(This two-part analysis will explore Canada’s options when it comes to foreign policy. Part One is about Russia and the Arctic. Part Two will focus on terrorism and Canada’s contribution to NATO.)
Harper’s Conservative Party seems the best choice when it comes to foreign policy.
Although the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party oppose Harper’s policies, neither have offered valid alternatives that could be implemented quickly and efficiently.
Thomas Mulcair espouses protectionist and peaceful policies. However, his hot temper could become an issue when it comes to foreign policies or critical situations.
As for Justin Trudeau, his inexperience will undoubtedly play against him when it comes to dealing with world leaders, especially on the subject of international security. Trudeau is clearly not ready to become Canada’s next Prime Minister. His academic background and his two-year tenure as leader of the Liberals have not given him the tools to run a G7 country.
However, Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has been Canada’s Prime Minister since 2006 and his policies have been clear: Canada will support its allies and will contribute to the fight against terrorism.
The Conservatives' C-51 bill gave Canadian law enforcement and intelligence service new tools to monitor potential threats abroad and at home.
First, let's look at Russia-Canada relations, then focus on Arctic issues.
Since the annexation of Crimea, relations between Canada and Russia have completely collapsed. Canada’s stance on Ukraine has been firm, and Harper even told Russian President Vladimir Putin to “get out of Ukraine,” during a handshake at the last G20 summit.
Canada has been one Russia's most vocal critics of its annexation of Crimea and its support for the self-proclaimed Donestk and Lugansk Republics. Canada has imposed many sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs.
Canada’s military is no a match for Russia's. However, Canada continues to contribute troops to NATO‘s exercises in Eastern Europe.
Trudeau’s stance on Russia is similar to Harper’s. In fact, the Liberals agreed to send non-military equipment (which included equipment used on the frontline) and supports a training mission in Western Ukraine. Under a Liberal government, Canada would most likely review its position on Ukraine while keeping a minimum of troops in Eastern Europe under NATO’s flag.
Mulcair’s stance greatly differs, however. A strong pacifist, he believes that since Ukraine is not a NATO member, Harper is creating a dangerous precedent. Even if he agrees that a training mission would help stabilize the region, a quick escalation between Canada and Russia could mean disaster and be seen as a provocation. With a NDP government, Canada would most likely withdraw troops from Ukraine and completely review its position on Russia. Canadian soldiers deployed with NATO would probably head home as well under the pretext of ending provocation towards Russia. Such a move would be interpreted by Russia as a sign of weakness.
As an Arctic country, Canadians support its sovereignty and development. Northern Canada still needs to be fully explored. Vast resources remain untapped and their potential could contribute to the Canadian economy.
The Conservative’s main focus is to protect Canadian sovereignty by having Canadian soldiers conduct Arctic sovereignty exercises. The Conservatives believe that a strong military presence enhances economic development. The construction of the Nanisivik Naval Facility will enable the Royal Canadian Navy to stay at sea for a longer period, and the newly established Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Centre (CAF-ATC) in Resolute Bay opens new possibilities to Canadian soldiers in Northern Canada.
The construction of Canada’s largest icebreaker will help keep the Northwest Passage navigable. By keeping the Passage navigable all year-round, Canada is emphasizing economic development and new infrastructure. The creation of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency will solidify Northern Canada’s economy and create jobs for the region’s population.
Harper also focuses on preserving the environment by extending national parks for more than 70,000 square kilometres through Canada’s Northern protected areas network. Canada has made significant progress in establishing protected areas in over 10 percent of our North, designating 80 protected areas covering nearly 400,000 square kilometres. These areas include 11 national parks, six national wildlife areas and 16 migratory bird sanctuaries and will protect habitat for a wide variety of species.
The Liberal Arctic policy also focuses on sovereignty by stationing more ships and search-and-rescue elements in Northern Canada. Trudeau focuses on the environment and economic development. However, the Liberals have no plan to increase Arctic sovereignty exercises.
The NDP, however, believes that Northern Canada doesn’t need more military spending. Mulcair favours focusing on the needs of the people in the region: building more docking stations, dealing with the housing issues and refocusing on literacy. According to Mulcair, only international law can solve Arctic claims, which would effectively put Northern Canada in the hand of the United Nations. In August 2014, Mulcair said that: “So if we’re strangers to the system of international law, as we are under the Harper Conservatives — hectoring the United Nations, berating them — we might have a little problem. Because it’s only under international law that these issues are going to be solved, whether they involve Russia on one side, or Denmark through Greenland on the other.”
Whilst Russia and the Arctic are among the most vital subjects when it comes to foreign policy, terrorism remains Stephen Harper's number one priority. In Part Two, I'll discuss terrorism abroad and at home, along with the highly-criticized Bill C-51.
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