international order and its deterrent muscle is indispensable.

The tragedy in Aleppo, described by a UN spokesman as a “complete meltdown of humanity,” represents a failure at many levels – national, regional and international. The international humanitarian norms that underwrite human security are eroding, if not collapsing. The secondary effects – a deluge of refugees and terrorism – have contributed to the rise of populism and right-wing movements across the West.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan once asked: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?”

The “shift in the angle of vision” – from that of the state to that of the well-being of its citizens – that inspired R2P and the human-security agenda has lost none of its relevance.

The international community came together after the tragedies in Rwanda (1994), Srebenica (1995) and Darfur (2003). Aleppo reminds us that R2P and the cause of human security needs fresh thinking and new champions.

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Trade Commissioner Service and Promoting Canadian Trade

With CETA and TPP in limbo, here’s how Canada can give trade a practical boost

With our big trade-policy initiatives – the Canada-EU trade deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership – in limbo, Canada’s leaders need to turn their attention to trade promotion.

Canada lives by trade. It represents 60 per cent of our GDP. One in five jobs is linked to trade. There are more than a million small- and medium-sized enterprises operating in Canada. A 2013 survey concluded that only 41,000 were exporting. We can do better.

We need a trade strategy that has the support of the provinces and regional leadership. International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland should turn her considerable skills to achieving consensus on a new trade plan and then deliver it through a re-energized Trade Commissioner Service.

The Harper government’s Global Markets Action Plan is a good starting point. It established priority markets that also integrated the services of Export Development Canada, Canadian Commercial Corporation and the BDC.

Ms. Freeland needs to achieve buy-in from the provinces and our cities. Since the successful implementation of the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement (1988), our premiers and civic leaders, regardless of political stripe, are among the strongest advocates of expanding our global customer base and attracting foreign investment.

Saskatchewan’s Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) just celebrated its 20th anniversary. It works because it aligns government resources with exporter needs. Recognizing that city regions are the hubs for innovation and home to our service industries, the 11-city Consider Canada alliance has launched a series of initiatives to attract foreign investment and talent.

Ms. Freeland should revalidate the Action Plan’s target markets. But the focus of the Plan should be on identifying customers, investors and technology partners. A revised strategy also needs to address:

  • International investment by Canadian firms, a necessary part of competing globally, including the role of pension funds;
  • Canadian business participation in development bank projects, especially infrastructure;
  • Foreign direct investment in Canada including state-owned enterprises and public-private partnerships;
  • Internationalization of start-ups through reciprocal soft-landing arrangements in incubators and accelerators in the United States and abroad;
  • Scaling-up Canadian companies lacking sales and marketing experience;
  • Identifying opportunities for Canadian cybertools, technologies and services, especially in emerging markets;
  • Utilization of the Canadian diaspora and the family ties created by immigration to advance trade and investment;
  • Integrating international education, immigration and tourism into our strategy.

The ultimate test of our trade agreements is their ability to generate new business for Canada. Ms. Freeland should produce an annual report card on progress in expanding our customer base.

To give the new plan a boost, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should draw from the Jean Chrétien playbook and resurrect the Team Canada missions that included premiers and mayors, business leaders and university presidents. These initiatives help sell Canadian goods and services and create a sense of common purpose among our leaders.

Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service is our sales force but it needs re-energizing.

Trade commissioners are door-openers, matchmakers and a source of market intelligence for Canadian business. When local governments are not living up to their investment and trade obligations, the trade commissioners are our front-line advocates to achieve compliance. Trade commissioners find paths through the challenges of foreign languages, customs and regulatory thickets.

Every dollar spent by the Trade Commissioner Service generates $27 in increased exports. Firms that access its services export 18 per cent more than those who don’t.

Our trade commissioners would benefit from more specialized training, including assignments with Canadian business. They also need the right tools. Budget-paring obliged, for example, dropping memberships in American and European chambers of commerce, a small investment that gave them wider networks and market intelligence.

The reality of global competition is that government assistance in competing in global markets benefits Canadian business and our economy.

Canadian business is successfully integrated into the North American markets that account for nearly 80 per cent of our trade. Increasingly, it is earning its place in global supply chains, especially in the transportation and communications sectors.

Canadian agricultural products and foods harvested from our land and seas have earned a reputation for quality. Canadian services in banking, insurance and engineering are efficient and trusted. We are global leaders in medical and energy innovation and digital technology.

A good trade plan will set the compass for expanding our reach into global markets. But success – measured in contracts, investment and talent – requires sustained advocacy and marketing. The necessary first step is revitalizing Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service.

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Trump, Clinton and Canadian Trade

 

What Canada needs to do as Trump, Clinton talk trade

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016.

Even when we are not the target, Canada is often collaterally damaged by U.S. trade action. In preparing for the next U.S. administration, our federal and provincial governments should be recalibrating their own economic policies.

The Trudeau government is mapping out the various scenarios depending on the election outcome. We need to closely examine the areas for collaboration and conflict in the policy platforms of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Our place in continental supply chains should benefit from the reinvigoration of U.S. manufacturing promised by both candidates. Adoption of the Trump corporate tax rates would oblige us to re-examine our own regime. There is more opportunity in the Clinton plan for collaboration in green energy, research, and infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile Ambassador David MacNaughton and our U.S. envoys are reaching out to Americans to stress the value of the relationship to Canada, especially in terms of jobs and investment. This exercise should be co-ordinated with the provinces and business.

But we need to do more.

It should start with a doubling-down on trade liberalization at home and abroad.

Our sesquicentennial present to ourselves should be to finally tear down interprovincial trade barriers. The premiers made progress at their recent Whitehorse meeting, but they now need to deliver on their promised Canadian free-trade agreement.

A recent Senate report estimates the annual cost of interprovincial trade barriers is $130-billion. Last month, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia agreed to co-ordinate online wine sales, but as the Senate report observed, it’s only a modest step. The top 10 barriers cited by the Senate, which include trucking, food (notably cheese, wine and beer) and varying standards, should be the starting point for provincial action.

Internationally, we need to ratify the Canada-Europe trade agreement (CETA) as soon as possible and then launch an ambitious trade promotion exercise, led by the Prime Minister and premiers, to take advantage of the deal. Our European missions should already be identifying the trade opportunities of an agreement and, working with the provinces and business, matching the new opportunities against Canadian products and services.

A Canada-China free-trade agreement is in the cards. We should approach this carefully. What lessons can we learn, for example, from the experience of the New Zealand and Australian free-trade agreements with China?

Better prospects are closer economic ties starting with Japan and Mexico, and they should be top of our list if Ottawa or the U.S. Congress fails to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

We can resume the economic partnership negotiations with Japan. And we should be working more closely with Mexico in our continuing advocacy efforts, reminding Americans why our continental economic partnership creates jobs and growth for all of us. Mexican ministers are regularly visiting U.S. states to point out the jobs created by trade with Mexico. We should do the same.

Through the TPP we have already effectively negotiated trade agreements with many ASEAN and Pacific Alliance nations. We should quickly turn these into regional agreements. There are continuing economic partnership negotiations with India. While difficult and frustrating, we need to keep plugging away.

Of the Trudeau Government’s many policy reviews, the recommendations of the Barton committee on Economic Growth could potentially shape our economic future in a fashion similar to the Macdonald Commission on Economic Union. Their policy deliberations should include advice on:

getting the most out of trade liberalization, especially in ensuring that the negotiated trade policy gains become realizable results for business. Can we do more with the Export Development Corporation and Canadian Commercial Corporation?;
managing foreign investment to our advantage, including its place in our planned big infrastructure transportation projects designed to get our goods to market;
in developing global champions in our oil and gas, mining and agri-food sectors, what kinds of incentives and performance measures will work?;
how to more closely align and co-ordinate government-funded research and its practical application? Genome Canada is an effective model;
how higher education can better contribute to skills and training. Shouldn’t we be revaluing our community colleges and putting higher public value on the dignity of our trades?

Both levels of government need to better explain how trade liberalization policies benefit Canadians. They also need to help those affected by change. Governments no longer get a free pass on trust.

The U.S. will always be our main market and our principal trade partner. Our broad economic policy approaches, of necessity, are often complementary, but not the same. And when the U.S. takes a wrong turn, we should not panic, but improve our own game.

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China Trade Talks

 

In trade talks with China, Canada must have a negotiating position

COLIN ROBERTSON The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2016

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official visit to China a month away, Canadian policy toward the Middle Kingdom is under review. Closer relations will serve Canadian interests, mindful that when dealing with China, the game is long and often tortuous.

The Chinese want a free-trade deal and their objectives are clear: improved access to our energy and agri-food resources and a more relaxed regime for Chinese investment, especially state-owned enterprises.

But what are our objectives?

Recent studies – notably those by Wendy Dobson and Paul Evans, and Laura Dawson and Dan Ciuriak – point out the potential benefits of a free-trade agreement (FTA), and the Canadian business community has been mostly encouraging.

But now we need negotiating positions.

The Harper government’s complementarities studies are now four years old and there is little evidence the Track II dialogue around a maritime energy corridor made any progress. The Trudeau government ruminates about joining the China-inspired Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank but shouldn’t this fit into our larger strategy?

A good starting position should be the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership and the standards it sets for investment, intellectual property and services, as well as environment and labour.

Launching an FTA with China will startle American policymakers who take for granted the Canadian energy that underwrites their “energy independence.” Getting more of our oil and gas to Pacific tidewater will get us a better price as well as leverage in dealing with resurgent American protectionism.

Talks with China should encourage Japan to resume the nascent Canada-Japan economic partnership negotiations, set aside in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is now at risk of becoming a victim to U.S. protectionism.

The Chinese are tough negotiators. As a rising great power they confidently believe they hold the upper hand. They are skilled in playing off Western impatience. For China a tentative “deal” is often just the starting point for serious negotiations.

The Chinese are also masters at “hardball.” The recent public dressing-down of a Canadian journalist, by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for her “prejudice” and “arrogance,” is right out of the Chinese playbook on forcing “foreign devils” to kowtow to them. During his 2009 visit to Beijing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to endure the public scolding of Premier Wen Jiabao for taking too long to visit China.

Recent Chinese behaviour – that of their Foreign Minister as well as their rejection of the recent international tribunal ruling on the South China Sea – deserves a response.

Prime Minister Trudeau can underline his credentials as a G7/20 leader by speaking before a Chinese audience to the responsibilities of all nations, including China, to the rules, norms and institutions of the liberal international order. Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, blindsided by Wang Yi in Ottawa, should speak to Chinese students about human rights, press freedom and the rule of law.

Tougher, necessary and behind-closed-doors conversations should also be held around ongoing Chinese cyberespionage and cybertheft aimed at our institutions and on efforts to influence our elected officials. There should be a discussion of Hong Kong as well as the consular case of Kevin Garratt, the Canadian missionary indicted by China for espionage.

Much easier will be the discussions around enhancing our people-to-people ties.

The Harper government achieved “approved destination status” for Chinese travellers. They are now our third-largest tourist source. There are more than 100,000 Chinese students in Canada. Representing one-third of our foreign students, they inject over $2-billion annually into our economy. Recent Chinese immigration has also increased their numbers to over 500,000, the second-largest foreign-born group in Canada. These ever-expanding family ties are an advantage, especially given the overseas Chinese business networks.

Pierre Trudeau once remarked that “Canada has a ringside seat on the Pacific.” But our engagement has been episodic and lacking in sustained strategic direction. We were late, often reluctant, participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Our investment in regional security is minimal. The people flow requires more effective marketing. It’s time to get into the ring, and China is the place to start.

In negotiating with China the Trudeau government needs to be disciplined, focused and patient. Nor should we ever forget that as negotiators the Chinese are more dragon than panda.

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Justin Trudeau’s internationalism after six months

What Trudeau needs to do to sustain international momentum

In most countries, a shift from the right to a centre-left government would mean significant policy change.

But this is Canada, a place where the political spectrum runs from F to M as opposed to A to Z, as a former U.S. ambassador once observed.

This is especially true in the broad arena of international policy, where the biggest change wrought by the Liberal majority victory has largely been in style and personality – from the dour and secretive Stephen Harper to the optimistic and open Justin Trudeau.

Actual policy – whether foreign, defence, trade or immigration – is mostly unchanged. The shifts, especially on climate and in the embrace of the 25,000 Syrian refugees, represent more of a restoration of traditional Canadian policies than real policy change, including a return to cabinet government and first ministers’ meetings.

There is also the promise of re-engagement with China – and the likelihood of a free trade agreement there – as well as re-establishing relations with Russia – beginning with our shared interests in the Arctic. It is clear that this government is progressive but pragmatic – as witnessed by its willingness to forge ahead with the $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Mr. Trudeau, more so than Mr. Harper, will be constantly gauging the public mood and appetite for change.

More than most nations, the Canadian sense of self depends on what we do and how we are seen to do internationally. About to mark six months since its election, the Trudeau government and its “sunny ways” enjoys broad support partly because of its visibly activist multilateralism.

But sustaining this momentum will require three things: care, commitment and cash.

The “bromance” with U.S. President Barack Obama should yield dividends on climate, border access and regulatory collaboration and, hopefully, a resolution on softwood lumber. But the Trudeau team’s outreach to congressional leadership must continue if we are to deflect the rising voices of protectionism.

Restoring a dialogue with Canada’s premiers should help advance our trade and climate goals. But deepening North American integration increasingly depends on initiative from state and provincial governments. Mr. Trudeau should invite premiers and governors to the upcoming North American leaders’ summit to showcase his commitment to both trade and climate change.

Before the summit can take place, the government has to deliver on its promise to lift visa requirements for Mexicans or President Enrique Peña Nieto will not come.

Similarly, international agenda overload is also a significant risk. Recognizing that what brings accolades internationally does not necessarily serve Canadian interests requires tough-minded decision-making. And then there is the ambitious domestic agenda: electoral reform, reconciliation with our indigenous peoples and, eventually, balancing the budget.

Getting this done will require considerable discipline and a senior civil service that is innovative and results-oriented. While there was no love lost between the Harper government and senior officials (mutual contempt best describes the relationship with the foreign service) there was comfort in compliance. Mr. Trudeau should not hesitate to make changes if he is to deliver on his agenda.

Finally, the Pearsonian internationalist reputation Mr. Trudeau aspires to restore depends on investments in hard power as well as soft power. We have yet to live down the reputation, as former foreign minister John Manley observed, of excusing ourselves to go to the washroom when the bill arrives.

For a new government, things have gone very well on the international circuit.

As a public relations device, Mr. Trudeau’s post-election message to the world that Canada is back as a “compassionate and constructive voice in the world” was catchy and clever. It clearly differentiated him from Mr. Harper’s mantra, that Canada would no longer “go along and get along with everyone else’s agenda.”

Mr. Trudeau’s multilateral meetings – G20, APEC, the Commonwealth, and then COP21 – went well, and the reviews from foreign chanceries were good, particularly for Canada’s “helpful fixing” during the Paris climate negotiations. At Davos, Mr. Trudeau impressed the plutocrats with his energy and his artful remarks about wanting Canadians to be known as much for our “resourcefulness” as our resources, although it is our resources that pay the bills.

From flattering profiles in Vogue and on 60 Minutes to the accolade of APEC “hottie,” no Canadian leader has enjoyed this kind of attention since Pierre Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau’s celebrity status will fade. If he wants to leave a legacy, he needs creative initiatives buttressed by solid investments in defence, development and diplomacy. As his friend Barack Obama will tell him, the sands of time run quickly.

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Central Asia

Central Asia ripe for some Canadian know-how

Set high on the northern steppes, Astana owes its inspiration and creation to Kazakhstan’s first (and only) President, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Bayterek Tower, Astana’s crowning glory, looks like a champagne flute topped by a golden cherry. It was supposedly sketched by Mr. Nazarbayev on a cocktail napkin. The profits from energy resources underwrite Kazakhstan and the headquarters of KazMunaiGaz, the national oil and gas company, is big and bold. Mr. Nazarbayev’s personal library, designed by Norman Foster, resembles a half cantaloupe.

Mr. Nazarbayev, 75, successfully transited from apparatchik to Kazakhstan’s founding father after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In April, he resoundingly won another five-year term.

When Mr. Nazarbayev moved the Kazakh capital in 1997 from Almaty to Astana, formerly the site of a notorious Soviet gulag, it supplanted Ottawa as the second coldest capital in the world. (Mongolia’s Ulan Bator is even colder.)

The President’s multivector foreign policy balances between competing spheres of influence – Russia, China, the European Union, the United States – while pursuing an independent course. Kazakhstan was the first former Soviet state to chair the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and last month it joined the World Trade Organization.

Kazakhstan is linked to Russia through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (1992) and the Eurasian Economic Union (2015).

China’s Xi Jingping announced his One Road, One Belt strategy (2013) in Astana and Chinese goods travel by rail through Kazakhstan to Europe. Kazakh oil flows by pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Xinjiang.

The European Union accounts for half of Kazak trade and foreign investment, bolstered Monday with the signature of an enhanced trade and security partnership agreement.

Since 2003, annual Steppe Eagle military exercises are held with the U.S. and other NATO nations and last month, in describing the American New Silk Road Initiative, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told students at Nazarbayev University that America’s stake in Central Asia “extends far beyond security.”

Central Asian border issues hamper closer regional co-operation. The Kazakh-Russian border is longer than the Canada-U.S. 49th parallel. Kazakhstan, the biggest of the ‘stans,’ is roughly the size of Ontario and Quebec.

Canada could work with Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian republics – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – focusing on trade, governance, water management and nuclear safety.

Kazakhstan is a priority market for Canada and, with major investments in mining and oil and gas, an investment agreement is under negotiation.

The Transparency International index and Amnesty International’s reporting consider that corruption is a problem in Central Asia. Canada could usefully share its experience and expertise on accountability, transparency and good governance.

Transboundary water problems, notably the rapidly diminishing Aral Sea, date back to Soviet times and diversions around construction of hydro dams and irrigation of cotton plantations. Lessons can be shared from the Canadian-American boundary waters’ experience and our century-old International Joint Commission.

Kazakhstan is the biggest supplier of uranium, with Canada’s Cameco actively engaged in Kazak operations. Together, Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia provide two-thirds of the world supply. Building on our recent nuclear co-operation agreement, could we not work together in the development of a nuclear fuel bank for peaceful uses and in the management of nuclear waste?

For forty years, northern Kazakhstan was the site of 456 Soviet nuclear weapons tests, polluting an area the size of Germany. An estimated 1.5 million Kazakhs suffer radiation-related illness.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan voluntarily rid itself of nuclear weapons and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the Comprehensive Test Ban treaties. Mr. Nazarbeyev launched Project ATOM (Abolish Testing is our Mission) to promote nuclear disarmament and end nuclear testing. Kazakhstan led the effort that earlier this month led to the passing of the Declaration on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World at the UN General Assembly. These are goals shared by the Canadian-inspired Pugwash conferences.

As the gateway for invaders east and west since the time of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, the 61 million people who live in Central Asia are a remarkable mixture of ethnicities, tribes, religions and languages.

Once again, there is renewed great-power jockeying for influence within Central Asia. The history, climate and geography of the region are harsh and unforgiving. Their governments are authoritarian and characterized by eccentricity. Their peoples might want more freedom and liberty but peace, security and order are their first priorities.

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Ballistic Missile Defence

Ottawa examines merits of U.S. missile defence program

Steven Chase

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Monday, May. 12 2014

The governing federal Conservatives appear to be trying to gauge the Canadian public’s appetite for joining the U.S. ballistic missile defence program, defence watchers say.

Conservative-dominated committees in both the Senate and Commons are examining the merits of the U.S. missile defence program, which former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin opted against joining in 2005. Both committees are studying broader security matters but have been hearing witnesses on missile defence as part of their research.

The Conservative government is saying little. A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson repeatedly declined to answer whether Ottawa is considering changing Canada’s policy on missile defence.

Johanna Quinney, press secretary to Mr. Nicholson, would only say the policy is still intact.

“No decision has been made to change this policy. We will continue to monitor international developments and ensure the safety and security of Canadians both at home and abroad,” Ms. Quinney said.

The minister’s office said it looks forward to what the Senate’s national security and defence committee report will say on the U.S. missile defence program.

James Bezan, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence, told a defence summit last week that Ottawa “hasn’t made any decision” on the matter.

Last Thursday, Agence-France Presse reported Mr. Bezan saying there is concern about the “accuracy” of missiles being developed by some rogue countries that could target Canada’s neighbour, the United States, and end up striking Canada. In the same comments, the parliamentary secretary expressed concern that under the current arrangement Canadian officials would be “sidelined” in the decision-making on the response to any missile threat incoming to North America.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who recently testified in support of joining the U.S. missile defence program, said he believes the Conservative government is weighing this during a promised review of Ottawa’s defence strategy.

He said the United States isn’t pushing Canada to join but that Ottawa is concerned about the rising threat from countries such as North Korea.

“I think the government is testing the waters to see whether the conditions are right,” said Mr. Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute.

He called the missile shield an “insurance policy” and said it “makes a lot of sense.”

David Perry, a senior analyst with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, who also supports joining the U.S. system, said he thinks many of the 2005-era arguments against ballistic-missile defence have been proved immaterial. He thinks Ottawa is curious whether Canadians agree.

“I kind of get a sense they’re floating a trial balloon,” Mr. Perry said.

Philip Coyle with the U.S. Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, testified against Canada joining the U.S. program at Senate hearings Monday.

He said U.S. missile defences remain ineffective. “Shooting down an enemy missile going [24,140 kilometres per hour] out in space is like trying to hit a hole-in-one in golf when the hole is going [24,140 kilometres per hour],” he said. “The hardware being deployed in Alaska and California has no demonstrated capability to defend the United States, let alone Canada, against enemy missile attack under realistic operational conditions.”

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