Vive Le Canada

The Federal Election and Foreign Policy
Date: Tuesday, January 17 2006

The Federal Election and Foreign Policy

A Foreign Policy bombshell will hit Canadians if the Stephen Harper/Peter MacKay Party takes power on January 23. Foreign Policy changes will lash backwards, negatively, into Canadian affairs affecting every level of life.

A U.S. commentator puts it simply. The Washington Times published Patrick Basham of the Cato Institute writing that “free-market economist Stephen Harper … is pro-free trade, pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto, and socially conservative. Move over Tony Blair: If elected, Mr. Harper will quickly become Mr. Bush’s new best friend internationally and the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader.” (, Dec 1 05)

Canadians have had a minority government since the last election – by definition, a government with the brakes on - and, as a result, many have been lulled to half-sleep, and are saying: “A Stephen Harper government couldn’t do too much harm in four years. Let’s give it a try”.

A Stephen Harper government, if elected, will do irreparable harm to Canada unless, at least, contained by a minority government. Even in such a situation, Harper will push in every direction that makes Canada a “me too” to U.S. policy. With complete control of Parliament, the Harper forces, if they win, will give us environmental unilateralism, increased and lawless support of the U.S. military, rapid extension of U.S. takeover of Canadian wealth - including destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board which defends Canadian farmers through the world’s biggest trader of wheat and barley. (Harper has already expressed his distaste for the Wheat Board.)

The Harper forces will attack government itself, downsizing civil servants, privatizing essential humanitarian services – making them for-profit operations, and building the kind of irresponsible, high-priced callousness Gordon Campbell has introduced to B.C.

(That government has given B.C. a dirty (probably criminal) privatization of B.C. Rail; it slashed contracts with its employees as if they are personal slaves; it has privatized support care for the sick, disabled, and senior. Now, expensively paid health “authority” administrators oversee the increasingly gulag quality of services for the vulnerable – and they do it on behalf, literally, of multinational corporations abusing British Columbians, both care workers and those cared for. That government has given B.C. education-for-the-rich and increasing attacks upon universal health care.)

We are speaking of Foreign Policy, a Foreign Policy – which under Harper – would extend the demonstrably fake U.S. claim of achieving “less government”. The U.S. government – possessing increasingly totalitarian powers – integrates people, policy, corporate structure, and government itself so effectively that the place where government ends and “private enterprise” begins is genuinely unclear.

“Private” organizations are fighting as soldiers for the U.S. “Private” organizations are planning, with the U.S. administration, the predicted military strike against Iran. (see, Jan 3 06). The CIA “owns” a number of “private enterprises”, one of which apparently has just been revealed as illegally transporting people-to-be-tortured across the world. Enough.

One of the false U.S. claims is that “less government” profits the people. “Less government” in U.S. terms merely shifts power to the hands of privateers, and it raises costs to ‘the people’ in real financial terms most frequently, provides rotten service, diminishes moral quality, and destroys faith in organized society.

In Canada, perversely, “less government” in the mouths of the Harperites means breaking up Canada. He is on record as wanting to give the provinces more power. He is on record as offering Quebec more “sovereignty” in foreign affairs negotiations.

That last note is one of the most alarming. Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois leader, is an independentist; he wants out of Canada. And he will negotiate any blow to Canadian federalism that will move Quebec closer to independence. For him, Stephen Harper is a sitting duck, a man who preaches the breakup of Canada in disguised language that Gilles Duceppe can see through better than most anglophone Canadians.

Writing a “heads-up, be happy, Canada’s good” feature in the most recent Georgia Straight in Vancouver, Terry Glavin (in a superbly shaped article) reports some of the positive Foreign Policy things that have been happening. Among them are the Canadian-inspired (and Canadian-led) Land Mines Treaty, The International Criminal Court, the idea of “the responsibility to protect” doctrine at the United Nations, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s new Convention on Cultural Diversity. Canada was even heavy in the creation of the 1987 Kyoto Protocol (which Canada has been lamentably slow to take up seriously).

But Glavin records two other important facts. First, the slavishly fawning-upon-the-U.S. major press and media in Canada have low-keyed all of those achievements. Secondly, Glavin positions shadow cabinet Foreign Affairs spokesperson Stockwell Day to cast a pall of gloom over hope for the future. He it was, with Stephen Harper, who wrote (Mar 28 2003) in the Wall Street Journal (New York) that “The Canadian Alliance – the official opposition in Parliament – supports the American and British position” [in beginning and pursuing illegal war against Iraq on false grounds]. In short, if the Harper party wins the January 23 election, goodbye to any Canadian Foreign Affairs initiatives that place “a focus on the interests of humanity rather than national [read ‘U.S.’] interests” (Georgia Straight, Jan 12 06 p.41).

For some arcane reason, Glavin wants us to believe the “new internationalilsm defies old left-right clichés”. He writes that the new ideas “defy the conventional categories of left and right in global politics”. That is, with respect, a very strange reading, and it blurs the real conflict in the world today. I say that not to demean the excellent article by Glavin but to alert Canadians who are being told that the left/right conflict is somehow no longer present, or is fading.

All the things Glavin lists as achievements are disapproved of by the U.S.A. and are approved of by many, many other countries. Ironically, for instance, the seemingly reasonable Convention on Cultural Diversity (protecting cultures from total U.S. invasion) was only opposed at UNESCO by the U.S.A. and Israel.

The left/right categories in the world are sharpened now and, in a sense, are made more starkly plain than ever. They turn, quite simply, on obedience or non-obedience to U.S. policy geared to the consolidation of its own reactionary unilateral power. The world today is either submitting to U.S. imperialism or working against it. Those who are working against it are working for the kinds of human liberation that have always characterized the finest aspirations of the Left: genuine self-determination arising from internal democratic choice, genuine respect for native peoples and minorities; genuine containment or (preferably) erasure of imperialist Capitalism; real equality of persons both before the law and in economic reality.

Oh, you may say, but what about China? China is not working for the “left” things just named above, and it is apparently colluding with the U.S. on the race to the bottom for ordinary people – despite the balleyhoo’d new middle class in China. The picture with Russia and Japan is not clear. They are certainly playing global politics, but not necessarily from a left perspective. But because there isn’t a single big country standing for “the Left” doesn’t mean left ideas are without energy and force in the present world. Many countries are trying to stay afloat with some independence while playing the U.S. game only as much as they have to. South American countries are turning more and more to what they call the “Bolivarian revolution”, demanding the four points of left idealism that I point out above.

On collaborating with the U.S. no Western country has a clean slate because all have spent more than fifty years tying themselves into U.S. policy. NATO is a rich example. Founded just after the Second World War as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, it was always U.S.-power centred. But at the start it was declared to be a force to contain Soviet Russian military expansion against all NATO members.

In the decades following, it was consolidated as, principally, a U.S. instrument. As I write NATO forces are doing exercises in
Turkey as a prelude to an attack on Iran that may destabilize and nuclearize the world. An attack upon Iran would violate every purpose for which the United Nations was founded and has lived its life. But all Europe, like Canada, is in NATO (though the French have had a rocky relation with the organization). And all Europe (and Canada) seem to have accepted the U.S. desire to destroy Iran. NATO has become the final extension of the U.S. Monroe Doctrine, unilaterally declaring that the U.S.A. has the right to make or unmake governments wherever it pleases.

We do not live in the best of all possible worlds in which Canada freely makes its own Foreign Policy. Nonetheless, Canada’s relative independence in Foreign Policy will be crucial to the sanity of the world in the coming ten years. As Glavin makes clear, even in the murky conditions of the past decade and even with a rightward swinging Liberal Party, Canada has devised and helped to institute reforms to modes of world interaction that have real meaning and strength.

An election victory by the Stephen Harper forces on January 23 will create a dismal and highly dangerous North American single-minded determination to carry out the destructive policies of U.S. imperialism. Canada’s relative Foreign Policy independence will be erased. The Stephen Harper forces, if elected, will take Canada into a pact with the devil, a pact to share with the U.S.A. the spoils it gains from looting the world.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 17, 2006]

This article comes from Vive Le Canada

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