Rethinking International Assistance


How Canada should rethink international assistance

The Globe and Mail Thursday, May 26, 2016

As the federal government rethinks its international assistance policies, it should heed the call from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for transformative change to global humanitarian relief.

This week’s Istanbul humanitarian conference has put the spotlight on the current state of the global relief system and the effort to reform how the world responds to humanitarian crises.

Disasters, natural or man-made, are increasing. So is the number of conflicts as well as failed and failing states. And the current system of international aid is underfunded and overstretched. The UN estimates that 125 million people need humanitarian relief. The need for smarter relief and development assistance is urgent and immediate. Rethinking our international assistance is timely and sensible.

Officials at the Istanbul conference pointed to the breakdown of international norms on asylum, the need to localize aid and frictions between those who provide relief and those who do not. The conference will provide some much-needed context for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Group of Seven leaders, who are looking at aid accountability as part of their broader summit discussions this week in Ise-Shima, Japan.

While the UN is often criticized as nothing more than a talk shop, in recent months it has concluded a global climate accord and set new sustainable development goals – all of which will factor into Canada’s assistance review. The review, running from May to July, promises broad consultation with planned events around governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights as well as peace and security.

The future direction of Canadian assistance is clearly stated in the government’s discussion guide. International assistance is to advance the UN 2030 Sustainable Development agenda while applying “a feminist lens” to help “the poorest and most vulnerable people.” But to expect more money would be “unrealistic … in the current fiscal context.”

While the overall direction has yet to be determined, the differences between the previous Conservative government’s approach – an emphasis on environmental sustainability, gender equality and governance – are likely to be more tonal than substantive.

Nor is former prime minister Stephen Harper’s framework – with its emphasis on untied aid and a selective country focus – likely to change. The Liberal government has also decided, wisely, to maintain the consolidation of diplomacy, trade and development.

Much of Mr. Harper’s signature program, to improve maternal, newborn and child health, also fits into the Liberal paradigm. The government will continue supporting this initiative, but with more support for family planning and greater attention to the root causes of maternal and child mortality.

The success of the government’s development review will hinge on a number of factors.

First, investing more money. Canada currently sits in the bottom half of the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development when it comes to development assistance. While the Liberal government is right to oppose “throwing buckets of money indiscriminately,” more money, well-spent, makes more impact.

As a recent report assessing Canada’s engagement gap put it, we meet the definition of “free riders” when it comes to development and defence. If Britain can devote 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product to development assistance and 2 per cent to defence (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization standard), shouldn’t we at least aspire to this goal?

Second, Mr. Harper was right when he underlined the importance of accountability in development. But let’s do it with a lighter touch, practise risk management and recognize that civil society organizations (CSOs) need multiyear commitments to demonstrate results. Governments insist that CSOs bring their overhead down, yet they drown them in paperwork.

Third, we can’t boil the ocean so we need to focus. Our projects will always reflect our values, but there is nothing wrong with choosing those that also complement our trade and investment interests. In Africa, for example, our development assistance should work in tandem with our resource industries’ investment to demonstrate best-in-class corporate social responsibility.

Fourth, we need to improve and develop Canadian expertise by investing in Canadian CSOs and in youth exchanges. Programs like Canada World Youth gave generations of Canadians their first international experience while giving their foreign counterparts an appreciation of Canada that has opened doors in diplomacy, trade, education and migration.

Finally, donors – especially in the West – are fatigued and skeptical about aid’s effectiveness. The Liberal government should use these consultations to reassure Canadians about the efficacy of development assistance.

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Trade and Canadian Elections

Debating trade during elections is Canadian tradition

The tariff was a staple election issue after Confederation. Confederation itself was in part a defensive reaction to the U.S. abrogation of the Canada-U.S. reciprocity agreement. An integral part of Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy was a high tariff to protect Canadian manufacturing interests.

The dispute between Liberal free traders and Conservative protectionists culminated in the 1911 “reciprocity” election. A political cartoon from that era captures the mood. Captioned “The Way He Would Like it – Canada For Sale,” it features a grasping Uncle Sam exchanging a bag of money for a bowed and bound Miss Canada.

The dispute over tariff levels contributed to the rise of Prairie populism and the Progressive movement in the 1920s. Progressives eventually joined the Liberals, Conservatives and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (that, in 1961 morphed into the NDP). The Progressives also gave the Progressive Conservatives their antecedent, the national party name from 1942-2003.

Trade continued to feature in elections after the Second World War. It was the overarching theme of the1988 election. By then, however, party positions were reversed. Liberal Leader John Turner and NDP Leader Ed Broadbent opposed the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) negotiated by Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney, who had once ridiculed free trade. The impassioned, televised debate between Messieurs Turner and Mulroney is an election classic.

Continental trade was an issue in 1993 when Canadians elected Liberal Jean Chrétien. Subsequent side agreements on labour and the environment secured the North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA). Despite some rocky years of adjustment, the Canadian economy boomed ahead during the nineties on the back of the improved continental access and our integration into global value chains.

The real success of the FTA and NAFTA was the confidence it gave Canadians to compete internationally. If most premiers opposed freer trade in 1988, today it is the premiers who are the most active salesmen and advocates for freer trade.

Always a trading nation, we have become a nation of traders. Canada draws most of its annual income from trade.

Yet fears about trade persist.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s opposition to the TPP is a key theme in his party’s campaign and he has seized on Hillary Clinton’s opposition to bolster his arguments.

Successive U.S. administrations have done a poor job promoting the benefits of trade. While most Americans think the TPP a “good thing”, support is lower than in Canada and Mexico. Having 2016 presidential contender Ms. Clinton, one of the architects of the U.S. pivot to the Pacific, oppose the TPP undermines public confidence in freer trade.

Unifor, the union representing 40,000 Canadian auto workers, claims that the TPP will result in a loss of 20,000 auto jobs.

Similar fears were voiced by unions after the signature of the Auto Pact in 1965 and the FTA. In each case, employment subsequently rose. While employment in the auto sector is down significantly from its post-FTA/NAFTA highs, industry employment has posted small gains in recent years.

Adjustment assistance is essential to assuaging public fears on freer trade. The Harper government has promised funds to the auto and dairy industry in the wake of TPP.

Look to the example of Canada’s vintners. Before the FTA, Canadian Baby Duck was the preferred choice of teeny-boppers and, apocryphally, used to dissolve paint. With adjustment assistance, vines were replaced, equipment modernized and skills and training instituted. Today, Canadian wine is sold to 40 nations.

Governments and business need to do a better job of explaining the benefits of trade. If all politics is local so is trade. Businesses should tell employees how much of their salaries depend on trade.

Stephen Harper points with pride to the agreements concluded since 2006 with 39 countries. The TPP adds or updates 11 more. Meanwhile our market share of global trade continues to decline – “the second largest in the G20” observed the then senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada.

Finding markets for our goods and services is even more important than negotiating the trade deals.

One of the most successful initiatives of the Chrétien government was the series of Team Canada missions that included premiers and the private sector. Governor-General David Johnston markets Canadian services, especially education, during his travels.

Debating trade during elections is a long and honourable Canadian habit, even if party consistency is not. Our next government needs to make explaining trade to Canadians a permanent campaign.

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The CSIS Podcast

Part of the:

CSIS Podcasts

The CSIS Podcast with Colm Quinn

A look at the week’s news in foreign policy through the eyes of the experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted by Colm Quinn. CSIS Scholar Scott Miller speaks on Canadian election results and cites my piece.


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Canada and the World

Note to Canada’s next government: Diplomacy is not a sign of weakness

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2015

Allies are usually friends but adversaries are not always enemies. Our next government needs to recognize this distinction to give Canada better leverage in the changing international order.

At the end of the Second World War, Canadians helped construct a new international order.

Idealism guided our efforts in designing the United Nations. Realpolitik drove the creation of NATO. The West’s collective security alliance contained Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, an erstwhile ally but no friend. NATO now constrains Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an erstwhile friend but no ally.

The United States is Canada’s enduring, if occasionally frustrating, friend and closest ally. Strengthened daily by deepening economic integration, this relationship now includes Mexico.

Geographic propinquity gives Canada a special place in Washington and our interpretive role leverages our standing. Canadians have roots in every corner of the globe. When we are on our diplomatic game, Washington welcomes our global perspective.

We are well placed to interpret the United States. Foreign nations, confused by the White House and Congress, look to us for explanation.

Our ability to arbitrage this interpretive capacity requires a global diplomatic service constantly gathering insights. Even when we don’t like the incumbent government we need to be there. Keeping our ambassador in Havana throughout the Castro era allowed us to be a useful fixer in the recent re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba relations.

The University of Southern California’s Geoffrey Wiseman has edited the book Isolate or Engage which concludes that when it comes to dealing with adversarial states, engagement works better than isolation. Policy makers must distinguish between efforts at regime change (for example, Islamic State) and regime behavioural change (such as Russia in Ukraine, China in the South China Sea).

The U.S. withheld relations at various times with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Libya, Iran and North Korea. “More often than not,” writes Prof. Wiseman, “this policy has frustrated U.S. foreign policy goals.” With Vietnam, for example, it hampered U.S. efforts to recover the remains of fallen servicemen. Isolation of Cuba damaged U.S. relations with the rest of Latin America.

To isolate or to engage increasingly breaks down on party lines in the United States. In his first inaugural address, President Barack Obama pledged to foreign adversaries to “extend a hand if you unclench your fist.” It’s not easy. President Obama’s ambiguous Syrian red-line left him looking weak but his patience and perseverance with Iran achieved a nuclear agreement. By contrast, many of the Republican contenders for 2016 would isolate China and put U.S. boots on the ground in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Nor do they like the Iran deal or the Cuban accord.

Conservative foreign policy under Stephen Harper is too often binary. Mr. Harper has shunned the United Nations, telling a Montreal audience in May: “Gone are the days when Canadian foreign policy was about nothing more than trying to be liked by every dictator with a vote at the UN.” This attitude explains why Canada speaks 190th, ahead of only San Marino and Palau, at this week’s General Assembly.

In recent years, we broke relations with Iran, recalled our ambassador to Russia and circumscribed contact with North Korea, moves that created headlines and puffery about “toughness.” They also removed our ability to influence and provide insight.

Avoiding high-level contact with China for nearly five years earned a reprimand from the Chinese premier. It also reduced our economic opportunities with the second-largest global economy. Giving Russia’s Foreign Minister the cold shoulder in Iqaluit – so he didn’t attend – was an ungracious finale to our Arctic Council chairmanship.

Diplomatic relations are not an endorsement of good housekeeping. Rather they give us vital communications, in-country observation and consular protection for Canadians.

Why not engage China, as agreed, on closer economic collaboration and maritime energy corridors? Why not engage Russia in the Arctic? Why not work with China and Russia on containing jihad and managing climate change and cyberspace?

Trying to shape the behaviour of friends, adversaries and enemies is a constant effort requiring hard and soft power.

A recent study assessing Canadian international engagement concluded that our spending on defence and development assistance, key indicators of engagement, has fallen by half since 1990. We have become, argued authors Robert Greenhill and Meg McQuillan, international “free riders.”

International engagement requires a robust foreign service, Canadian Forces ready for action and generous development assistance. For the next government, this means political will and multiyear budgeting commitments.

“To jaw-jaw” said Winston Churchill, no appeaser, “is always better than to war-war.” In an era of protracted conflict and asymmetrical warfare, the international order needs constant attention and strategic patience. To engage is not a sign of weakness.

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Canada and the Refugee crisis

How Canada could be doing more to stop the migrant crisis

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The EU matters to Canada

Why the European Union endures despite its flaws

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail

Canada is bound to Europe through ties of history, family and sacrifice. Our collective security is enshrined through NATO and we recently negotiated the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

This month, we commemorate the many cords that bind us in ceremonies marking the 70th anniversaries of the Battle of the Atlantic and Victory in Europe Day. Prime Minister Stephen Harper observed that Canadian “commitment, innovation and professionalism” in the Second World War generated “international recognition for our country and immense national pride.”

If the United States was the arsenal of democracy, Canada was the aerodrome, training thousands of Commonwealth fliers. Canadians built and sailed many of the ships that won the Battle of the Atlantic. On this battle, Winston Churchill said, hinged, “everything elsewhere on land, sea and air.” By war’s end, the Royal Canadian Navy was one of the world’s largest, growing from 3,300 men and 13 ships to 95,000 men and women and 428 ships.

Ceremonies in recent days across the Netherlands remember the more than 7,600 Canadians who died in its liberation. The tulips blooming today on Parliament Hill are the gift of a grateful Dutch nation and, later this month, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will visit Ottawa.

The EU continues to be an experiment – political, economic, social and cultural – in federalism. Federalism is a system of government in which Canadians are also invested, especially in the practice of pluralism.

There are faults and flaws with the EU: too much bureaucracy; economic disequilibrium between south and north; the tensions of balance between national and supra-national sovereignties evidenced in the emergence of anti-EU, nationalist-populist parties; and, the threat of exits by Greece (“Grexit”), through financial default, or Britain (“Brexit”), through Prime Minister David Cameron’s promised referendum.

The European experiment has faced many challenges: the Cold War that threatened global catastrophe; dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the tragedies that befell the Balkans; the recent Great Recession with effects still plaguing much of southern Europe; the boatloads of refugees from the Middle East and Africa now crossing the Mediterranean.

But the European Union endures and the refugee inflow is testament to the continuing attraction of the EU’s liberal and democratic virtues.

There is a line of new applicants for EU membership. The Ukrainian crisis was sparked in part by Ukrainian desire for closer association with the EU rather than the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union. Last month, Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati was in Ottawa and received Canadian endorsement for its EU bid.

The EU’s economic partnerships continue to broaden. It is negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States. The public debate on investor state dispute settlement threatens to sideswipe our CETA, now in post-negotiation legal scrub and translation.

We need to re-engage with the EU’s Commission, Council, parliamentarians and member states to assuage concerns, highlight the mutual benefits and ensure that there is no backsliding. An energetic diplomatic campaign should be complemented with visits by ministers and the business community.

Let’s utilize our various inter-parliamentary relationships. The European legislators within the NATO Parliamentary Association are influential and the Canadian delegation should be making the case for CETA at its spring session in Budapest this week.

The case for Canada begins with the more than 100,000 Canadians who died during two world wars, many of whom are buried throughout Europe. Canada’s current deployment includes RCAF fighter jets in Central and Eastern Europe; HMCS Fredericton recently completed exercises in the Baltic. Trainers in Ukraine could also help our Baltic allies.

The generation that fought the Second World War and then created global and regional institutions, rooted in liberal internationalism, is now passing. So, too, is the international consensus that holds these institutions in place.

This past weekend Russia staged its biggest-ever military parade in Red Square to mark Victory Day. Standing with President Vladmir Putin were Chinese President Xi Jinping, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Cuba’s Raul Castro and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro. Mr. Putin reiterated his criticism of NATO and the United States. Later this week, China and Russia conduct joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean.

We take for granted continuing peace and prosperity, starting with our deeply rooted transatlantic partnerships. But without a commitment to activist diplomacy, backed up by muscular collective defence, this century could be as difficult as the last.

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Trans Pacific Partnership, Canada and supply manageament

Canada’s commitment to freer trade about to be tested

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the United States this week to talk trade and security with President Barack Obama. They will discuss access for Japanese autos and U.S. agricultural products, major sticking points in concluding TPP negotiations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. legislation giving Mr. Obama trade promotion authority to “fast track” the TPP through Congress moves closer to reality with its passage last week through the relevant House and Senate committees.

When Mr. Obama was elected, there was little expectation that trade liberalization would be part of the Obama legacy. Climate, immigration and health-care reforms were to be his signature achievements but not freer trade because it roiled labour unions and environmentalists – key elements of the Democrat base.

But in 2009, during his first trip to Asia, Mr. Obama embraced the freer trade pact, originally initiated in 2002 by New Zealand, Chile, Brunei and Singapore. With the United States aboard, Australia and then Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia signed on.

At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu in November, 2011, Stephen Harper secured Mr. Obama’s consent for Canadian participation on the basis that supply management was negotiable. Mexico also joined the TPP talks and, later, Japan. South Korea and Taiwan have signalled their interest in TPP.

When negotiated, TPP will cover 40 per cent of world trade and promises to be “the most progressive trade agreement in history.” It will reduce tariffs, cover services, procurement and intellectual property and include enforceable standards on labour and the environment.

Strategically, TPP is the economic complement to the U.S. military rebalance to Asia. U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter describes TPP as important as “another aircraft carrier.”

The pressure is on Canada to deal with our supply management practices because, as Mr. Harper recently acknowledged “we as Canadians cannot, alone, stop a deal from happening if we don’t like it.”

For Canada, the significance of the TPP goes beyond setting the standards for future trade deals. It gives trade negotiations a boost. After 14 years, the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round is approaching zombification. The TPP also effectively updates the competitive framework for North America without reopening NAFTA. With TPP membership, we also avoid becoming just a spoke in a U.S. hub.

The U.S. threatens to exclude Canada if we don’t deal on supply management but when it comes to agricultural protectionism, the U.S. also has much to reform. We need to call the U.S. on their export subsidies for dairy products and other technical barriers.

Canada should be a world leader in dairy exports. We make our superb artisanal cheese, with Quebec alone producing more than 300 varieties. We have land, climate and an increasingly competitive industry, if only we would look at it from the right end of the telescope.

Look to New Zealand and Australia. They reformed their supply management practices two decades ago. New Zealand’s co-operatives now export 95 per cent of their milk product.

Studies by our research institutes – C. D. Howe, Macdonald-Laurier, George Morris, Conference Board, School of Public Policy – argue that supply management costs Canadian consumers and stunts industry growth. They provide road-maps for transition from our current costly protectionism to profitable export growth.

Canada was once the “bread-basket” of the world. We should aim to own the global food podium and add dairy and poultry to our export leadership in pork and beef, grains and pulse. But to do so, we need to open new markets in the Pacific and elsewhere.

The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP declare they are committed to freer trade. Each party is equally committed to supply management. Defending supply management is part of our political DNA, laments John Manley, a former industry minister and now CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. He compares it to “a dog that it is better not to poke or it will jump up and bite you.”

Rather than fear competition, we should take the muzzle off supply marketing and follow former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s advice to open our industry’s “enormous export potential.”

Will our national leaders work with our premiers to reform supply management? Leaving supply management reform to Stephen Harper’s granddaughter is not an option.

The opportunities of membership in the TPP will create benefits that our grandchildren will enjoy. It’s time for us to reform supply management.

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Keystone XL : Time to move on

Keystone XL has sucked up too much energy; let’s move on

Colin Robertson Globe and Mail Tuesday, Mar. 03 2015

It’s time to put the controversy over the Keystone XL permit behind us.

For six years – half the life of the Harper government – Keystone XL has dominated Canada-U.S. relations. It has sucked up energies better devoted to advancing our regulatory and border co-operation initiatives, including those to ease pre-clearance and to set common standards.

XL cast a shadow over collaboration in the Arctic where we might have followed the example of the Nordic nations and shared with the Americans a four year co-chair of the Arctic Council.

Ironically, Canadian oil is flowing into the United States as never before at volumes almost 50 per cent greater than all OPEC countries combined. Most of it goes by pipeline – by far the safest mode of transport – by tanker, barge, road and, increasingly, by rail.

The “Go With Canada” arguments in favour of the pipeline remain sound. The geopolitical argument bears repeating: Why would you treat a reliable ally, sourcing your essential strategic commodity, worse than despotic regimes that fund and furnish Islamist terrorism? Alberta, Premier Jim Prentice observed, is also the only major foreign supplier of oil with a carbon-pricing scheme. And the vast majority of the refined product stays in the United States.

As President, Barack Obama stands singular in his failure to appreciate the strategic importance of Canada to the United States. The XL veto will solidify his position with environmentalists. Those with big wallets likely will open them to his presidential library. As another Chicago South Sider, the great (and fictional) Mr. Dooley, long ago observed “politics ain’t bean bag.”

If the Obama administration has been small in its treatment of Canada, too often the Harper government has behaved stupidly in its dealings with the United States.

It starts, as Brian Mulroney well understood, with the development of a strong personal relationship with the president. Unfortunately, both Stephen Harper and Barack Obama are “cat” persons – their relationship is not the camaraderie that characterized Reagan-Mulroney or Clinton-Chrétien.

Mr. Harper should have recognized that on the environment, President Obama has religion. Apparently oblivious to the signals around potential compromises on climate from U.S. Ambassadors David Jacobson and Bruce Heyman, the Harper government forgot that ours is an asymmetrical relationship: the United States matters more to Canada, than we do to them.

The U.S. pays us little attention not because they don’t like us – they do (more than we like them) – but because they bear global responsibilities. Our contentious issues – energy and environment, trade and economics – don’t have the same weight as war and peace.

With 9/11, we both invested in a North American security perimeter based on the principle of “inspected once, cleared twice.” Faster sea and land lanes mean that our West Coast ports – Vancouver and Prince Rupert, B.C. – benefit from in-transit trade.

But despite U.S. protests, we recently passed legislation specifically preventing in-transit inspection for counterfeit goods. Particularly galling to the Americans was Industry Minister James Moore’s declaration that “it’s a bit of stretch” to ask Canadians to act as a “border filter for all goods destined for the U.S. market.” Yet that is precisely what perimeter security and “inspected once, cleared twice” is all about.

The takeaway from these incidents is that when small meets stupid we both lose.

Accommodation on all of these issues is doable – something our ambassadors, premiers and governors understand and what business expects of government.

On climate, Gary Doer, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., has argued for establishing shared standards for emissions, fracking, hydro and the development of a North American energy portrait for strategic infrastructure investments.

To increase trade and investment, Ambassador Heyman has invited U.S. governors to visit and, in two weeks, he co-hosts a D.C. summit to increase joint investment.

Our premiers meet their American and Mexican counterparts this October in their first-ever summit. They will focus on the practical: infrastructure and supply-chain management, education and energy technology. The states and provinces are the best level to address procurement protectionism and to recognize professional accreditation, thus meeting North American labour-market needs.

The tensions afflicting our two national governments are but one level in the multidimensional chessboards of Canada-U.S. relations. We are allied on the increasingly big issues of peace and security. The only damper on the annual migration south of Canadian snowbirds is the plunging Canadian dollar.

Former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz often compares managing Canada-U.S. relations to carefully tending the garden. Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama both need lessons in gardening. Now let’s leave XL behind us and focus on making North America a sustainable, economic powerhouse.

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Assessing John Baaird as Foreign Minsiter

Baird Improved Over Time, But Ultimately Fell Short

Posted on February 8, 2015 by admin

By Colin Robertson

John Baird arrived at the Pearson Building in May 2011 as an experienced minister and accomplished, if partisan, parliamentarian.

Naturally curious and personally affable, as Canada’s Foreign Minister, Baird reserved his ‘pit bull’ persona for bureaucrats, the media and legislative debate. He charmed his way through the diplomatic circuit and fully engaged both Hillary Clinton and her successor John Kerry (with whom he waged and lost a case of Canadian after the USA beat Canada in the Women’s World Championship).

With his energy and force of personality, John Baird could have been the Conservatives’ equivalent of Lloyd Axworthy.

In his essential profile of John Baird, the Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark observed of Baird, “his penchant for bold steps and embracing strong leaders, his confidence in his own political compass, and the willingness he has displayed ever since high school to shrug off ridicule rather than abandon the task at hand make him the dynamic foreign minister Mr. Harper has long lacked.”

Words became Baird’s diplomatic sword. As Baird told the Foreign Affairs Committee: “Our government wants Canada’s voice to be heard, for it to be clear and for it to be unambiguously free of moral relativism.”

Baird’s support for Israel was unequivocal: “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada.” On Iran, he warned, “Kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action.”

Shortly after he became minister, he framed his ‘dignity agenda’ with its message that people deserve the “dignity to live in freedom, in peace and to provide for one’s family”.

The dignity agenda embraced women, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people. It condemned child, early and forced marriages. These themes, especially his leadership on ‘girls not brides’ were his constant refrain.

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Baird’s personal leadership was instrumental in the passage of UN resolutions on child, early and forced marriages, Iran and terrorism. He pioneered in the use of digital diplomacy to “give a voice to the voiceless”.

Baird’s was not the conventional Canadian approach to the United Nations. In his first speech to the UN General Assembly Baird announced “Canada does not just “go along” in order to “get along”. He quoted Margaret Thatcher’s famous phrase that “collective action does not mean uniformity”. For Baird, the “greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline.”

Baird’s tenure coincided with a strike of foreign service officers, unprecedented in length and scope, picketing at headquarters and abroad.

The Harper government’s relationship with the foreign service can be characterized as one of mutual contempt. Notwithstanding the growing concentration of policy-making within central agencies (Privy Council Office and National Security Offices elsewhere in the anglosphere), an effective G7 government needs to trust and enable its foreign service.

For some in the foreign service, Baird was minister as tourist. Selling off our historic residences is a mistake. When used–if the incumbents won’t, then replace them – they are platforms for marketing Canada. As Jean Chretien observed, “you don’t do diplomacy from your basement”.

While most remain for sale, Baird listened to a former consul general and his spouse make the case for the value of Los Angeles as a platform for marketing Canadian entertainment. The residence was taken off the market (leading one to wonder how hard the bureaucrats defended the value of our residences).

To his critics he was a diplomatic dilettante, who provoked but who failed to deliver. Baird was proud of comparisons to his hero, John Diefenbaker, an earlier renegade in power who railed against the ‘pearsonalities’ in External Affairs. Baird renamed the building next door to the Pearson Building after Diefenbaker.

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A more generous perspective came from NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar in his parliamentary remarks on Baird’s resignation. Dewar observed that despite disagreements, Baird listened and “asked for our advice and actually followed up on some of the issues we were advocating for” notably “women, peace, and security and the whole issue of sexual violence.”

With his energy and force of personality, John Baird could have been the Conservatives’ equivalent of Lloyd Axworthy. Baird’s dignity agenda should have matched the accomplishments of Axworthy’s human security agenda.

But Baird too often lacked discipline and focus. He delighted in being the bull in the diplomatic china shop breaking, usually with intent, established norms and conventions. Sometimes this served the national interest but too often it left unfinished business. A trusted foreign service could have helped him, especially with the dignity agenda.

John Baird got better as he matured. He advanced the cause of human rights in a fashion consistent with Canadian values and traditions.

So what to make of John Baird as foreign minister: ‘high potential but achievements are incomplete’.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

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Security vs Liberty

Balance between liberty and security is crucial, even as governments press for wider surveillance to fight terror

Colin Robertson   Globe and Mail Tuesday, Feb. 03 2015

Liberty and security: we want both. But at what price? The federal government’s proposed legislation to bolster our defences against terrorist threats raises, again, the see-saw debate between rights and responsibilities and the state’s obligation to preserve order.

Governments, whether right, left or centre, naturally want to cover all contingencies – what is more basic than protection of the state and its citizens. The natural tendency to overreach follows from this.

braham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the American Civil War. When Pierre Trudeau was asked how far he’d go to preserve order against bandits and blackmail during the FLQ crisis, the then-prime minister, and later father of our Charter of Rights, famously responded, “Just watch me.”

Hastily enacted and liberally applied wartime measures – alien and sedition laws and internments – are usually the subject of second thoughts and retrospective regrets.

The best counterweights to abuse are threefold: continuing oversight by elected representatives coupled with sunset provisions within the legislation; a vigilant media; and the courts with their judicial override in protection of our liberties.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper argues that because the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and its allies, the proposed measures – additional security powers; restrictions on suspected jihadists’ mobility and propaganda – are necessary and in line with those of our allies.

Announcement of the new measures coincides with the third-reading debate on legislation introduced after the October assassinations of two members of the Canadian military in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. The Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act is necessary, said Tory MP LaVar Payne, to “degrade and destroy” the terrorists before they bring their “barbaric, violent ideology to our shores.”

The opposition asks appropriate questions about the constitutionality, scope and extent of the legislation and wonders about the roots of jihadism. Justin Trudeau was mocked when he raised this question but it is pertinent.

Preventing radicalization confronts and frustrates all Western governments. Good intelligence and law enforcement can contain the threat but blocking the road to radicalization obliges the active involvement of family, community and schools.

Islamic religious leadership also needs to step up. The divide between church and state that the Reformation established for Christianity is much more tentative for Islam.

It’s not easy, as the British government discovered when it was accused of Islamaphobia after writing to more than 1,000 imams to ask them to explain how Islam can be “part of British identity.” The government argued that it had a duty to fight extremism.

Canadians are justly proud of our pluralism. That our identity derives from two official languages, our First Nations and the people of many different cultures and countries is cause for celebration. We continue to encourage nation-building through an active immigration policy and generous refugee resettlement.

It’s not without challenges but, comparatively, it works and continues to enjoy broad public support.

To its credit, the Harper government has sustained, even increased immigration, while remedying abuse and putting the emphasis on the responsibilities that come with citizenship.

The defence of liberty, especially individual liberty, is integral to being Canadian. But liberty, as the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin explored, is often in contradiction with other values, like equality.

At its root, jihadism is an idea, like communism and fascism, that promises a new utopia. Mr. Berlin observed of utopias that “nothing so wonderfully expands the imaginative horizons of human potentialities – but as guides to conduct they can prove literally fatal.”

We witness the spread of jihad abroad and worry about its attraction at home. Laws, law enforcement and our armed forces play a vital role but they are only a piece of the solution. This is why Islamic leadership, especially the imams, have a responsibility to get actively involved.

Writing in Two Concepts of Liberty, Mr. Berlin warned that “when ideas are neglected by those who ought to attend to them – that is to say, those who have been trained to think critically about ideas – they often acquire an unchecked momentum and an irresistible power over multitudes of men that may grow too violent to be affected by rational criticism.”

Preserving liberty is often about making choices that temporarily curb our liberties. We must ensure any abridgment is accountable and truly temporary.

The current and impending anti-terrorist measures alone will not end jihadism. This requires an attitudinal shift, especially amongst those best placed to stop those attracted to the call of jihad.

Inscribed on the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 67 was the phrase: “Rights are the rewards of responsibility.” Good enough for our centennial year, it has equal application for our approaching sesquicentennial.

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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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